Jurors didn't need the weekend to decide Kennewick stabber's fate

Abdul Sweidan testifies his wife attacked him then stabbed herself

Suspect Abdul Sweidan testifies at his attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault jury trial in Benton County Superior Court in Kennewick. Court interpreter Diana Noman translates his statements.
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Suspect Abdul Sweidan testifies at his attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault jury trial in Benton County Superior Court in Kennewick. Court interpreter Diana Noman translates his statements.

What started with a Kennewick woman bleeding on the floor of her Olympia Street apartment in August, ended Friday with the conviction of her husband.

A Benton County jury took 2 1/2 hours to decide that Abdul Rahman Sweidan stabbed his wife, Dania Z. Alhafeth, 23 times on Aug. 30, 2017, then left her dying while he went to the hospital for a gash on his hand.

The six-man, six-woman panel found him guilty of attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault. They also found he used a deadly weapon, committed domestic violence and attacked her within sight of their 2-year-old son.

Sweidan is scheduled to be sentenced May 9. He remains in the Benton County jail.

In his closing argument, Deputy Prosecutor Brian Hultgrenn told jurors that the stabbing culminated a pattern of abuse, which started with Sweidan and Alhafeth's marriage in 1996 in their hometown of Homs, Syria.

Sweidan enters court
April 12, 2018 - Abdul Rahman Sweidan is escorted into court Wednesday. His is charged with attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault. Sweidan has denied the allegations. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

The threats and violence continued when they moved to Damascus, fled to Jordan and finally to their home in Kennewick, Hultgrenn said.

Alhafeth got a shred of independence after moving to Kennewick, when she started working as a caregiver.

With her first paycheck in hand, Alhafeth paid back a friend, sent money to her mother in Syria and then to her daughter in Jordan.

"She did not know that these acts of charity she did with her first paycheck would (nearly) cost her life," Hultgrenn said.

Evidence and witness testimony showed Sweidan's bad mood started the day before on a trip to Walmart, where he began yelling at Alhafeth, Hultgrenn said.

It continued when they got home. The couple's oldest child, Aya Sweidan, then 17, stood up to their father, which started another argument.

The next day, Sweidan took the family's car to work at Tyson Foods. He came home early after telling his boss he had to go to an appointment.

He arrived home and waited before confronting Alhafeth about her paycheck. That's when she told him she gave away some of the money from her first paycheck instead of giving it to him, Hultgrenn said.

That's when he got the knife from the kitchen and started attacking her, even slicing his own hand.

Dania Alhafeth testimony
April 12, 2018 - Stabbing victim Dania Z. Alhafeth motions with her hand how her husband “hit” her with a knife during an attack on Aug. 30 in their Kennewick apartment during her testimony Wednesday in Benton County Superior Court. Arabic court interpreter Diana Noman sits near Alhafeth to translate her statements. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

"He said, 'You give money to strangers and not to me. Die. Die. May God not bring you back,'" Hultgrenn recounted.

After stabbing his wife again and again in full view of their 2-year-old son, Sweidan washed and switched clothes.

Before he left, Sweidan saw Alhafeth — clinging to life on the floor, Hultgrenn said.

So he grabbed the knife and stabbed her once more in the leg, saying "Aren't you dead yet?"

The attack left blood splattered across the apartment, along with on Sweidan's ankles, feet, a bathtub, the door and on their son's shirt.

Hultgrenn described Sweidan's actions as those of a man trying to cover up his crime, not a person who was reacting to his wife attempting suicide.

Sweidan went to the hospital, while Alhafeth, motivated by her son's cries, crawled to the phone and called their neighbor, who called police.

Medics rushed Alhafeth to Trios Southridge Hospital. Sweidan was being treated just feet away from her.

Defense attorney Eric Scott described the case as similar to his rooster Buddy — a lot of feathers and not much else.

"He struts around really flashy. He's got a lot of colors . He puffs up real big," he said. "Then I go to grab him, and I go, 'What is this?' This is feathers and bone and not much meat."

In his 30-minute closing argument, Scott disputed the testimony of several prosecution witnesses.

He started with Aya, who testified she lied to police.

Scott said that what Aya initially told officers was that her mother and father didn't fight the day before.

"Of course her testimony was quite a bit different than that," he said. "It was the same as, or at least incredibly consistent with, Dania's testimony."

The similarities could be tracked back to Kennewick police detectives breaking with protocol and allowing Aya to be in the room with another witness before she was interviewed, Scott said.

He pointed out Washington State Patrol Crime Lab experts spent a lot of time on the stand talking about knives, but couldn't produce the one used to stab the victim.

The DNA evidence was similarly rushed and incomplete. Experts tested the samples about a month ago, more than seven months after the crime, and only some of the multiple blood samples were tested.

The reason for the delay was because of cost.

"In an attempted murder case, that's when the government decided to become fiscally conservative," he said.

He characterized Sweidan's behavior as that of a man who was not in a rage. People described him as light-hearted and not distracted.

Cameron Probert: 509-582-1402, @cameroncprobert

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