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Murdered woman filed for divorce days before death

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Sandeela Kanwal moved to end her arranged marriage five days before she was murdered.

The 25-year-old Jonesboro woman filed for divorce on July 1, and on July 6, at about 2 a.m., her father allegedly strangled her to death with a bungee cord because she insisted she was going to get divorced from her husband of five years.

Her father, Chaudhry Rashid, a 56-year-old Pakistani Muslim, allegedly told police he stood in his daughter's bedroom doorway, with a bungee cord hidden in his pocket, and asked her one last time not to go through with the divorce.

Kanwal reportedly said, "I don't love him."

In the divorce papers, filed with the Clayton County Superior Court, Kanwal claims her marriage to Majid Latif was "irrevocably broken."

The 25-year-old didn't even know where her husband was, and the divorce papers were sent to his last know address -- the Jonesboro house where Kanwal lived with her father.

Kanwal was married to Majid Latif on March 14, 2002, in a traditional, arranged marriage, in Pakistan in the province of Punjab, when she was 19. They were living together at Kanwal's father's house, in a room about the garage on Utah Drive, until Latif left her on her birthday, April 15, according to the divorce papers.

It is not clear why Latif left Kanwal, shortly after their fifth wedding anniversary, though Rashid allegedly told police his daughter was having an affair.

According to court documents, the Pakistani couple was in a "bona fide state of separation." The two had no children together and shared no property.

Kanwal attempted to track down her husband, but couldn't find him.

On April 25, after 10 days, she reportedly called a friend of her father's, a man known as "Ali," and asked about Latif.

"I was told," Kanwal wrote in the divorce form, "he left to go to Chicago but he doesn't know where."

In May, Kanwal reportedly contacted her husband's father, who still lives in Pakistan, and said she was looking for Latif. Her father-in-law "didn't know the whereabouts of his own son."

Kanwal said she also searched for her missing husband on the Internet, "under Google search and other Internet search engines and could not find him."

Family members told police the father and daughter had not spoken to each other in months, but late last week, after the divorce papers were served to the father's house, the silent struggle erupted into angry argument and then, allegedly, violence.

As of July 1, Kanwal, the plaintiff in the divorce case, wanted out of the marriage.

"Plaintiff prays that the parties be granted a total and complete divorce, that is to say a divorce a vinculo matrimonii," according to the court papers.

Five days later, she was dead.

Clayton County Police responded to a 911 call reporting a domestic disturbance, between father and daughter, and arrived to find Rashid smoking a cigarette in the driveway and Kanwal on her back in the upstairs bedroom, discolored, cold to the touch and with ligature marks across her neck.

According to Clayton County Police, the murder was a "matter of honor," to Rashid, who allegedly confessed to detectives in broken English.

"The offender advised that he is a Muslim," the detective reported in an arrest warrant application. "[D]ivorce and extra-marital affairs are against his religion and would disgrace the family."

Rashid was denied bond on Tuesday, and his probable cause hearing is set for August 5.