A state appeals court panel Thursday upheld a North Hills man’s conviction for fatally stabbing his wife and then shooting his bisexual son to death.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found there was “overwhelming evidence” of Shehada Khalil Issa’s guilt.
Issa was convicted in September 2017 of first-degree murder for killing his wife of 50 years, Rabihah, some time between March 27, 2016, and March 29, 2016, and using a shotgun to kill his 38-year-old son, Amir, also known as “Rocky,” on March 29, 2016.
Prosecutors opted not to seek the death penalty against Issa, who is serving two consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole.
“Defendant controlled access to the home through a padlock to which only he knew its combination. The padlock was placed on the front door after Rabihah was murdered,” the appellate court panel noted in its 26-page ruling. “The only inference that can be reasonably drawn from this evidence was that defendant killed Rabihah and placed the padlock on the front door to prevent anyone from discovering the body. Another obvious inference to be drawn from the evidence was defendant’s consciousness of guilt.”
Deputy District Attorney Leila Tahmassebi told jurors during the trial that Issa thought he had committed the “perfect crime” by killing his wife and blaming it on his son, whom he claimed to have shot in self-defense.
In her opening statement, the prosecutor told jurors that Issa had a longtime gambling problem that caused him to have a constant need for cash and that Issa’s wife didn’t want to put their North Hills home up for sale.
The woman had told her husband that she would not sign home sale papers, and he responded by threatening her life and listing the home anyway, the deputy district attorney said. He had also failed to evict his son from the home, the prosecutor said, telling jurors that Issa had a “unique” hatred and “disgust” for his son because of his sexual preference and because he refused to move out of adjoining rooms at the home.
“Evidence will show he made good on (his) threats” and “brutally murdered his wife and son,” the prosecutor told jurors.
Issa’s attorney, Anthony Willoughby, countered during the trial that his client told the truth about what had happened.
Issa’s lawyer suggested that the man known as Rocky killed his mother and threatened his father with a knife, leading Issa to shoot his son in self-defense.
The defense attorney told jurors that Issa came home from a trip, found his wife had been stabbed to death, grabbed a rifle, went outside and shot and killed his son, whom he believed to be armed with a knife.
“This case has nothing to do with Rocky being gay,” Willoughby insisted. The dead man had “mental issues — and it’s those issues that bring us here today,” the defense attorney said.
The first prosecution witness was the defendant’s second-eldest son, who told the jury that his father had a violent, abusive relationship with Rabihah and an ever-increasing hatred for his son, Rocky.
Victor Issa told jurors about constant money problems and squabbles within the home as a result of his father’s gambling. He also said that when the defendant found out about Rocky’s sexual orientation that “their relationship changed.”
“He detested him. He was ashamed of him,” Victor Issa said. “He called him things like `whore of Babylon.’ It was constant for years. It was, `He deserves to die.”’
The elder Issa was arrested by Los Angeles police on March 29, 2016. He was initially charged with killing his son, Amir, and then was charged just over three weeks later with killing his wife.
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