SAN FERNANDO (CNS) — An angry husband thought that he had committed the “perfect crime” by killing his wife and blaming it on his gay son, whom he claimed to have shot to death in self-defense, a prosecutor told a San Fernando jury this week, but a defense attorney countered that his client told the truth about the two deaths.
Shehada Issa is charged with two counts of murder stemming from the stabbing death of his wife, Rabihah, some time between March 27 and March 29, and the shotgun shooting death of his 38-year-old son, Amir — known as Rocky — on March 29. The charges include the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, along with gun and knife-use allegations.
Issa, now 70, was charged April 1 with his son’s shooting death, along with a hate crime allegation that the murder was committed because of the victim’s sexual orientation. He was subsequently charged April 28 with his wife’s killing.
Issa could face life without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office opted earlier not to seek the death penalty against him.
Deputy District Attorney Leila Tahmassebi told jurors in her opening statement that Issa had a longtime gambling problem that caused him to have a constant need for cash. She alleged that Issa’s motive for murdering his wife was her refusal to allow him to put their North Hills home on the market.
As for Rocky, Issa had a “unique” hatred and “disgust” for his son because of his sexual preference and because he refused to move out of adjoining rooms at the home, Tahmassebi alleged.
In January, Rabihah told her husband that she would not sign home sale papers, and Issa responded by threatening her life and listing the house anyway, the prosecutor alleged. Issa also failed to evict his son from the home, she said.
“Evidence will show he made good on (his) threats” and “brutally murdered his wife and son,” Tahmassebi alleged.
“He thought that he had committed the perfect crime …,” she said. “There is only one truth and that is that the defendant intentionally murdered his wife and his son.”
Defense attorney Anthony Willoughby painted a different picture for the jury.
“There are just two issues in this case — who killed Ms. Issa and why did my client shoot his son,” the attorney said in his opening statement.
According to Willoughby, Issa came home from a trip, found his wife stabbed to death, grabbed a rifle, went outside and found Rocky. Believing his son to be armed with a knife, Issa shot and killed him, the lawyer said.
“This case has nothing to do with Rocky being gay,” Willoughby insisted. The dead man had “mental issues — and it’s those issues that bring us here today,” the defense attorney said.
Willoughby suggested that Rocky killed his mother and threatened his father with a knife, leading Issa to shoot his son in self-defense.
The first prosecution witness was the defendant’s second-eldest son, who told the jury that his father had a violent, abusive relationship with Rabihah and an ever-increasing hatred for Rocky.
Victor Issa told of constant money problem and squabbles within the home as a result of his father’s gambling. He also said that when the defendant found out that Rocky was gay, “their relationship changed.”
“He detested (the fact that his son was gay),” the witness testified.
“He detested him. He was ashamed of him. He called him things like ‘whore of Babylon.’ It was constant for years. It was, ‘he deserves to die.’”
Tahmassebi said Issa’s other children would take the stand during the trial.