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Husband of slain Iraqi-American woman arrested over death

By Mary Slosson

(Reuters) - The husband of an Iraqi-American woman who was beaten to death near San Diego in March in a killing initially probed as a possible anti-Muslim hate crime has been arrested in connection with her death, police said on Friday.

Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old mother of five, was found bludgeoned to death in her home in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, home to a large Arab-American population, and died of her injuries several days later.

A threatening note found at the scene suggested Alawadi might have been targeted because of her ethnicity. In a sign of how closely the case was being watched, the U.S. State Department expressed condolences for her death, and Iraqi government officials attended her funeral in Iraq.

But while police at the time said they were considering hate as a motive, they warned against definitively drawing such a conclusion. Court papers filed in the case later painted a portrait of a family in turmoil.

"There was not somebody running around doing hate crimes. This was a domestic violence incident," El Cajon Police Chief Jim Redman told a news conference to announce the arrest.

San Diego County jail records show that Alawadi's husband, 48-year-old Kassim Alhimidi, was arrested by police on Thursday evening for first degree murder, and was being held without bail.

According to a search warrant affidavit filed in April, a relative of Alawadi told detectives that Alawadi had "been planning on divorcing her husband and moving to the state of Texas." Divorce papers were found in her car.

El Cajon is in the heart of East San Diego County, which is home to the second largest Iraqi community in the United States, behind Detroit. More than half of El Cajon's 100,000 residents are of Middle Eastern descent.

(Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Claudia Parsons)

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