Amal Khalaf, the woman who survived after getting crushed by a Jeep Cherokee driven by accused murderer Faleh Almaleki, took the witness stand late this morning in downtown Phoenix.
Speaking through an Arabic translator, Khalaf testified dramatically about the circumstances that led to the November 2009 incident outside a Peoria government office. Almaleki's 20-year-old daughter, Noor, also was struck by her father's 4,000-pound Jeep and later died
Khalaf suffered several broken bones and other injuries, but has recovered.
Almaleki, a native of Iraq who was living in Glendale at the time, is charged with first-degree murder and other major felonies.
Here is an in-depth story we did on the Almaleki case last year.
The state's theory is that he intentionally ran down Noor (his oldest child) and Khalaf because he was outraged that his daughter had left the family home and was living with Khalaf and her son.
The defense contends that Almaleki didn't intend to strike either women, but meant only to scare Khalaf -- a onetime friend -- and to spit on her in disgust as he drove by.
Khalaf told the jury that she and Noor had gotten close in the years before Noor's death and that the younger woman had moved in with her several months before the fatal encounter.
She described how an irate Faleh Almaleki and his wife came by her home one night to try to convince Noor to return to the fold, with Mrs. Almaleki entering the residence through a window. The police were called, but no arrests followed.
A few months later, on the morning of October 20, 2009, Khalaf and Noor went to a state Department of Economic Security office. Faleh Almaleki unexpectedly showed up in the lobby, though neither woman said anything to him, or vice-versa.
Khalaf said she later went outside, told Noor to wait by the front door, walked to her car, and drove around the lot looking for Almaleki, who had left some time earlier. She said she didn't see him and parked back in the same spot.
She got out of the car and went to get Noor, but then realized that she nervously had locked her keys in the vehicle.
"[Noor] told me to calm down, `He's not going to harm us,'" Khalaf testified.
Khalaf tried to contact two of her children to bring along a spare key.
Soon came another fateful moment in what became a tragic case.
"[Noor] was thirsty, she wanted to drink water from the [nearby] restaurant," Khalaf said, so the pair decided to cross the parking lot to a Mexican joint not 100 yards away. "She was behind me, she was texting [a] message."
"As you walked across the lot, did anything happen?" prosecutor Laura Reckart asked her.
"He was driving so fast," Khalaf replied, referring to Faleh Almaleki, who was moving at them from behind the DES building at about 20 miles per hour.
"What did you do when you saw him?"
Khalaf lifted up her hands in a defensive gesture, and recalled screaming, "No, no, no, no!"
Reckart asked Khalaf if she saw any expression on Almaleki's face: "Yes, he was really angry."
Khalaf suggested, in response to questioning, that Almaleki intentionally had steered into both her and his daughter.
Testimony continued this afternoon in the courtroom of Judge Roland Steinle, and the state is expected to rest its case Monday.
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