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Maria ISA

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Honor killing
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 6, 1989
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: 1943
Victim profile: Palestina Isa, 16 (her daughter)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on December 20, 1991. Commuted to life imprisonment without parole
 
 

 
 
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In 1989 in St. Louis, Missouri, sixteen-year-old Palestina (Tina) Isa was murdered by her Palestinian father, Zein Isa, with the aid of her Brazilian mother, Maria Isa. Their daughter listened to American popular music such as dance, rap, R&B, and rock.

After learning that Palestina had taken a part-time job without her parents' permission, and dated a non-Muslim African American man, her father felt she had become too Westernized. On the day of her murder, Zein repeatedly stabbed his daughter Tina, while her mother Maria held her down.

Zein Isa was a member of the Abu Nidal Organization, which at the time he murdered his daughter, was plotting to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.. A crucial factor in his trial was that the FBI had bugged Zein's house in connection with his suspected terrorist activities, and as such, had recorded Tina's murder on an audio cassette. This was especially important in confirming that Maria was an active participant in the murder, and that Zein's claim of self-defense against Tina (self-defense being that she had shamed the family and honor must be restored) was false.

On December 20, 1991 both Zein and Maria Isa were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. On April 1, 1993, Zein was indicted by the FBI in connection with his terrorist activities within Abu Nidal Organization, but the charges were dropped as he was already on death row for his daughter's murder. He later died of diabetes complications on February 17, 1997. Maria's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment without parole.

An episode of Forensic Files featured this case.

Wikipedia.org


Missouri Couple Sentenced to Die In Murder of Their Daughter, 16

The New York Times

December 20, 1991

A fundamentalist Muslim couple were sentenced to death today for killing their 16-year-old daughter, whose screams for mercy were recorded secretly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Zein Isa, 61 years old, and his wife, Maria, 48, were sentenced to die by injection for the 1989 stabbing death of the girl, Tina Isa, at their apartment.

The bureau had planted listening devices in the apartment, reportedly as part of an investigation into whether Mr. Isa was involved with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

"If my father is sent to death because he is a Muslim, then he is proud of himself to die that way," the dead girl's sister, Fatima Isa, screamed after the sentences were handed down by Circuit Judge Charles A. Shaw.

A jury that convicted the couple Oct. 25 had recommended the death penalty.

Mr. Isa, a Palestinian, is a naturalized United States citizen, and his wife is Brazilian. Lawyers for the couple said the convictions, which relied heavily on a secretly recorded audio tape of the killing, would be appealed.

The seven-minute tape of the girl's death on Nov. 6, 1989, was central to the trial. Federal agents recorded the killing with electronic bugging devices hidden in the family's home, though they were not monitoring the tape at the time, the authorities said.

Also recorded and introduced as evidence in the trial were telephone conversations in which Mr. Isa discussed with his other daughters the rebellious, behavior of his youngest daughter.

Mr. Isa testified in Arabic and through a translator that he stabbed his daughter when she demanded $5,000 and came at him with a kitchen knife. "When I said, 'You are going to die tonight,' she already had the knife in her hand," Isa said. "I then directed the knife toward her to stab her until she fell down."

Some jurors had wept upon hearing the tape of the girl struggling for her life with screams and gasping and moaning. On the tape, Mr. Isa shouted, in Arabic: "Die! Die quickly! Die, my daughter, die!"


Terror and Death at Home Are Caught in F.B.I. Tape

The New York Times

October 28, 1991

Hoping to hear evidence of terrorist activities, the Federal Bureau of Investigation planted listening devices in the tiny apartment of a Palestinian-American more than two years ago. What the F.B.I. taped were the screams of a teen-age girl being stabbed to death.

Now, a jury that heard the tape-recorded voice of the 16-year-old pleading in vain for her life has convicted her parents of murder and recommended that they be put to death.

The jury deliberated more than four hours Saturday before asking for the death penalty against Zein Isa and his wife, Maria. On Friday, the jurors had convicted them in the death of their daughter Tina, the father for stabbing her and the mother for holding her down.

