“‘He always returned home but was more like his father, a traditional Muslim,’ Markowitz said. ‘The girls were happy to go shopping with their mother, have electrolysis. But he was very much like his father, didn’t believe in living the American culture. His father even had him working for him against her in the home, taking photographs of things, like items his mother had bought. Like a spy.’”
Farmington Hills — Nada Huranieh’s death was initially seen as an accidental fall, but investigators soon determined the 35-year-old fitness trainer had been murdered — and that her 16-year-old son was the alleged culprit.
Authorities remain tight-lipped about their investigation into Huranieh’s death, but court records shed some light on her family’s sometimes troubled existence behind the walls of their mansion off a quiet dirt road in southern Oakland County.
Huranieh, 35, died Aug. 21 from injuries suffered in a fall from a second-floor window of the seven-bedroom home on Howard Road in Farmington Hills. Authorities said she was found on her patio by her 14-year-old daughter, who called police to report Huranieh was not breathing.
The death was ruled a homicide following an autopsy, and her son, Muhammad Altantawi, is charged as an adult with second-degree murder. He is being held in Oakland County Children’s Village without bond.
During a pre-exam conference Friday, Judge Marla Parker of 47th District Court scheduled a preliminary hearing for Nov. 17, when she will decide whether Altantawi will be tried in his mother’s death.
The teenager, from all accounts, is a good student without any prior legal trouble. If found guilty of killing his mother, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
“My client has expressed his innocence and said he had nothing to do with his mother’s death and is looking forward to being cleared in the legal process,” said the teen’s attorney, David J. Kramer, who declined further comment.
But court records and people familiar with the family reveal stress inside the home that predated the death, with Muhammad Altantawi being placed “in the middle” of adult issues, including allegations of domestic violence, a parental split and Medicaid fraud charges against his father, a Canton-based physician.
Huranieh and Bassel Altantawi, who wed in Syria in 1999 and had three children, were in the midst of a divorce; both were scheduled to give depositions the week she died.
Bassel Altantawi, estranged father of Muhammad.
Huranieh had filed for divorce in March 2016. According to court records, the teen’s father, Bassel Altantawi, now 46, violated orders for supervised visitation and allegedly met several times with his son at a strip mall near the home more than a year ago.
The father also expressed concerns that his children were being “Americanized” by his wife in contrast to their Syrian and Islamic roots, court records indicate.
One of Huranieh’s ex-attorneys, Carolyn Markowitz, said the son expressed anger toward his mother and frequently slipped away to meet his father, who was ordered out of their Farmington Hills home following an incident in which he was accused of throwing his wife down a flight of stairs on Valentine’s Day in 2016.
Altantawi eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of spousal abuse. He was placed on a tether and given conditions that included having no contact with his estranged wife for two years and having only supervised visitation with their children, who were ordered to have counseling.
Muhammad Altantawi and his two sisters, age 14 and 12, were in the sole legal custody of their mother at the time of her death, though the boy’s address is listed as being on Ford Road in Canton, according to his district court criminal file. The address is his father’s urgent care clinic.
Part of the divorce filing in Oakland County Circuit Court is confidential.
Bassel Altantawi could not be reached for comment. His divorce attorney, Timothy McGlinchey, said in a circuit court filing last year that his client “denies violently throwing anyone down stairs.”
In a phone interview, McGlinchey said Bassel Altantawi has been rocked by the events of the past year and a half.
“My client is devastated at what has gone on with his family: the divorce; then the death of the mother of his children; and then his son being charged with the death,” the attorney said.
Bassel Altantawi described the altercation with his wife as “an isolated and very unfortunate incident that he has taken responsibility for and it will not be repeated,” McGlinchey wrote in the 2016 divorce filing.
The estranged couple’s older daughter phoned police to report the Valentine’s Day incident, according to Markowitz, Huranieh’s former attorney.
“Her injuries were serious, she could have died,” she said.
It was unclear if the son was at home during the altercation, but Markowitz said in the following months, it became clear that Muhammad was growing apart from his mother. Several times, he ran away to see his father.
“He always returned home but was more like his father, a traditional Muslim,” Markowitz said. “The girls were happy to go shopping with their mother, have electrolysis. But he was very much like his father, didn’t believe in living the American culture. His father even had him working for him against her in the home, taking photographs of things, like items his mother had bought. Like a spy.
“There were third parties, a religious mentor, who was also trying to influence him or relay his father’s wishes, which was also improper,” she said….