Forensic Files, on the HLN network, shows how science helps solve crimes. In “Honor Thy Father,” a 2004 episode now being rebroadcast, the show opens a window on crime, Islam, and terrorism alike.
Zein Isa, born in Palestine, brought his family to the United States in 1985 and opened a grocery store in St. Louis. He liked living stateside because the United States was an easy place to “rip off,” as Guarding the Secrets author Ellen Harris makes clear in the Forensic Files episode. As it turned out, the grocery store was part of his cover.
Isa was also a partisan of the PLO and working with the Abu Nidal network, which planned to bomb the Israeli embassy in Washington. So the FBI bugged the residence of Zein Isa, his Brazilian wife Maria, and their daughter Palestina. Tina, as she was known, had lived in Brazil, Puerto Rico and on the West Bank, but found happiness in the United States.
She was an honor student who wanted to attend St. Louis University, study aeronautical engineering and become a pilot. Tina played soccer, was popular with boys, went to the prom, listened to popular music and worked part time. Zein and Maria forbade her to go on school trips, attend concerts, visit friends on weekends, and date boys. Tina often showed up at school with bruises and welts inflicted by her parents.
Zein and Maria planned to arrange a marriage for Tina, as they had for her older sisters. Zein wanted Tina to return to his native village of Beiteen in the West Bank, marry a relative of one of his sons-in-law, and live in the family home. Tina had other plans.
She took a shine to Clifford Walker, 20, who was black, which disturbed her parents. In August of 1989, Zein Isa told a friend “There is no way to teach her manners. Teaching her has to take place in the hotel under ground.”
In October of 1989, sister Fatima Abdeljabbar called Tina a “whore,” and told Zein “If God makes my wish, I’ll put her in the grave” and “may God pain her, may God make her sleep and not get up.”
The FBI was also listening as another sister, Soraia Salem, suggested that Zein lock up Tina in the basement and hire “a black guy who’s always in trouble” to kill Tina. Zein said he could not allow a stranger “do my job,” and he would have to send Tina home “in a box.” Salem also said the family would defend him because he had acted in accord with the law of his homeland. At that point, the FBI took no action because Zein often made empty threats.
On November 6, 1989, Tina left her job at Wendy’s and came home. “Where were you, bitch?” Maria said. “Why are you doing this to us, Tina?” The 16-year-old shot back, “I am not doing anything to you.”
“You are a she-devil!” Zein Isa said, complaining about the black boyfriend Clifford Walker. “Listen, my dear daughter. Do you know that this is the last day? Tonight you’re going to die?”
Tina screamed for help as Maria held her down while Zein stabbed her six times with a boning knife, piercing her heart, lungs and liver.
“Die! die quickly!” Zein shouted in Arabic. “Quiet, little one! Die, my daughter, die!”
The FBI tape picked up everything but nobody was listening when Tina expired from the stab wounds. The next day, an FBI agent heard the tape and contacted the St. Louis police. The Isas said Tina tried to stab them and they acted in self-defense. The tape told otherwise, but would it be released in court?
As the Forensic Files episode notes, Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, a Reagan nominee, approved release of the tapes and a transcript was read in court. That made the case for the jurors, who found the Isas guilty. A family friend who called herself Mrs. Abraham told reporters, “I feel it’s not right. We follow our religion.”
Judge Charles Shaw sentenced the Isas to death but the couple showed no remorse. As Maria explained, “My daughter was very disrespectful and very rebellious. We should not have to pay with our lives for something she did.” Maria Isa was resentenced to life imprisonment and died in prison in 2014. Zein Isa died in prison in 1997 before he could be executed.
The Forensic Files episode makes clear the couple’s disdain for the United States and utter disregard for U.S. law, including the law against murder. In their view, Islamic culture allows parents to kill their own daughter, whom they regarded as the guilty party. On balance, this case is a better primer on Islamic culture than anything that comes out of CAIR or the politically correct courses in government schools.
Meanwhile, the number of those executed for honor killings in America is uncertain, but a ballpark figure is probably zero. Nidal Hasan, the “soldier of Allah” terrorist who murdered 13 at Fort Hood in 2009, was sentenced to death in 2013 but has yet to be executed.