The girl's screams and moans as she begged her parents not to kill her were captured by devices secretly planted in the apartment by Federal agents who were looking into possible illegal activities by Mr. Isa on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Cultures and Generations Clash

Instead of international intrigue, the tapes captured a sometimes chilling, sometimes heartbreaking family drama involving clashes of cultures -- Mr. Isa was born in Palestine and his wife in Brazil -- and the parents' attempts to control their daughter who, it seems, wanted to be an American teen-ager.

The surveillance unit was not staffed on Nov. 6, 1989, the night Tina Isa was killed. Soon after the killing, the F.B.I. turned over a number of tapes to the prosecutor, Dee Joyce-Hayes. They included a number of phone conversations with Zein Isa and several other daughters in which he seems to discuss various methods of getting rid of Tina, including accusing her of attacking him with a knife. Since the F.B.I. has refused to discuss the tapes, only some of which were used at the trial, it is not clear whether the authorities could have intervened to prevent the killing. Translated for Jury

The seven-minute tape of the killing, on which the father is heard shouting in Arabic "Die quickly!" in answer to his daughter's cries, chilled the jury of seven women and five men and shocked court officials who thought they had seen and heard everything.

"It's worse than any movie, any film, anything I thought that I would ever hear in my life," said Bob Craddick, an assistant prosecutor for seven years, who has heard the tape seven or eight times.

The tape was a mixture of the three languages spoken in the household -- Arabic, Portuguese and English -- and was translated for the jury.

Judge Charles A. Shaw of Circuit Court set a Dec. 13 sentencing date for Mr. Isa, 61, a naturalized American citizen, and his wife, 48. The only alternative to the death sentence is life in prison without parole. The defendants are expected to appeal the verdict.

The Isas say the tape from Nov. 6, 1989, tells a story not of murder but of a struggle in which Mr. Isa killed the girl in self-defense after she threatened them and demanded money. The parents also maintained that their daughter may have been using drugs or alcohol, and that she had defied them by dating a young man they disapproved of.

Testimony indicated that Tina Isa clashed with her older sisters as well as her parents over her boyfriend and her night job at a fast-food restaurant. In the Isa household, it was brought out, the daughters were supposed to work only for their parents at home or at their small grocery store. They were not to date outside the faith nor leave home without permission. Maria Isa is Roman Catholic, while Zein Isa and the others are Muslim.

Tina (her full name was Palestina) was the last daughter at home and the most American of the family. She had lived in Brazil, Puerto Rico and on the West Bank, but she was happiest in St. Louis. An honor student, she played high school soccer over her father's objections. Again over his objections, she went to the junior prom, only to be taken away by family members.

On the night of her death, Tina's parents express anger on the tape that she was at work, then seem not to believe that she was at work at all. Then Tina's father says: "Here, listen, my dear daughter, do you know that this is the last day. Tonight, you're going to die?"

Tina responds: "Huh?"

Zein Isa replies: "Do you know that you are going to die tonight?"

The girl's mother asks her questions about items in her schoolbag. In the midst of her conversation with her mother, Tina begins to shriek in fear.

"Keep still, Tina!" says her father.

"Mother, please help me!"

"Huh? What do you mean?" the mother says.

"Help! Help!"

"What help?" the mother responds.

Tina screams, and Maria says: "Are you going to listen? Are you going to listen?"

Screaming louder, Tina gasps: "Yes! Yes! Yes, I am!" then coughs and adds, "No. Please!" Six Wounds in Chest

The mother says, "Shut up!"

Tina continues to cry, but her voice is unintelligible.

"Die! Die quickly! Die quickly!" the father says.

The girl moans, seems to quiet, then screams one last time.

"Quiet, little one! Die my daughter, die!" the father says.

Tina was stabbed six times in the chest with a boning knife, which pierced her heart, one lung, and liver, investigators said.

Mr. Zein admitted on the witness stand that he put his foot on his daughter's mouth to quiet her. His wife did not testify.

An alternate juror, Carl Smith, said he would think about the tape for the rest of his life. "I cried because I wish I could have been there to help her," he said.

Another alternate, Jean Lloyd, said, "For him to say 'die quickly' and put his foot over her mouth, at some point I just wanted to stand up and scream."

While deliberating, the jurors asked to rehear the tape of the killing. They did, over the protest of defense lawyers. Outside the courtroom, one lawyer said: "We don't want them to play it. If they hear it again, it'll kill us."

