After his arrest, murder defendant Ali-Mohamed Mohamud sent his wife a letter asking for her forgiveness.
She threw the letter away.
Monday, Shukri Bile cried through much of her husband’s first day on trial, refusing to look at him or even utter his name from the witness stand. Mohamud is fighting the charge that he bludgeoned to death her 10-year-old son and his stepson, Abdifatah, in the family’s Guilford Street home.
“I don’t know why he did this,” Bile said of her husband.
“What I did, it happened,” he said in his letter, according to Bile, a refugee from Somalia who testified with the assistance of an interpreter.
That was one of his reported confessions. Another occurred at Mohamud’s workplace.
Shortly after the boy was killed, Mohamud, a security guard employed by U.S. Security Associates, called his work supervisor at home and asked him to come to The Buffalo News, where Mohamud had been assigned to work the past couple of years. When Louis Yoseph, the supervisor, arrived at the paper, Mohamud handed him money, papers and some property.
“It was really strange,” Yoseph said. “He was giving me directions on how to handle his money.”
Mohamud told his boss to give the money to his children – not his wife. Mohamud mumbled something about all the problems he was facing, Yoseph said.
And he said, “I killed my kid,” Yoseph testified.
Mohamud then ate a doughnut and drank water before the police arrived to arrest him.
Prosecutors said Mohamud also admitted to police that he had beaten his stepson to death. Homicide detectives are expected to testify in the next day or two about what he told them after his arrest.
Prosecutor John Feroleto, in his opening statement, previewed a horrific murder case in which Mohamud is alleged to have stabbed, suffocated and beaten to death the fifth-grader from International Preparatory School on April 17.
“This man, this adult, this stepfather, bound his hands with an electrical cord, stuffed a sock inside his mouth and sealed it with duct tape,” Feroleto said as he looked at Mohamud. “Abdi was powerless. He was powerless to stop this man from taking his life.”
“This defendant brutally murdered a 10-year-old boy,” the prosecutor told jurors. “This case doesn’t require guesswork or mystery solving.”
Mohamud told Buffalo police where to find the evidence, Feroleto said, adding that “the evidence in this case is overwhelming.”
Defense lawyer Lana V. Tupchik did not mention Abdifatah during her seven-minute opening statement, or suggest another scenario about how the boy died. But she reminded jurors that Mohamud is owed the presumption of innocence.
“Mr. Mohamud denies this accusation,” Tupchik said.
Abdifatah arrived in the United States in 2004.
His mother brought him along with her other children. He was born in a refugee camp in Uganda; his mother and her other children had fled Somalia after her husband died in the clan warfare in that country.
Abdifatah was a well-liked boy at school who received A’s and B’s on his report card. And he liked watching cartoons and playing video games like other boys his age.
But his life ended cruelly.
Abdifatah was struck about 70 times with a hardwood baker’s rolling pin.
The blows fractured the boy’s skull, broke his ribs and caused two dozen distinct injuries to his hands and as many to his legs, sustained as the boy sought to block the blows, Feroleto said.
A police officer and the boy’s stepbrother found Abdifatah in the basement, in a fetal position, his hands and mouth duct-taped.
Prosecutors say his stepfather taped a sock in the boy’s mouth during the beating to stop him from screaming.
Mohamud bound him with electrical cord to keep him from running, Feroleto told jurors. The stepfather replaced the sock with another after the boy vomited during the beating, he said.
“This wasn’t some accident,” Feroleto said. “This was murder.”
Mohamud also stabbed the boy with a steak knife and tried to drown him in the bathroom, Feroleto said.
Some of the most graphic testimony of the day came from police investigators.
Homicide detective Michael Mordino described the crime scene in the basement.
Bloody footprints were found on the floor and steps, Mordino said. Blood was splattered across 15 to 20 feet of a wall; blood was found on pipes on the ceiling.
There was no part of the boy’s body that was not bruised or bloodied, Mordino said, responding to questions from prosecutor Thomas M. Finnerty.
Police found a piece of the boy’s skull on the floor next to his body. The back of the child’s head was “caved in,” and his brain was exposed through a hole the size of a golf ball, Mordino said.
The prosecution intends to show jurors a police video of the basement, as well as crime-scene photographs.
Defense lawyer Kevin Spitler objected, but State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns allowed in many of the images from the photos and video, ruling that just because the images may be gruesome does not preclude admitting them as evidence.
Bile, Abdifatah’s mother, and a stepbrother testified that neither even saw the boy’s stepfather act violently toward the boy before Mohamud’s arrest last April.
Hussein Waris, 24, the stepbrother, called the boy “the best child anyone could have.”
Waris testified he was often at his mother’s Guilford Street home but had never witnessed any violence.
He described Mohamud as “a normal stepfather.”
“He was treating him just like the other kids,” Waris said, referring to how Mohamud treated his two young children who also were living in the home at the time.
In her tearful testimony Monday, Bile said she had never seen her husband strike Abdifatah.
A neighbor, driving along Sycamore Street on that fateful April day, recalled seeing Abdifatah running along the street. He had run away from home.
“I saw his stepfather running on the other side [of the street],” said Olive Ndayishimiye, who lives across the street from the Mohamud home.
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. “He said he doesn’t want to go home,” she recalled.
“The stepfather was saying he doesn’t want to do his homework,” she said.
Ndayishimiye told the boy he could come over to her home to study and wait for his mother.
Mohamud said, “I won’t do anything,” she recalled.
“You always say that,” the boy replied, she testified.
The boy did not study at her home, but went home instead. The neighbor said Mohamud looked “upset and tired” as she left the two outside their home, but Mohamud never raised his voice.
Bile was returning home from work at about 10:45 p.m. when she had a brief exchange with her husband. “He didn’t want to do his homework,” Mohamud told her, she said.
Mohamud was carrying bags on his way out of the home and refused to answer her questions: Where are you going? What happened?
“Don’t ask me what happened,” he said, according to her testimony. Then he drove off.
She could not find her son. That’s when she called police.
Waris and a police officer – who was investigating the report of the missing boy – looked in the bedrooms and other rooms for the boy. Then they went into the basement, where they found him.
She recalled the last time she saw her son alive. He came home from school and ate some food she prepared for him the afternoon of April 17.
He went to his room to do his homework, she said.
Before she left, he asked her if she was heading to work.
Yes, she replied.
“Bye, mom,” he said.