Muhammad Altantawi was sixteen years old when he murdered his mother in Michigan. According to court documents Muhammad Altantawi was upset that his mother was getting a divorce from his father and was worried that his father would suffer. Muhammad Altantawi would smother his mother before throwing her body out of a second story window and attempted to make it look like she accidentally fell. Muhammad Altantawi would be arrested, tried as an adult and convicted of murder. This teen killer would be sentenced to 35 to 60 years in prison
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An Oakland Circuit Court jury deliberated less than three hours Monday before finding a 20-year-old Farmington Hills man guilty of first-degree premeditated murder of his mother four years ago and trying to make it look like an accidental fall.
Jurors sat through seven days of testimony in which the prosecution portrayed Muhammad Altantawi as a scheming teenager, angry at his mother for divorcing his father.
Only 16 years old at the time, Muhammad sided with his father Bassell Altantawi, then 46. He blamed his 35-year-old mother, Nada Huranieh, with splitting up their family with her rejection of traditional Syrian and Islamic customs, such as wearing a hijab and her perceived permissive raising of his two sisters, ages 12 and 14 at the time.
He believed his mother only wanted to take his father’s 11,000-square-foot mansion and money. The parents had married in 1999.
Investigators believe Muhammad Altantawi suffocated his mother, threw her body out a second-floor window of their home about 6 a.m. on August 21, 2017, and then staged it to look like an accidental fall.
Only Huranieh and her three children were in the home that night. Bassell was ordered out of the house in 2016 after a Valentine’s Day domestic-violence incident in which he pushed his wife down some stairs. She filed for divorce the following month.
In a two-hour closing argument Monday, assistant prosecuting attorney John Skrzynski said the youth’s own lies, missteps in police interviews, phone records and scene evidence are proof he killed his mother, possibly first rendering her helpless with a chemical inhalant of some kind.
Skrzynski told jurors how:
♦Muhammad Altantawi spied on his mother the days and weeks leading up to the death and texted his father photos of receipts, including a deed to a second house she had bought and a photo of the window she fell or was pushed out.
Muhammad told police he didn’t get up until after 6 a.m. the morning his mother died, but phone records revealed he had received or made numerous calls to his father beginning at 4:30 a.m.
♦The body’s lifeless position on the ground was not consistent with a fall from the window.
♦Video from six home surveillance cameras appeared to show someone moving around the house in different rooms and “hoisting” a body out the window of a make-up room.
♦A tile-cleaning substance and bucket found on a ladder near the window would have been disturbed if Huranieh’s legs had kicked out from the rungs.
♦He changed his story on his location and times in the house when it didn’t conform with lighted rooms in the surveillance video.
♦His sister said he always showered at night but that morning she heard him showering around 6 a.m.
♦Clothes and a rubber mat were found the day of the death in a laundry room washing machine which had automatically shut off. The next day the mat had been removed and put in a plastic bag inside a hamper under clothes.
Oakland County Medical Examiner Ljubisa Dragovic testified an autopsy revealed that Huranieh, a health club fitness instructor, was smothered with a damp cloth or towel and likely dead before ever going out the window.
But one of Altantawi’s defense lawyers, Michael Schiano, argued their young client had neither motivation nor the physical strength to accomplish a crime he described as based on nothing more than speculative theory in an otherwise “pristine” crime scene with no signs of struggle.
He noted there was “no blood, no DNA on anything, no direct evidence” linking his client to the death.
“What he is describing, including chloroform is more like a James Bond film,” Schiano said in his one-hour closing argument. “Nothing like that was ever found in the house or in her. It doesn’t exist.
“He (prosecutor) wants you to believe this or that is possible,” Schiano told the jury. “Don’t do it. Your job is to consider facts, not possibilities.”
Witnesses, including Altantawi’s sister, Aya Altantawi, now 20, who testified her brother was becoming increasingly upset about their mother – whom he called “not a good Muslim” and referenced as a “dog” on his cellphone. He was also concerned his father might go to prison for insurance fraud, aided by his mother’s pending deposition in the case.
In 2016, Bassell Altantawi was charged by the Michigan State Attorney General with Medicare fraud at his Urgent Care Clinic in Canton. That March he entered a guilty plea to counts of Medicaid fraud false claims and two counts of health care fraud, which are felonies that can carry up to four years in prison.
He was spared prison time but had his physician’s license suspended in February 2017 and was required to and did pay $277,953 in restitution, according to a spokesperson in the state attorney general office.
