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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Documents: Woman found strangled in her burning car had also been kidnapped by suspect’s family in Iraq

UPDATED: Tue., April 13, 2021

A 29-year-old woman who died by strangulation before her body was found in her burning car on the South Hill last year made several domestic violence reports in the years leading up to her death, according to a newly filed warrant in Spokane County Superior Court.

In December 2018, about two years before her death, Ibtihal Darraji reported to police that she’d visited Iraq that month to see family. There, her husband’s side of the family kidnapped her at gunpoint and held her hostage, and Ibtihal Darraji escaped with the help of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, as documents from the embassy confirmed to police, according to the warrant.

Ibtihal and Yasir Darraji married in Iraq in 2006, according to court documents. By 2011, they had two children together.

After moving to Spokane in 2014, Yasir Darraji began an affair, and by the fall of 2015, Ibtihal Darraji wanted a divorce, the documents say. By December, Yasir Darraji’s lover was pregnant.

In February 2016, two months after the pregnancy came to light, Ibtihal Darraji filed a declaration in the Spokane County Superior Court claiming her then-husband had attacked her several times and choked her. She said he sent photos of her without her head covering to her family in Iraq to anger them. He also threatened to send their children to Iraq, where he said his family would kill her if she tried to get the children back, according to court documents.

Ibtihal Darraji, who could not read English, also claimed her husband had misrepresented a written parenting plan to her so she unknowingly signed away her parental rights, according to the documents.

Just after the alleged kidnapping in 2018, one of the couple’s mutual friends in Spokane overheard as Ibtihal Darraji argued with her ex-husband on speakerphone. During the call, Yasir Darraji threatened to kill Ibtihal Darraji unless she told people his family had willingly let her go, the friend told police. Yasir Darraji told Ibtihal Darraji if she was honest about escaping, it would “bring him shame,” according to the court documents.

By November 2019, two months before the homicide, Ibtihal Darraji was concerned her ex-husband was still contacting her family and members of the Iraqi community in Spokane to spread rumors about her “alleged ‘shameful’ behavior,” such as smoking marijuana and wearing shorts, according to the court documents.

A mutual friend of the couple told police that by 2019, Ibtihal Darraji hoped to repair the marriage and that the couple had been “obsessed” with each other.

Jan. 29, the day before the homicide, a friend gave Ibtihal Darraji a ride to work. Ibtihal Darraji played for her friend a recorded voice message she had left for her ex-husband earlier in the day. This friend told police that the message was “personal and hurtful” toward Yasir Darraji. The friend warned Ibtihal Darraji to stop “taunting” Yasir Darraji, the warrant says.

The next day, about six hours before the homicide, Ibtihal Darraji sent another friend a copy of a voice message she’d left for Yasir Darraji.

“You were the father of my children so I did not speak ill of you,” the message began, according to court documents. “I did not tell my family how you treated me, the beatings you gave me and all the tears you made me shed. … I will make you pay for those.”

She told Yasir Darraji she would stay in Spokane and that his reputation was shot. She ended the message saying, if he was ashamed of her before, to “wait and see,” the court documents said.

Yasir Darraji told police around 6 p.m. Jan. 30, about three hours before police found Ibtihal Darraji’s body, that she arrived at his apartment to pick up their son for the weekend. Sitting in her car as Yasir Darraji stood by her driver’s side window, Yasir Darraji thought he smelled marijuana in the car and the two argued. Yasir Darraji, upset, skipped his usual work as a Lyft driver that night and instead drove around listening to music, he told police.

Around 9:20 p.m., a 911 caller said he noticed a car that seemed to have a fire burning inside it at 27th Avenue and Fiske Street. Police found Ibtihal Darraji’s body in her car at about 9:25 p.m. The last outgoing message sent from her phone was around 5:40 p.m., when she told a friend she was on her way to drop off a borrowed item. That friend told police Ibtihal Darraji never arrived.

Police suspect Yasir Darraji and at least one other person in the homicide, though an initial suspected co-conspirator has not been charged after several months of investigation. Yasir Darraji’s trial is set to start May 24. The trial has been postponed three times since his arrest in February 2020.

Yasir Darraji’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

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