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Ex-husband admits to killing Lakewood woman, burying her in front of 3-year-old son

January 18, 2018 GMT

Ex-husband admits to killing Lakewood woman, burying her in front of 3-year-old son

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A man was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison after admitting to strangling his ex-wife in 2016, then stuffing her body into a duffel bag and burying her remains as their 3-year-old son watched.

Fahad Saeed, 28, showed little remorse before Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Barker imposed the sentence.

“Things happen,” Saeed said through an Arabic interpreter.

Cuyahoga County prosecutors and Saeed’s lawyers struck a deal on Thursday that would see him plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter, kidnapping and burglary charges, and serve the maximum time in prison on each charge for a total of 25 years.

Prosecutors agreed not pursue an aggravated murder charge that would put Saeed behind bars for life.

The court hearing offered details into Al-Dhannoon’s October 2016 disappearance from her apartment on Lakewood’s Gold Coast, and the months-long search that ended when investigators found her body in May 2017.

Prosecutors noted for the first time that Saeed took the couple’s toddler son with him to bury the mother’s remains in a patch of thick woods near the apartment where Saeed once lived, across the street from the Memphis Kiddie Park.

The toddler told FBI agents in a November 2016 interview that “daddy put mommy in the pickies near the horses,” an apparent reference to the park’s carousel, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Blaise Thomas said.

Five months would pass before a tipster from the county jail came forward with a detailed map that Saeed drew while serving a sentence on charges dating back to before Al-Dhannoon’s disappearance.

Saeed, an Iraqi national in the U.S. on a green-card visa, will be subject to deportation once he is released from prison.

Al-Dhannoon and Saeed married in 2011. She filed for the protection order in November 2015 after he became increasingly violent, according to court records.

Investigators say Saeed broke into Al-Dhannoon’s apartment in August 2016 and took cellphone video as he commented about the state of the house, Al-Dhannoon’s weight and her mothering capabilities.

Two months later, Saeed again went to the home, where he attacked Al-Dhannoon.

Surveillance cameras caught him and a friend, Ammar Sami, buying shovels from a Walmart the night of Al-Dhannoon’s disappearance. The next day, he took his son to a Home Depot and bought a small hand digging tool, prosecutor said.

Investigators focused on Saeed early and learned that he had been to Al-Dhannoon’s Gold Coast apartment building in the days before she disappeared.

Saeed was arrested, charged and eventually sentenced to six months in Cuyahoga County Jail for violating a restraining order that Al-Dhannoon took out against him.

Saeed denied killing his ex-wife in five separate interviews with investigators after his arrest.

Another inmate in the Cuyahoga County jail who spoke Arabic came forward to investigators in May, and claimed that Saeed was concerned that a rainstorm might wash away the earth around Al-Dhannoon’s body. Saeed had asked the inmate to help him find someone to check on the body for him, and drew a detailed map with directions to the burial site, prosecutors said.

Saeed told the man that he marked the burial site with a broken piece of concrete.

Investigators, armed with the map, searched the area on May 15, and found the piece of concrete. In the ground below, they pulled Al-Dhannoon’s body, which had been folded and stuffed into a duffel bag that was 30 inches long and 16 inches wide, prosecutors said.

The next morning, investigators again interviewed Saeed, and he confessed after learning that Al-Dhannoon’s body had been discovered.

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