Late last March at the peak of the Trayvon Martin madness, the New York Times splashed on its front page a crime blotter item from 3,000 miles away:
By IAN LOVETT and WILL CARLESS
EL CAJON, Calif. — Shaima Alawadi’s family says they found the first note taped to the front door of their house on a quiet suburban street here. It said: “This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist,” according to her 15-year-old son, Mohammed.
Ms. Alawadi’s husband, Kassim Alhimidi, says he wanted to call the police. But his wife said no, insisting the note was only a child’s prank. Like many others in the neighborhood, the couple were immigrants from Iraq. In 17 years in the United States, they had been called terrorists before, he said.
But last Wednesday, Ms. Alawadi was found in the family’s dining room by her 17-year-daughter, lying unconscious in a puddle of blood with a severe head wound. Nearby lay another threatening note, similar to the one the family found a week earlier. Ms. Alawadi, 32, died three days later.
Quickly, there were calls for a joint Million Hoodies and Hijabs March.
But, the story always smelled bogus to me. (My first post on the murder and another).
For example, an awful lot of the hate crimes that make the news turn out to be hoaxes. That doesn't mean there are no such things as hate crimes, just that hate crimes like, say, Matthew Yglesias getting stomped for Walking While White is too boring and depressing to be news. The stuff that becomes big news is, typically, a noose is found in the Diversity Nook at some hyper-liberal college.
One of these days, I'm going to have to write up something on What We Can Learn from Claude Shannon about What Makes the Newspaper.
In contrast to the NYT, the local San Diego paper and the Los Angeles Times took a more skeptical approach.
Today, the L.A. Times reported:
Kassim Al-Himidi, 48, is suspected of killing his wife, Shaima Alawadi, 32, in March in El Cajon. A note found at the crime scene had suggested the slaying might have been a hate crime.
By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
November 9, 2012, 7:36 p.m.
SAN DIEGO — The husband of an Iraqi immigrant fatally beaten in the family home in El Cajon has been arrested and charged in her death, police said Friday.
The killing in March was a case of domestic violence, not a hate crime, as a note found near the body had suggested, El Cajon Police Chief Jim Redman said at a news conference.
Kassim Al-Himidi, 48, was arrested Thursday night on suspicion of murder after being asked to come to the police station.
Al-Himidi's wife, Shaima Alawadi, 32, the mother of five children, was found bludgeoned and unconscious March 21 and died three days later.
A note found by the couple's 17-year-old daughter expressed animosity toward Iraqi immigrants, including the phrase "go back to your country" and a reference to the family as "terrorists."
The possibility of a hate crime sent shock waves through the immigrant community in eastern San Diego County. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 immigrants from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries have settled in El Cajon, La Mesa and adjacent areas east of San Diego.
Crime statistics showed no history of hate crimes or overt hostility toward Iraqi immigrants in El Cajon, even during the 1991 Persian Gulf War or the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
During an intense seven-month investigation, police refrained from calling the beating a hate crime, citing other unspecified evidence.
Court records show Alawadi planned to divorce her husband and move to Texas to be with relatives.
"I hope this arrest further eases any concerns in our community," Redman said. "Our investigators showed there was no one running around committing hate crimes."