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Father "Honor Killed" His 20-Year-Old Daughter for Being "So Americanized"
Minutes before he ran over her with his car, 20-year-old Noor Almaleki described her father as "so evil."
On October 20, 2009, police in Peoria, Arizona rushed to the Department of Economic Security building in response to multiple 911 reports.
Callers reported that a silver-colored Jeep had hit two women in the parking lot. Upon arrival, officers found two injured women on the ground.
“Thankfully, both victims were still alive,” Jeffry Balson, a detective with the Peoria Police Department, told Fatal Family Feuds, airing Saturdays at 9/8c on Oxygen.
Victims ID'd as Noor Almaleki and Amal Khalaf
The victims, Noor Almaleki, 20, and Amal Khalaf, 43, were rushed to the hospital. At the scene, detectives observed tire tracks and a toppled tree as they reconstructed the incident.
Witnesses said the driver of the silver vehicle accelerated and aimed for the two women. “Then the vehicle tore out of the scene,” said Laura Reckhart, prosecutor for Maricopa County.
Investigators learned that both victims were from Iraq. Their families had come to the U.S. in the 1990s, according to Fatal Family Feuds.
Noor, whose name means “light of God,” Phoenix New Times reported, had six younger siblings. Her father, Felah, worked as a truck driver, while her mother, Sahem, worked as a military interpreter.
“Amal was raising her children in the Western culture,” said Reckhart. “Felah and Sahem tried to raise their family in the traditional Iraqi culture.”
Male-dominance and control are key to that tradition. “Noor definitely wanted to be independent,” said her friend Heather Goodin. “She couldn't wait to move out.”
“That was the root of an incredible family feud that just escalated into something unthinkable,” said Abigail Pesta, journalist, whose report “An American Tragedy” covered the story.
At the crime scene, an accident reconstruction expert estimated that the driver of the vehicle was going 25 to 30 miles per hour upon impact. “It was becoming readily apparent that this was not an accident,” said Boughey.
Detectives went to the hospital. Noor had broken bones and brain injuries, which left her unconscious and fighting for life. Khalaf suffered a broken pelvis and other injuries that left her in serious condition.
Noor Almaleki's family comes under suspicion
Who did this? Khalaf’s 19-year-old son Marwan “directed investigators to look at the Almaleki family,” according to investigators.
Marwan told detectives “there was a lot of animosity” between the two families, said Boughey, adding that it began with Noor’s first steps toward independence.
“Her dad wanted her to live the way he wanted her to live,” said Goodin. “They just wanted her to stop being so Americanized.”
Felah was adamant that Noor not have any relationship of any type with other males, Reckhart said. Marwan told investigators that Felah saw Noor’s actions as “bringing dishonor to the family,” said Boughey.
Khalaf was a source of comfort for the struggling young woman. Noor and Marwan began dating but when Felah learned of this, he was enraged. “It was kind of a Romeo and Juliet situation,” said Boughey.
Following an argument with her parents in February 2009, Noor moved into an apartment with a friend, enrolled at a local community college, and landed a job as a waitress.
Felah forced her to quit her job and return home, all the while accusing her of shaming her family, according to Fatal Family Feuds. Noor vowed not to see Marwan anymore.
As they worked the case, detectives proceeded cautiously when it came to sharing information with Noor’s parents.
A key piece of evidence investigators turned up was a text-message thread between Noor and a friend from shortly before the incident. “I’ve honestly never met anyone … so evil,” Noor wrote in a text about her father.
About three hours into the investigation, officials were able to speak with Khalaf. She explained that she’d gone to DES to file a change-of-address form and Noor accompanied her to translate.
While there, Noor was shocked when Felah came into the building. That’s what sparked the text message thread with her friend.
Standing in the parking lot with Noor, Amal saw the silver SUV, driven by Felah, coming directly at them. “She saw a look on his face that she described as being angry, as being mean, as being focused,” said Boughey. Khalaf was struck first, then Noor was run over.
Felah Almaleki becomes the prime suspect
Khalaf's statement confirmed witness accounts. “Felah Almaleki … is our number one suspect,” said Balson.
Felah’s phone records showed that he was in the parking lot for three-quarters of an hour, according to detectives.
“We know that he was lying in wait,” said Boughey. “We know that Felah had called Ali, the oldest son, and his wife, Seham, before and after the incident into the building.”
Finding Felah was top priority. When he wasn’t at his home in Glendale, investigators contacted Border Patrol and released a bulletin to the media.
Police reached out to Noor’s mother. She said Khalaf and her family were “dirty” and that her daughter’s injuries were “what she needs,” according to investigators. A SWAT team was posted at the hospital to protect the victims.
Detectives learned more about the Almaleki's troubled past. In 2007, Felah pulled Noor out of school and sent her to Iraq, ostensibly to visit a sick relative. Instead, she was married off.
Marwan told detectives that Noor never revealed how that marriage ended, but she returned to the U.S. a few months later, according to Fatal Family Feuds.
And in the aftermath, her relationship with her father continued to break down. In 2009, in the wake of a violent incident, Noor took refuge at Khalaf's home.
She began dating Marwan again, news that drove Felah angry when he found out. “He threatened Noor that if she didn’t leave that house, something bad was going to happen,” said Pesta.
Two months before the parking lot incident, Felah had gone to the Khalaf residence, demanding that Noor come home. The police were called but Felah said U.S. laws didn’t apply to him, said Boughey.
Felah Almaleki Arrested in England
Meanwhile, investigators found out that Felah’s vehicle was found in Mexico. DNA evidence on the vehicle matched Noor’s, said Balson.
The manhunt for Felah went on for a week. “I had never investigated a case like this before,” said Boughey. “I had previously read articles on honor violence and honor killings and I saw so many similarities.”
On Oct. 27, officials at Gatwick Airport in England reported that Felah got off a plane there. He was put on the first flight back to the U.S., headed to Atlanta.
Balson and Boughey flew to Georgia, where they interviewed the suspect. He initially claimed it was an accident, investigators said. Then he blamed Noor for the entire incident.
“After quite some time and some discussion he admits it was his intent to hurt and run both of them over,” said Boughey.
Felah was arrested and returned to Arizona, said Reckhart. But the victory was short-lived. Noor Almaleki was declared brain dead and taken off life support on Nov. 2.
The autopsy determined her cause of death was blunt force trauma. The manner was determined to be homicide.
“Felah was charged with first degree premeditated murder and aggravated assault and leaving the scene,” said Reckhart. Seham and Ali were not charged with any crimes, she added, due to insufficient evidence.
The trial began in January 2011. It was the first honor killing to be tried in the state of Arizona. Amal Khalaf testified for the prosecution.
Felah Almaleki was found not guilty of premeditated murder. He was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 34 and a half years.
To learn more about the case, watch Fatal Family Feuds, airing Saturdays at 9/8c on Oxygen.