A mother of five said she wanted to die after being stabbed 23 times inside her Kennewick home.
Then she heard her screaming toddler and knew she had to help her kids.
Dania Z. Alhafeth described her husband as a monster who suddenly came at her with a knife as she sat on their couch.
The survivor’s testimony Wednesday in the trial of Abdul Rahman Sweidan brought three jurors to tears, as Alhafeth herself sobbed on the witness stand.
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“I was extremely surprised. This was something completely unexpected, and I lifted my hand to grab the hand that he was holding the knife in,” Alhafeth said of the Aug. 30 attack. She testified with the help of an Arabic interpreter. “And I told him, ‘I swear to God, I will give you money,’ but he was hitting quickly.”
She clarified that when she said hitting, she meant stabbing with a knife.
“I pushed him with my legs/feet, and I screamed in a very loud voice,” she continued. “But he was hitting extremely quickly, in an extremely fast way.”
Sweidan, 47, is charged in Benton County Superior Court with attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault. The charges include aggravating factors of domestic violence, use of a deadly weapon and the fact that the crime happened near their young child.
The trial started April 2 and prosecutors anticipate wrapping up their case Thursday.
Defense attorneys have not said if Sweidan will testify. The meat plant worker has denied the allegations, saying he cut himself the same day while on the job.
Sweidan and Alhafeth have been married 21 years. They left Syria after the war started, living in Jordan before moving to America.
Alhafeth said she had been a caregiver for two months before the violent assault. She got her first paycheck after working for 1 1/2 months, and sent money to her mother, her oldest daughter who is married and living in Jordan, a friend who helped her in Jordan, and the wife and children of her late brother.
Alhafeth explained that on the day of the attack, she was in the living room with her young son when her husband came home from work unexpectedly in the middle of the day.
Sweidan told his wife that Tyson Foods had run out of meat to work with during his shift.
She ended a call with her oldest daughter, then received another call from a friend in the Tri-Cities who wanted to visit that afternoon. Once she was off of her mobile phone, she said Sweidan asked if they were going to make up.
“I told him, ‘What are we going to be making up about, because we are always in disagreement, or always disagreeing,’” Alhafeth testified. She also told Sweidan that it was improper what often gets said in front of their four children living with them in the Tri-Cities.
Sweidan did not respond. He got up and quietly went into the kitchen.
Alhafeth said she thought her husband was preparing food, but then he suddenly appeared in front of her holding a large knife. He raised it and started stabbing his wife, saying “You give money to everybody but you don’t give any to me,” she testified.
She tried to stand up but Sweidan held her down as he stabbed her everywhere on her body.
“He was saying, ‘Die. Die. May God not bring you back,’” Alhafeth told the jury.
Her 2-year-old son kept yelling during the attack, but Sweidan pushed the toddler away with his hand, she said. Sweidan later locked the boy in a bedroom.
Alhafeth said she tried to stand up but fell to the floor.
“I wasn’t able to resist at all,” she said while grabbing tissues from a box on the witness stand. “So I said the Islamic prayer because I thought that death was coming. I was saying, ‘God, may you keep my children.’”
After getting the toddler out of the way, Sweidan brought out some bags. Alhafeth said she thought her husband wanted to cut her up, but he ended up using the bags to stash his bloody clothes.
Alhafeth broke down as she explained that her husband came back to check on her, “And he saw me breathing and saying, ‘God, my children.’ And then he hit me with a strong hit on my thigh and he said to me, ‘You haven’t died yet.’”
Sweidan then walked out of their Olympia Street apartment and locked the front door, she said.
“I was praying to God to kill me quickly because of the pain,” she said. “And then I heard my son crying a lot and screaming ‘Momma,’ and he was knocking on the (bedroom) door, banging on the door.”
Alhafeth said that got her thinking about how she could help her son, because she could not get up to rescue him. She remembered her phone was nearby and struggled to reach it so she could call her Arabic-speaking neighbor.
“I told him that my husband stabbed me with a knife and my son is locked in the room. Call the police,” she said.
Alhafeth then called her teen daughter, Aya, and made sure to leave a message so her kids would know what happened in case their mother died.
“I said, ‘Aya, your father killed me with a knife, and your brother is locked in a room. Get him out. And forgive me.’”
She called her neighbor again to make sure help was on the way, then she waited.
It was only later in the hospital that she found out Sweidan had been arrested. He also went to Trios Southridge Hospital for treatment of his cuts, and a nurse made the connection to the stabbing victim in a nearby room.
On further questioning from defense attorney Eric Scott, Alhafeth agreed that it was not a happy marriage and said she had asked her husband for a divorce many times. She further said it was more than 20 times.
“I was hoping that we would get divorced amicably and stay as friends,” Alhafeth testified.
Scott asked if she believed her life was in danger when Sweidan threatened her, both before they emigrated to the United States and after.
“I was not expecting that he would fulfill his threats, especially at the time of the incident,” Alhafeth said. “There was no … misunderstanding.”
She filed for divorce in October.