Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — The mother of a 10-year-old boy who was brutally killed covered her face with her hands and slumped forward, sobbing, as she described for a jury the last time she saw her son before his body was found gagged and beaten in the basement of their home. Her husband, the boy's stepfather, went on trial Monday for murder.
"He told me, 'Bye, Mom,'" Shukri Bile said through tears after walking prosecutor Thomas Finnerty through her final hour with her son, Abdifatah Mohamud. She described how the fifth-grader had arrived home from Grover International Preparatory School at about 3 p.m., changed out of his uniform, ate pasta and then said goodbye when she went to his bedroom on her way out to her second-shift cleaning job at a downtown Buffalo office building on April 17.
That evening, Ali-Mohamed Mohamud stabbed the child known as Abdi with a kitchen knife, gagged him with a sock, duct-taped his mouth shut, bound his hands with an electrical cord and beat him nearly 70 times with a wooden rolling pin, at one point stopping to switch out socks because the boy had vomited, Assistant District Attorney John Feroleto said during opening statements in Mohamud's second-degree murder trial.
"Abdi ran away, I'm leaving," Mohamud told Bile when she arrived home from work around 10:45 p.m., the prosecutor said. Police responding to the mother's report of a missing child found him on the floor of the blood-spattered basement. The 94-pound child's ribs were broken, his lungs and kidneys damaged and his fractured skull had been struck with enough force to separate it from the spinal column, Feroleto said.
Mohamud was arrested a short time later at The Buffalo News, where he worked as a security guard. He confessed in detail to police, the prosecutor said.
But Mohamud's attorney, Lana Tupchik, told jurors that Mohamud denies the accusations and urged them not to jump to conclusions.
"There can be no speculation in this criminal case until you hear all of the evidence, all of the rules, all of the law," Tupchik said as Mohamud, wearing slacks and a striped dress shirt, looked attentively on.
Mohamud later dabbed his eyes with tissue as his wife, her head wrapped in a blue scarf, broke down again and again after being called among the trial's first witnesses.
"I don't want to see his face but I see him," she said when asked to point out her husband in the courtroom.
Abdi was born in a hospital in Uganda six days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and arrived in the United States with Bile and her four other children in February 2004, she said. The family had been in a Ugandan refugee camp after fleeing the genocide in Somalia that killed the oldest children's father, Bile said.
On the stand, she and her 24-year-old son, Hussein Waris, a civil engineering student and father of three, described Abdi as a smart, loving and respectful child who loved to watch television and to order the No. 6 hamburger meal at McDonald's. Mohamud was seen by relatives as the caring stepfather determined to see Abdi do well in school, Waris said. Mohamud also had been relocated from Somalia to Buffalo.
"Maybe I'll see him a scientist one day," Waris recalled a seemingly proud Mohamud saying about Abdi. Neither he nor his mother said they'd ever seen Mohamud abuse the child.
"Everybody trusted him," Waris said.
The first witness was a neighbor who described seeing Abdi running down the street the afternoon he died, his stepfather in pursuit. She pulled over and drove both of them home, believing Mohamud when he explained that Abdi was trying to get out of doing his homework.
In the driveway, Abdi "kept saying 'I don't want to go home,'" said the neighbor, Olive Ndayishimiye. She said she knew Abdi had run away at least once before. Mohamud, she said, seemed "upset and tired" but not angry.
"When you dropped them off, did you have any idea what would happen inside that house?" Feroleto asked.
"No," Ndayishimiye quietly responded.