Cultural Rifts Remain

After the guilty verdicts, there were signs of the same cultural divisions that seemed to have caused the killing. As the findings were announced Friday, the parents looked straight ahead.

On one side of the courtroom, Tina Isa's high school friends burst into tears; across the aisle, the Isa family and friends quietly clenched hands.

Soraia Salem, one of Tina's sisters, said the system failed her sister. She said the family sought help from the police in the months before the murder, even asking for Tina to be placed in a foster home. But prosecutors said they found only one police report.

After the verdicts were read, an agitated family friend who would give her name only as Mrs. Abraham expressed her dismay at what she saw as the jury's failure to acknowledge the Palestinian culture. "I feel it's not right. We follow our religion," said Mrs. Abraham. She said the Isas had to discipline their daughter or lose respect. "They'd be embarrassed in front of everybody in the country like somebody when they go without their clothes outside."

But the third alternate juror had a different view. Recalling how the tape affected him, Charles Heuvelman said the parents had no right to kill their child "just because she wants to be an American teen-ager.


Tina Isa America's Honor Killing

By Erika Lyn Smith - BellaOnline.com

An honor killing is usually a private family matter. One family member, usually the father or oldest son, kills the family member who has disgraced or dishonored the family, usually a female who has either had premarital sex or been unfaithful in her marriage. Honor killings take place mostly in third world countries, although in November of 1989, Saint Louis gained National attention in what became one of the most publicized honor killings in the world.

The FBI unintentionally taped the brutal murder of 16-year-old Tina Isa, while doing electronic surveillance of the Isa’s home. Zein Isa, Tina’s father was a suspected Palestinian Terrorist and had been under FBI surveillance for some time. The first clue to Tina Isa’s death came one morning as FBI agents listened to the surveillance tapes from the night before. Imagine the difficulty the agents must have experienced listening to Tina’s terrifying screams, as her Palestinian father kills her and her Brazilian mother Maria helps him.

The agents quickly realize with horror, they are already hours to late and that Tina is already dead. The agents hear Tina screaming, begging her mother please help me and her mother says only shut up. Tina’s father stabs her with a butcher knife 13 times in the chest, while Tina’s mother Maria holds her daughter down. The murder of their daughter Tina Isa takes eight minutes. The tape ends with Zein Isa telling his daughter die, die quickly, quiet, little one, die, my daughter, die. Then there is silence on the tape and it is obvious Tina has died.

After hearing the murder of Tina Isa on the surveillance tape, agents must make a difficult decision. Do they blow FBI cover, turn over the audiotapes, and allowing the prosecutor to prosecute the Isa’s for murdering their daughter or do they continue their surveillance and hope that Zein and Maria Isa lead the agents to terrorists. In the end, the agents turn over their evidence to the prosecuting attorney’s office and prosecute the Isa’s for the murder of their daughter.

Tina is an honor killing. A daughter killed by her father for causing dishonor for her family in her father’s eyes. Earlier in the day, Tina had applied for a part-time job at a local Saint Louis Wendy’s Restaurant against her parents’ wishes, and without their permission. Recently she had begun seeing a black boy from school. Both of these behaviors were disrespectful to the family’s culture, enough that her father felt justified in killing her.

The number of honor killings worldwide is difficult to detect, mostly because honor killings are a taboo subject. Killing your child because they are disrespectful is not open for discussion in any country and can get you killed.

During their trial, the Zein Isa tried to get the surveillance tapes thrown out as evidence because they captured events that had no relevance to the FBI’s investigation. The court allowed the tapes as evidence, which allowed the jury to hear Tina’s voice from beyond the grave, and the stark cold method in which her father and mother murdered her in her own home.

Zein and Maria Isa were both found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Maria challenged her conviction since she felt she should not get the same punishment as her husband who stabbed Tina to death. Yet, the court felt Maria was never forced to hold her daughter down as her husband stabbed her to death. In the end, the court determined Maria was not directly responsible for her daughter’s death, and her conviction was converted from a deaths sentence to life in prison. Zein Isa died on death row in 1997 after he became ill.

Honor killings happen every day in all parts of our world. In other parts of the world, the police often are witness and some even participate in the stoning of young woman who date outside their ethnic or religious background or are sexually active before marriage. How sad the very families that should be protecting us are the cause of our death.


