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Family says they never saw stepfather violent

Murder trial of Ali-Mohamed Mohamud begins with testimony of mother and stepbrother of slain 10-year-old Abdifatah Mohamud.

Ali-Mohamed Mohamud sits between defense attorneys Lana V. Tupchik, left, and Kevin Spitler, as his trial for the murder of his 10-year-old stepson last April began on Monday. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The mother and stepbrother of a 10-year-old boy beaten to death in his home testified today that neither saw the boy’s stepfather, murder defendant Ali-Mohamed Mohamud, ever act violently towards the boy before Mohamud’s arrest last April.

And a neighbor who helped Mohamud bring the runaway child back home said the stepfather looked “upset and tired” as she left the two outside their home, but Mohamud never raised his voice.

A prosecutor, however, in his opening statement, previewed a horrific murder case in which Mohamud is alleged to have stabbed, suffocated, and beat to death the 10-year-old boy, Abdifatah Mohamud.

Prosecutor John Feroleto told jurors that Mohamud killed his stepson in the family’s Guilford Street home.

“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. He told the Buffalo police where to find the evidence.”

Abdifatah, an International Preparatory School fifth-grader, was struck about 70 times with a hardwood baker’s rolling pin. The blows to his head and body 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 stepbrother found Abdifatah in the basement, in a fetalposition, his hands and mouth duct-taped.

Mohamud taped a sock in the boy’s mouth during the beating, because the boy was screaming. He tied him with electrical cord to keep him from running, Feroleto told jurors. The stepfather replaced the sock with another sock after the boy vomited during the beating, he said.

“This wasn’t some accident,” Feroleto said. “This was murder.”

After police arrested Mohamud, he told a homicide investigator where to find the socks he put in stepson’s mouth, as well as the tape, electrical cord, rolling pin and the defendant’s bloody clothes, Feroleto said.

“The evidence in this case is overwhelming,” Feroleto said during his 16-minute opening statement.

Defense lawyer Lana V. Tupchik did not mention the dead boy 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.

Hussein Waris, 24, a stepbrother to Abdifatah, 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.

Abdifatah had complained about having to spend too much time on homework and wanted more free time.

Homework sparked the dispute on April 17 when police were called to the home for a report of a missing child.

Police said Shukri Bile, the boy’s mother, told them her husband told her Abdifatah did not do his homework and had jumped out of a window and ran away. Mohamud then left. Bile called the police about her missing son.

Waris and a police officer – who was investigating the report of the missing boy – went into the basement of the home and found the boy.

In her tearful testimony today, Bile said she had never seen her husband strike Abdifatah.

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. Her shift as a janitorial worker at the Ellicott Square building in downtown Buffalo started at 4:30 p.m., so she had only a short time to be with him in the house.

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,

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