As he confessed to police, Ali-Mohamed Mohamud seemed as “calm as could be” admitting he killed his 10-year-old stepson, Abdifatah, said Detective Sgt. James Lonergan in court Tuesday.
“He was very calm, well spoken, and responsive to questions,” Lonergan said of Mohamud’s demeanor during police questioning.
Abdi, as he was called by family and friends, had already climbed out of a window and run away from home, only to be caught by Mohamud with the help of a neighbor. Now the boy was trying to run away again, Mohamud said in his police statement.
And when Mohamud took him to the basement, the boy kept running and screaming, Mohamud told police.
So the 41-year-old security guard taped a sock in Abdi’s mouth to keep him from screaming and bound him with electrical cord to keep him from running away again from the family’s Guilford Street home.
After the boy kicked his stepfather in the groin, the deadly beating ensued.
Mohamud said he struck the 94-pound boy in the head with a stick – the one he said his wife used to spread dough – and the boy vomited, according to Mohamud’s statement to police.
“I tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen,” Mohamud said in the statement he gave to police April 18, several hours after police discovered the boy’s lifeless body in the basement of the family’s home.
“I started hitting him again with the stick,” Mohamud said in his police statement, which Lonergan read aloud in State Supreme Court.
Prosecutors have said Mohamud struck Abdifatah about 70 times with an 18-inch hardwood baker’s rolling pin, shattering the boy’s skull and leaving bruises on every part of the boy’s body.
Mohamud’s 5- and 6-year-old children were upstairs during the deadly beating. Both were asleep in a bedroom when police found Abdi’s body.
After the fatal beating, Mohamud said, he sat in his house for hours waiting for his wife to return home from work. When she arrived, he drove off without telling her what happened.
“I tried to be nice to him,” Mohamud told Lonergan in the police interview room, according to the statement. “I tried to do everything for this kid. I treated him as good or better than my own kids.”
Mohamud’s demeanor in the hours after Abdi’s death as he talked to co-workers and police could prove to be an important part of his murder trial.
Prosecutor Thomas M. Finnerty told State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns that Mohamud’s lawyers appeared to be preparing for an “extreme emotional disturbance” defense strategy.
Finnerty objected to the lack of notice for such a strategy, calling it “psychiatric trial by ambush” and “psychiatric hide-and-seek.”
Under such a strategy, the prosecution is entitled to have its own experts examine Mohamud, he said.
“We are now being denied an opportunity to have our own expert,” Finnerty told the judge.
Finnerty seemed to attack such a defense through some of his questions to Lonergan, a veteran homicide detective who interviewed Mohamud.
Was he “scratching imaginary bugs in the air?” Finnerty asked about the defendant.
No, Lonergan answered.
Did he seem disconnected?
“Not disconnected in any way,” Lonergan replied.
During cross-examination, defense lawyer Kevin Spitler pointed out to Lonergan that he could not describe Mohamud’s demeanor hours before the police interview, when Mohamud was in the home with his stepson.
“You don’t know if he was happy, sad, despondent, angry, exceptionally angry – you don’t know, do you?” Spitler asked Lonergan.
“I was not in his presence,” Lonergan replied.
Before Lonergan testified, jurors watched a graphic 12-minute police video that showed the bloodied and bruised lifeless body of the 10-year-old boy on the basement floor.
The accused killer did not watch portions of the video that showed the boy and the blood-splattered wall. He looked down at the defense table.
Mohamud is charged with second-degree murder. Prosecutors have said Mohamud stabbed, suffocated and beat to death the fifth-grader from International Preparatory School on April 17 after the boy was caught running away over a dispute about homework.
“I was having trouble with my stepson in the afternoon,” Mohamud said in his statement to police.
Born in Somalia, Mohamud had lived in the United States for 11 years. He met Abdi and the boy’s mother, Shukri Bile, just two weeks after she and her children arrived in the United States in 2004. Mohamud and Bile later married.
Before his written statement to police, Mohamud spoke to the detectives.
“He was lying to me everyday, and I killed him,” Mohamud said, according to Lonergan.
On April 17, Mohamud told Abdi to study and finish his homework, he said.
Mohamud said he went to the bus stop where one of his children was being dropped off. When he returned to the single-story ranch home, he could not find Abdi, he said.
He looked out a window and saw his stepson running down the street.
A neighbor, driving along Sycamore Street, previously testified she recalled seeing Abdi running along the street and his stepfather running on the other side.
She pulled over and gave Mohamud a ride so he could catch up to the boy. When they caught up to the boy, Mohamud grabbed the boy’s hand and led him to the vehicle and they returned home.
At the house, the neighbor stood inside the entrance and asked the boy if he wanted to study at her home.
“I won’t do anything,” the neighbor recalled Mohamud saying.
After the neighbor left, Mohamud and his stepson sat on the couch, he told police. But then the boy kept running for the door.
So Mohamud sent the boy to the basement, he said in his written statement.
“He kept screaming,” Mohamud told police. “He still wouldn’t be still,” he said. “He kept on running around the basement.”
A police officer and the boy’s stepbrother found Abdi in the basement, in a fetal position in a pool of blood, two strips of duct tape over his mouth and ligature marks on his arms.
Every part of his body was bruised, police said.
Homicide detective Michael Mordino saidhe has witnessed a couple hundred autopsies, and none lasted longer than Abdi’s.
Mordino was asked by Spitler if he had ever seen that many injuries before among all of the cases he has investigated.
“No,” Mordino replied.
“None as severe as this?” Spitler asked.
“No,” the detective said.