By Daniel Silliman
Chaudhry Rashid appealed to God and confessed to killing his daughter, a detective alleged during testimony at a probable cause hearing.
"He said, 'God will protect me. God is watching. I killed my daughter. I strangled her,'" Clayton County Police Detective Michael Christian said at the Tuesday morning hearing.
Rashid, a 56-year-old Pakistani immigrant who owns a pizza parlor, allegedly strangled his 25-year-old daughter to death with a bungee cord because she wanted to end her arranged marriage, police and prosecutors contend.
Sandeela Kanwal filed for divorce five days before she died. Her husband has not been heard from for months, reportedly having gone to Chicago.
Rashid said divorce would disgrace his family because it was not in accordance with Islam, according to arrest warrant affidavits, and he said he killed his daughter as a matter of honor.
Christian testified that police asked Rashid to explain what he meant when he said he killed his daughter, and Rashid said they'd been arguing about the divorce and he suspected his daughter was having an extramarital affair.
Rashid, a burly man with heavy eyebrows and a thick, black-and-white beard, listened to the court proceedings translated into Urdu. When he left the courtroom, he waved at his sons, who were sitting in the back, one of them holding an over-sized Quran on his lap.
Rashid's lawyers tried to downplay the alleged religious motivations, while speaking to the media.
"It's unfortunate that 'honor killing' has come out as a catchphrase for this crime," defense attorney Tammi Long said. "It's way too early to make that the focal point of this investigation. There's not enough evidence. It does a disservice to this man, his family and culture."
Attorney Alan Begner, also representing the defendant, declined to comment on his client's guilt or innocence, and said he doesn't know what the defense will be. The attorneys are just starting their process of discovery, he said, and wanted to use the probable cause hearing to get more information about the police investigation.
Begner had the detective name all the officers who were at the crime scene on July 6, and list all the items seized from the house as possibly relevant to the crime, including size-10 sandals, two earrings, $1.56 and a prayer chain.
"We don't know what's going to be a factor," Begner said. "My approach is always to see what the evidence is, and proceed from there."
During the hearing, Begner noted that Rashid was the first one to call 911 after the death of his daughter, and he was described by police as distraught. Begner implied Rashid may have confessed to cover up for someone else.
"Isn't it true, the officer said, if you confess, then everyone can go home?" the attorney asked the detective.
The detective said he didn't know.
At the hearing before Magistrate Judge Bobby Simmons, Begner argued that there wasn't enough evidence to charge Rashid, saying he wanted to hear a taped recording of the confession, and a coroner's report on the cause of death.
Simmons, however, found the detective's testimony was sufficient probable cause, and bound the case over to Superior Court.
Rashid has a bond hearing on Friday. Then, his case will be brought to a grand jury for possible indictment.