A 29-year-old Iraqi immigrant, Ibtihal Darraji, has been identified as the woman found strangled inside a burning car Friday on the South Hill.
Police have arrested her ex-husband, Yasir A. Darraji, 30. He has been charged with first-degree murder.
A police officer drove by the car on 27th Avenue near Fiske Street at about 9 p.m. Friday. When he passed by again, about 20 minutes later, the inside of the car was on fire, court documents show.
He called the Spokane Fire Department who responded and found Ibtihal Darraji’s body. according to court documents. The Spokane County Medical Examiner said the cause of her death was strangulation.
Ibtihal and Yasir Darraji divorced about four years ago and have two children together.
On the night of her death, Ibtihal texted her friend that she was on her way to pick up her son from Yasir and then would stop by to drop off a few things. She never arrived.
Friends interviewed during the investigation told police of multiple threats Yasir had made against his ex-wife over the last few years, court documents show.
The couple’s 13-year-old daughter told police that on the night of her mother’s death, her father left for work at 6:11 p.m. and wasn’t home when she woke up the next morning, something she found unusual.
Yasir told police he was upset because he smelled marijuana in Ibtihal’s car when she picked up their young son the night of her death. He then intended to go to work as a Lyft driver but was so upset that he ended up just driving around, according to court documents.
The time frame that he was gone changed multiple times during police interviews, according to court documents. He said he left as early as 6:30 p.m. and came home as late as 9:30 p.m. Ibtihal’s car was discovered on fire at about 6:20 p.m.
Ibtihal worked at St. Aloysius Church until September, said Don Weber, the church administrator. Last summer she went home to Baghdad to visit her mother and when she came back, she told her co-workers that she feared for her life because family members didn’t want her to return to Spokane.
“Our understanding is she was part of an arranged marriage to her husband,” Weber said.
Ibtihal was about 16 years old when she had her daughter. Her son was born a few years later and is in elementary school, Weber said.
Weber described the boy as a “very sweet, nice kid that cared a lot about his mother.”
The car was a recently purchased Toyota Prius that she bought from the Society of Jesus at Gonzaga University.
An ex-girlfriend of Yasir told police he had threatened to kill her multiple times and assaulted her when she was pregnant with their child, according to court documents. One threat the ex-girlfriend remembered and told police was that Yasir said he would pour gasoline on her mother’s house and burn it down.
Police were called to an incident between Ibtihal and Yasir Darraji in early January.
On Jan. 9, both Ibtihal and Yasir Darraji spoke with a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy regarding an incident in which Ibtihal and her friend confronted Yasir and his friend about the men spreading rumors that Ibtihal was pregnant out of wedlock, according to court documents.
Yasir recorded the conversation and complained to police that his ex-wife’s friend had assaulted him previously for spreading the rumors, court documents show. Deputies did not take any action other than council Ibtihal’s friend on her actions, court records say.
The couple spent much of their lives living in Iraq, according to court documents. In their culture, court documents said the actions of Ibtihal would reflect poorly on Yasir, even after their divorce.
This idea was confirmed by Ibtihal’s friend when she was interviewed by police. She told police that Yasir was angry with Ibtihal for going out to “nightclubs.” She also told police that Yasir wanted Ibtihal to leave their children with him and move back to Iraq, and that if she didn’t, Yasir said he would kill her.
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