St. Louis, Missouri, 1991. Bare Naked Islam posted this horrendous story published in the New York Times. It captures a suspected PLO terrorist and his wife killing their daughter for shaming the family. Terror and Death at Home Are Caught in F.B.I. Tape
Published: 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.
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.
“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.”
And this from a Facebook page to honor the girl:
Palestina Isa (also known as Tina) was every parents dream child, a high school honor student, star athlete, popluar outgiong. Her dad, Zein Isa , was a Palestinian immigrant living in St. Louis.
After learning that Palestina had taken a part-time job without her parents’ permission, and dated an African American boyfriend, his Brazilian wife Maria held down Palestina, who was then repeatedly stabbed by Zein. 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 had recorded Palestina’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 was unwarranted.
On December 20, 1991 both Zein and Maria Isa were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
On April 1, 1993 Zein Isa was indicted by the FBI in connection with his Abu Nidal Organization activities, but the charges were dropped because he was already on Death Row. Zein Isa died of diabetes on February 17, 1997. Maria’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment without parole.
Tina’s sisters later came out to say that she was a bad daughter who deserved to die!