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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Jury convicts man of strangling ex-wife and setting her body on fire

Nov. 21, 2022 Updated Mon., Nov. 21, 2022 at 10:08 p.m.

Yasir Darraji listens to the audio of a translator on the first day of his second-degree murder trial Nov. 2 in Spokane County Superior Court. Darraji was found guilty Monday of second-degree murder of his ex-wife, Ibtihal Darraji, who was found strangled to death in a burning car in January 2020.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Yasir Darraji listens to the audio of a translator on the first day of his second-degree murder trial Nov. 2 in Spokane County Superior Court. Darraji was found guilty Monday of second-degree murder of his ex-wife, Ibtihal Darraji, who was found strangled to death in a burning car in January 2020. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

A jury convicted Yasir Darraji on Monday of murdering his ex-wife, whose strangled body was found burning in her car on Spokane’s South Hill on Jan. 30, 2020.

Yasir Darraji, a 33-year-old Iraqi immigrant, was silent and did not react when the jury delivered its verdict in Spokane County Superior Court. The jury had been in deliberation since Thursday and found him guilty of second-degree murder and harassment of his ex-wife, Ibtihal Darraji.

Yasir Darraji maintained his innocence throughout the trial, which began Oct. 31. His sentencing is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 8.

Investigators called the case an “honor killing.”

After the couple moved to Spokane in 2014, Yasir Darraji began an affair and Ibtihal wanted a divorce, according to court documents. By late 2015, Yasir Darraji’s girlfriend was pregnant.

Prosecutors argued that Yasir Darraji was angry his ex-wife was becoming more “Americanized,” going out drinking and dancing, practicing Christianity and dating other men.

In February 2016, Ibtihal Darraji filed a declaration in Spokane County Superior Court, claiming Yasir Darraji had attacked her several times. She said he sent photos of her without a hijab to her family in Iraq to anger them and threatened to send her children back to Iraq, where he said his family would kill her if she tried to get them back, according to court documents.

Things continued to escalate in late 2019 and early 2020, prosecutors said.

Speaking through a translator, Yasir Darraji testified that he had argued with his ex-wife the night of her death when she came to pick up their son.

He became concerned when he smelled marijuana smoke from her car, then she became upset when he asked her about it. She drove away without their son, he said.

He went out later that night with the intention of driving for Lyft, the rideshare app, he said, but he could not recall everywhere he drove that night.

Cellphone data showed Ibtihal and Yasir Darraji’s phones traveling together from Yasir Darraji’s apartment in Spokane Valley to the South Hill where her car was found.

Yasir Darraji’s DNA was found on the driver side door control panel and steering wheel, forensic investigators testified. Gasoline was found on her clothes, car seat covers and car carpet.

Dr. Veena Singh, Spokane County’s chief medical examiner, ruled Ibtihal Darraji’s cause of death was strangulation.

She was dead before the fire was set, Singh testified. There was no evidence of smoke or soot in her lungs.

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.

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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