The horrific murder of Tina Isa by her Muslim jihadi father

In November 1989 in St. Louis, the FBI inadvertently tape recorded the entire episode of a teenage girl’s being killed by her Palestinian father and Brazilian mother (the Feds were looking for evidence of terrorism, which they also found). In a ghastly eight-minute sequence, Zein Isa stabbed his daughter Palestina thirteen times with a butcher’s knife as his wife held the girl down and responded to Palestina’s pleas for help with a brutal “Shut up!” The killing ends with Zein screaming “Die! Die quickly! Die quickly! . . . Quiet, little one! Die, my daughter, die!” By this time, she is dead.

Harris, a St. Louis television reporter, has done admirable spade work going through the court transcripts and interviewing everyone connected to the case in an attempt to piece together the interlocking stories of family murder and active support of Abu Nidal’s terrorist organization.

In addition, she successfully conjures up the small and exceedingly unpleasant world of Zein Isa and his family of rabid anti-Americans living right in the American heartland. The murder culminates their lives of frustration, greed, and vulgarity. Unfortunately, Harris spent more effort digging up information than she did writing the book; so the more-than-casual reader must read and reread its pages to piece together the sequence of events and the scope of the Isa family’s involvement with Abu Nidal. Doing so repays the effort, however, for Harris has compiled a treasure trove of materials on two usually elusive subjects.

A 1991 New York Times article gives you details of the tapes and the trial:

The jury deliberated more than four hours Saturday before asking for the death penalty against Zein Isa and his wife, Maria. On Friday, the jurors had convicted them in the death of their daughter Tina, the father for stabbing her and the mother for holding her down.

The girl’s screams and moans as she begged her parents not to kill her were captured by devices secretly planted in the apartment by Federal agents who were looking into possible illegal activities by Mr. Isa on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Cultures and Generations Clash.

Instead of international intrigue, the tapes captured a sometimes chilling, sometimes heartbreaking family drama involving clashes of cultures — Mr. Isa was born in Palestine and his wife in Brazil — and the parents’ attempts to control their daughter who, it seems, wanted to be an American teen-ager.

The surveillance unit was not staffed on Nov. 6, 1989, the night Tina Isa was killed. Soon after the killing, the F.B.I. turned over a number of tapes to the prosecutor, Dee Joyce-Hayes. They included a number of phone conversations with Zein Isa and several other daughters in which he seems to discuss various methods of getting rid of Tina, including accusing her of attacking him with a knife. Since the F.B.I. has refused to discuss the tapes, only some of which were used at the trial, it is not clear whether the authorities could have intervened to prevent the killing.

Translated for Jury

The seven-minute tape of the killing, on which the father is heard shouting in Arabic “Die quickly!” in answer to his daughter’s cries, chilled the jury of seven women and five men and shocked court officials who thought they had seen and heard everything.

“It’s worse than any movie, any film, anything I thought that I would ever hear in my life,” said Bob Craddick, an assistant prosecutor for seven years, who has heard the tape seven or eight times.

…On the night of her death, Tina’s parents express anger on the tape that she was at work, then seem not to believe that she was at work at all. Then Tina’s father says: “Here, listen, my dear daughter, do you know that this is the last day. Tonight, you’re going to die?”

Tina responds: “Huh?”

Zein Isa replies: “Do you know that you are going to die tonight?”

The girl’s mother asks her questions about items in her schoolbag. In the midst of her conversation with her mother, Tina begins to shriek in fear.

“Keep still, Tina!” says her father.

“Mother, please help me!”

“Huh? What do you mean?” the mother says.

“Help! Help!”

“What help?” the mother responds.

Tina screams, and Maria says: “Are you going to listen? Are you going to listen?”

Screaming louder, Tina gasps: “Yes! Yes! Yes, I am!” then coughs and adds, “No. Please!”

The mother says, “Shut up!”

Tina continues to cry, but her voice is unintelligible.

“Die! Die quickly! Die quickly!” the father says.

The girl moans, seems to quiet, then screams one last time.

“Quiet, little one! Die my daughter, die!” the father says.

Tina was stabbed six times in the chest with a boning knife, which pierced her heart, one lung, and liver, investigators said.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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