According to divorce filings, Altantawi – who once had an annual income in excess of $350,000 – found himself unable to work as a physician and subsequently meet support payments for his estranged wife and three children or “no longer able to support them in their lavish lifestyle” in Farmington Hills
When his mother told him two weeks before her death that she was going to send him to live with his father, Muhammad Altantawi said “You are going to get what’s coming to you.”
The offense carries life in prison without parole. Defense attorneys could not be immediately reached for comment.
Muhammad Altantawi Sentencing
A judge sentenced a Farmington Hills man convicted of killing his mom on Wednesday to at least 35 years in prison after he was found guilty by a jury in March of first-degree premeditated murder.
Muhammad Altantawi was 16 at the time he pushed his mom out of a window. After four hours, Altantawi was ultimately sentenced to 35 to 60 years in prison after he was convicted in March of the 2017 murder
After the sentencing, someone from the gallery told Altantwai to “have fun rotting in prison, murderer. I hope you die there too.” More conversation erupted from the gallery but was quickly shut down by deputies in the court.
He arrived in court shortly after 1:30 p.m. without an attorney and objected to the entire pre-sentencing report, paragraph-by-paragraph. The judge ruled she would not strike anything from the report.
He also argued with the written victim impact statements, which at that time had not yet been read in court. The county prosecutor objected and said that there was no legal basis to allow the challenge of the victim impact statements.
The judge sided with the prosecution and would not allow the challenges
Altantawi was chided by the judge several times for interrupting her when she tried to rule on his challenges.
He also claimed bigotry and racism by the prosecutor’s office, which drew an immediate objection from the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, who claimed Altantawi would need mental health services.
The judge asked Altantawi about his Muslim upbringing, to which Altantawi said his family moved to the U.S. from Syria. She suggested changing the text to ‘the defendants’ parents were Muslim’ but Altantawi objected to the relevancy of it being included in the sentencing.
The judge ultimately agreed to remove the sentence completely but questioned the relationship between Altantawi and his father. She said it was pertinent because of the pending divorce.
Altantawi had been angry with his 35-year-old Nada Houranieh for divorcing his father, blaming her for causing their family to become split.
After almost two hours of challenges from Altantawi, the last of which was the omission of the word ‘road’ on his street address, his sister read an impact statement on behalf of the family asking for him to be sentenced to life in prison for ending Houranieh’s life.
She had asked that her personal impact statement not be aired.
Altantawi’s father, who had been charged with domestic violence of Houranieh, then spoke. He discussed his relationship with his wife but was chastised by the judge for discussing his son as the victim.
“You can stand by him but that’s not what a victim impact statement is about,” the judge said.
His father changed his tone, calling his wife’s death ‘tragic’ and says the prosecution manipulated his mentally-challenged daughter to testify against his son. The judge then ordered him to sit down, prompting another outburst from Altantawi.
The family then left the courtroom, which led to an outburst in the hallway. The judge ordered Altantawi to address the court one final time.
“Five years ago, I got arrested for – what I said – the worst crime, the murder of my mother,” Altantawi said, while denying he smothered and killed his mother.
According to investigators, Altantawi suffocated his mom, before throwing her out of the third-floor window of the family’s home in Farmington Hills in the summer of 2017.
Altantawi spoke again, saying that the prosecution offered him a plea deal of 10 years in prison, to which he said he was offended by, on his mother’s behalf.
“It would have allowed this first-degree murderer…to have gotten off for five more years,” he said.
Altantawi spoke for another 20 minutes or so and said that all that mattered was his mother, who was ‘taken away’.
The county prosecutor argued that she wasn’t ‘taken away’ but that Altantawi murdered her, which the jury decided upon after only two hours of deliberation.
“This was a hit on a witness,” the prosecution argued. “(she) was to testify at a deposition against her husband.”
The prosecutor argued that Altantawi’s father was facing prison time for embezzlement and that Altantawi killed her for that reason.
The prosecution asked for 40 to 80 years in prison for Altantawi.
The judge described the sentencing as difficult and said, despite Altantawi’s claims of innocence, she must treat him as guilty since that is how the jury ruled.
“Under our law, he was found guilty, and the court is treating him as he was found guilty of committing murder,” she said.
She said, after hearing the past four hours of the hearing, that Altantawi believed he was the victim in the crime.
Ultimately, she sentenced him to 35 to 60 years in prison, with credit for time served.
He was arraigned on Aug. 28 of 2017 on a second-degree murder charge before it was amended to a premeditation count after a medical examiner’s report determined Houranieh died from asphyxiation, while blunt force trauma contributed to her death.