Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 20° Cloudy
News >  Crime/Public Safety

Victim’s boss testifies she had bruises around her neck, arm in weeks before alleged ‘honor killing’

Nov. 3, 2022 Updated Thu., Nov. 3, 2022 at 8:50 p.m.

Yasir Darraji is led out of court during a break on the first day of his second-degree murder trial on Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court. Darraji is accused of killing his ex-wife, Ibtihal Darraji, who was found strangled in a burning car in January 2020. Yasir Darraji is a refugee from Iraq.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Yasir Darraji is led out of court during a break on the first day of his second-degree murder trial on Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court. Darraji is accused of killing his ex-wife, Ibtihal Darraji, who was found strangled in a burning car in January 2020. Yasir Darraji is a refugee from Iraq. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

Ibtihal Darraji was a shy yet vivacious woman who lifted up those around her, but she became quiet and “afraid” in the weeks before her death, her former boss testified Thursday in the trial of Darraji’s ex-husband for her killing.

Yasir Darraji, 33, is charged with second-degree murder and harassment related to the 2020 death of his ex-wife, 33-year-old Ibtihal Darraji. He has maintained his innocence.

After two days of jury selection, prosecutors argued Wednesday that Yasir Darraji was angry his ex-wife was becoming more “Americanized,” going out drinking and dancing, practicing Christianity and dating other men.

Ibtihal Darraji was found strangled in her burning car on Spokane’s South Hill on Jan. 30, 2020.

Loire Skillman was Ibtihal Darraji’s boss at the Union Gospel Mission thrift store in Spokane Valley. At first, Ibtihal Darraji was quiet and reserved, Skillman said, but she got to know her co-workers through daily devotionals prayer and team meetings, Skillman said. Ibtihal Darraji became a well-liked employee.

Ibtihal Darraji was “vivacious” and “very beautiful,” Skillman said.

“She was just a light, actually,” Skillman said.

If Ibtihal Darraji was working, it was a “lift to everybody in the store,” Skillman said.

She frequently talked about her two children, showing Skillman pictures of them at the park or out shopping, she said.

But Ibtihal Darraji’s demeanor changed in the six to eight weeks before her death, Skillman said. She missed work twice without calling, but later explained to her boss that it was due to her children.

In the month before her death, Skillman noticed fingerprint bruises around Ibtihal Darraji’s neck. She saw a thumbprint on one side of her neck with four fingerprints on the other side, like someone had put their hand around her throat, Skillman told the court.

“You could tell she was hurting,” Skillman said.

She pulled Ibtihal Darraji aside and offered to help her.

A few weeks later, Skillman again noticed bruising, this time on Ibtihal Darraji’s arm. She met with her, offering to help, but Ibithal Darraji refused.

She seemed “afraid,” Skillman said. Ibtihal Darraji would have liked to gather her children and leave, Skillman said.

Ibtihal Darraji accused her ex-husband of domestic violence in court filings during custody disputes over their children and told friends and co-workers Yasir Darraji was violent toward her, according to court documents. Superior Court Judge John Cooney ruled that evidence was inadmissible, in part because the defense could not cross-examine Ibtihal Darraji to determine the veracity of her statements, making them hearsay.

Following Skillman’s testimony, witnesses shared their experience at the scene near Thornton Murphy Park, where Ibtihal’s body was found.

Cpl. Nick Briggs passed the area as he was heading to the COPS location in a nearby shopping center. He remembers seeing a GMC Hummer with a green underglow light kit in the park parking lot and the white Prius facing the wrong way, but he couldn’t see into the Prius, he said.

About 30 minutes later, Christopher Dea was on his way to pick up groceries when he stopped to play some Pokemon Go.

He spotted smoke coming out of a white Toyota Prius parked the wrong way just off the park’s parking lot, Dea said.

“I saw a car on fire filled with smoke and called the cops,” Dea said.

Paramedic Jason Webster responded to the scene with his crew of Spokane firefighters. As they quickly extinguished the flames, a fellow firefighter realized there was a body in the car.

He called to Webster, who ran over with his medical kit, to find Ibtihal Darraji’s body severely burned.

“Is this a joke?” Webster remembers saying to his co-worker.

Her body didn’t feel right, almost like a dummy, he said. He quickly realized that due to the extensive burns to her face, there was nothing he could do, and that Ibtihal Darraji was already dead.

“There would be no way to survive that,” Webster said of her injuries.

Prosecutors showed the jury photos of Ibtihal Darraji’s blackened body, with significant burns to her face and right side.

The bone on her arm was exposed due to the severity of the burns.

Fire Capt. Bridget Luby arrived on scene a short time later and began investigating.

She concluded the fire was consistent with that from some type of ignition fuel, like gas or lighter fluid, being poured over Ibtihal Darraji’s body. Based on burn patterns, it’s likely the 33-year-old was partially slumped over the center console when the fire ignited.

Luby testified she could smell some type of fuel in the car at the scene and at Ibtihal Darraji’s autopsy the next day. Based on the lack of smoke in Ibtihal Darraji’s lungs, which Luby observed while watching the autopsy, it was clear she was dead before the fire started.

Prosecutors said in their opening statements the Spokane County Medical Examiner ruled Ibtihal Darraji’s cause of death was strangulation. The medical examiner is expected to testify next week.

Yasir Darraji’s trial is set to resume Friday and continue through mid-November.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.