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Charges: Iraqi refugee killed in Millcreek was stabbed, cut 40 times

Charges: Iraqi refugee killed in Millcreek was stabbed, cut 40 times

(Salt Lake County Jail)


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MILLCREEK — Murder charges were filed Friday in the death of an Iraqi refugee, who prosecutors say was stabbed and cut 40 times in his Millcreek home.

Alaa "Ali" Alkhatawi, 46, was found dead on Dec. 9 when friends who had been unable to reach him contacted police. Alkhatawi's body had 40 stab and cut wounds on his neck, back, face and hands, according to charging documents filed in 3rd District Court. Nine stab wounds were located on the back of Alkhatawi's neck, including one that severed his carotid artery and nicked his jugular vein.

Alkhatawi's body was in a pool of blood in the kitchen and officers noted "an obvious struggle from the living room to the kitchen," charges state. In the home was a bloody print from an athletic shoe.

Karrar Suhail, 25, is charged with murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary, first-degree felonies, and obstructing justice, a second-degree felony. He is currently in custody in the Salt Lake County Jail.

Alkhatawi had been selling prescription drugs from his home, including oxycodone, methadone and alpraxolam, according to charging documents. Police said Suhail is "addicted to pain pills" and had purchased drugs from Alkhatawi in the past.

Police said Alkhatawi's cellphone, money and pills were missing from the home.

A friend of Alkhatawi told police he was at the Millcreek home on the evening of Dec. 8, as was Suhail, charges state. Alkhatawi and Suhail spoke privately in the kitchen, the man said, and Suhail left. When the man said he, too, needed to leave, Alkhatawi asked him to stay. The man told police that Alkhatawi "appeared to be nervous and didn't want to be left alone," charges state.

Another man told police he received a text from Alkhatawi's phone about 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 asking him to come over. When he arrived almost an hour later, the man said he received another text saying Alkhatawi had left and would return in 30 minutes.

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When the man said he was already at the house, he received a message asking him instead to meet at a convenience store. The man went to the store, but Alkhatawi never arrived, charges state. He returned to Alkhatawi's home, where he saw Suhail leaving, the man told police. He didn't locate Alkhatawi.

The man also told police that the text messages he received were "different" than what Alkhatawi usually sent. Because Alkhatawi often used voice commands to text, the messages were usually in perfect English, the man said. However, the messages he received that night were in broken English and had multiple spelling errors.

Sources also told police that Suhail was unemployed, rarely had money and was known to wear athletic shoes, charges state.

A third man told police that on Dec. 9 he went shopping with Suhail, who had "a large amount of cash, which is unusual."

Suhail purchased a knife from Sportsman's Warehouse, a coat from Burlington Coat Factory, and had his normally frizzy hair styled in braids at a Wal-Mart salon, the man said.

The next day, while having breakfast with Suhail and his family, the man told police Suhail said Alkhatawi had been stabbed nine times in the neck and on his left side, charges state, information that had not been publicly released at the time. Suhail also said police were looking for Alkhatawi's phone, and asked about the best way to leave the country, the man said.

A woman who saw Suhail on Dec. 9 told police she noticed a wound on the side of his neck, which Suhail said was the result of a fight the night before. Suhail asked her if she would visit him if he were incarcerated for 25 years, the woman said, and noted that Suhail freely gave her money even though he usually didn't have any.

At the time of his arrest, Suhail was wearing new clothes and boots and had $1,300 cash, according to the charges. Suhail told police he was under the influence of "oxy."

"Suhail admitted that he 'goes crazy' if he doesn't get his pills and that he constantly has to borrow money from people to buy pills," charges state.

Friends said Alkhatawi was a refugee who was among the estimated 3 million people who fled Iraq in 1991 during Desert Storm and sought shelter in Saudi Arabia. He was eventually resettled in the United States.

Alkhatawi's family remains in Iraq, according to friends. They are now trying to raise enough money to have his body sent back to Iraq so he can be buried next to his father.

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McKenzie Romero

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