Shehada Issa, 70, was convicted on counts of first-degree murder on Thursday for stabbing his wife and shooting his son. The jury also found that the killing of the son was an anti-gay hate crime.
Prosecutors argued that the Los Angeles-area man had a gambling problem and wanted to sell the house that he co-owned with his wife, Rabihah Issa, 68, to pay off debts. She refused to sign papers to sell the house, but he put it on the market anyway.
Recorded evidence showed Issa threatening to cut Rabihah in half and burn the house down.
At some point there was a confrontation between them and Issa stabbed Rabihah 45 times, locked up the house, and started planning the murder of his gay son Amir Issa, 29, which would occur two days later.
After Issa shot Amir, he told police that he acted in self-defense. He said that he came home late to find his wife stabbed to death in the bathroom and saw a person who he he thought was a burglar coming at him with a knife, so he shot the person with a shotgun in the face and stomach. The defense also presented evidence that Amir had a history of mental health issues and possibly drug abuse, and that he refused to leave the Issas’ home.
The prosecution showed that the shooting occurred during the day, at 9 am, countering Issa’s story. They also argued that Amir was shot from close enough for Issa to recognize who he was. Furthermore, investigators did not find a knife on the body.
The Issas’ other son, Victor, testified that the father hated Amir for being gay. “He detested him,” Victor said in court. “He was ashamed of him. He called him things like ‘whore of Babylon.’ It was constant for years. It was, ‘he deserves to die.'”
Victor also said that Issa ruled the house with an iron fist, and that he abused his wife.
While the prosecution’s case presented money as the primary motive in the murder of Rabihah and escaping prosecution as the primary motive in killing Amir, hatred of his son for being gay was one of the motives, which means that hate crimes enhancements can be added under California law.
The jury deliberated for six hours before returning with the guilty verdicts. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.