BUFFALO, NY - Opening statements are taking place Monday morning in the trial of a Buffalo man who is accused of brutally murdering his 10-year-old stepson.
Prosecutors say Ali Mohamad Mohamud confessed to tying up and beating Abdi to death with a rolling pin in the basement of their Guilford Street home back in April. The medical examiner said the boy had been hit at least 70 times.
Erie County Assistant District Attorney John Feroleto made the opening statement for the prosecution, speaking to the jury for about 20 minutes. He said it is a simple case: the defendant intentionally murdered his stepson.
"Abdi was alive for every single blow," said Feroleto, "every moment of that horrific assault."
Defense Attorney Lana Tipchik then proceeded with her opening statement, reminding the jury repeatedly that Mr. Mohamud is to be presumed innocent. "What you just heard proves nothing except the prosecution's intent."
Once opening statements were delivered, the first witness called by the prosecution was Olive Ndayishimiye. She is the neighbor who helped Ali Mohamad Mohamud catch up to Abdifatah and convinced him to come home. She said she did all she could to help and had no way of knowing what might happen. Feroleto asked if Ali looked angry. She replied "No, he looked upset and tired."
Next on the stand was Abdifatah's brother, Hussein Waris, who described arriving at the home on the evening of February 17th after getting a call that Abdi was missing. He went to the basement and saw Abdifatah's foot sticking out from under a blanket, and a pool of blood. Waris testified, "I said he did it, he killed Abdi", breaking down into tears.
Around 3 p.m. the trial was delayed. Abdi's mother, Shukri Bile, was on the stand when family members complained that the translator was not accurately conveying her testimony. The trial was postponed as the court decided how to proceed.
Bile spent in total, about 2 hours on the stand, breaking down several times as she described her son and the day he died. Bile also told the court that the defendant sent her a letter from the Holding Center. She said she threw it away, but when asked to recall what it said, Bile said Mohamud wrote 'What happened, I did it. I didn't mean to do it. From God's will, I need your forgiveness."
Mohamud faces 25 years to life in prison, if convicted.
Final jury selection was completed Friday.