Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
Clayton County jurors heard a Pakistani-born Jonesboro man admit to killing his only daughter in 2008, because she disgraced and insulted him by ending her arranged marriage to his nephew.
In the state's DVD-recorded confession, presented Wednesday, Chaudhry Rashid, 59, is handcuffed and sitting inside a Clayton police interrogation room as relatives meet with him at different times. Hours before the meeting, police found the strangled body of Rashid's only daughter, Sandeela Kanwal, 25, sprawled on the floor of her upstairs bedroom, inside the family home on Utah Drive.
"She said,'Kill me,'" Rashid tells his oldest son, Hamayen Rashid, on the recording. "I told her, 'I am not going to hesitate. I will kill you.'"
Hamayen Rashid, who kneels in front of his father the entire visit and cries, begs him, "'Don't tell me, please don't tell me.'"
"Well, she said, 'Kill me,' so I killed her," replies the defendant. "This thing had to happen. She disgraced our family. No one will be able to tell you 'Rashid is a shameless man.' They will say, 'Rashid is a respectable man' here and in Pakistan."
The recording, which was translated from the family's Punjabi into English by FBI translator Nadia Karim, is poignant at times as Rashid's wife and sons cry, and try to understand what has happened. They discuss funeral arrangements and what should happen to the family's home and two cars. Each asks the others for prayers and seem to rely on God's will for answers.
Kanwal was born in Pakistan and lived there until she was 17, or 18 when she followed her father to the United States, according to Tahira Dawood, a family friend who testified Tuesday. She returned in 2002 to marry her cousin, Majid Latif, so he could come to the United States and get a green card.
Dawood said the couple never consummated their marriage and that Kanwal told her she was a virgin. After living in the Utah Drive home for about a month, Latif moved to Chicago and Kanwal never saw him again.
Dawood said Kanwal was miserable and wanted out of the marriage. But she said she knew her father disapproved and she feared for her life, said Dawood. Police said Rashid picked up Kanwal from her Wal-Mart job in College Park after her shift ended July 5, 2008, drove her home and used a bungee cord to strangle her. He then burned the cord, police said.
On the DVD, Rashid tells his family that he talked to Kanwal during the ride home.
"I explained it all the way to the car," he says. "She never even looked at me, never called me 'Father.' It was disgracing, did I not matter? God is watching. He knows I did not commit a sin. I am peaceful, God is with me."
Rashid tells his family to bury Kanwal in Clayton County.
"Just bury her here," he said. "Over there, the rituals will be a mockery. Just bury her here. Her dead body is better off here. There should be no mourning, no food. If it was a good spirit, mourn for that. She left after putting her father through hell for three months."
It was not clear Wednesday, whether or not Rashid will take the stand in his defense. If convicted of murder, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.