Authorities: Tinley man murdered wife as 4-year-old watched
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org December 20, 2012 11:46AM
Updated: January 22, 2013 6:25AM
On the day a Tinley Park man with a history of domestic violence was charged with beating his wife to death with a weightlifting bar in front of their 4-year-old, friends remembered the woman as a loving mother who always put her children first.
Bahaa A. Sam, 47, was charged with first-degree murder in the death Wednesday of Nermeen Gamal Sam, 38, of the 19700 block of Silverside Drive, Tinley Park police said Thursday.
Sam struck his wife on the head more than 10 times with a weightlifting curling bar, then left her to die on the front lawn, prosecutors said Thursday.
“Daddy killed my mommy,” the boy told police, prosecutors said.
Will County Circuit Court Judge Roger Rickmon set bail for Sam at $5 million.
Sam has a history of domestic violence and recently had been attending counseling sessions, according to Will County court records.
Sue McGuire, who lives a few doors away from the family on Brookside Glen Drive, teared up Thursday as she discussed Nermeen Sam, whom she called “my good friend.”
“What was so nice about her was she worked very hard for her children. They were her life. And now they don’t have their mom. ... I feel numb,” McGuire said.
McGuire said the couple have four children at area schools: An eighth-grade boy, a sixth-grade girl, a girl in kindergarten and the preschool boy.
The eldest boy repeatedly asked Wednesday night if their mother “was really dead,” McGuire said.
“I never saw kids who loved their mother so much. They saw what she was going through. They knew all she did was for them,” McGuire said.
The children are staying with relatives.
McGuire said that despite sometimes violent rows with Bahaa Sam over the years, Nermeen “always took him back.”
“She said he promised to go to the doctor and take his medication. She thought he was going to be fine,” McGuire said.
Nermeen Sam came to talk with McGuire when there were problems at home. Bahaa Sam was angry that his wife found a job she enjoyed at a McDonald’s, McGuire said.
“She loved that job. She started looking really good. She lost weight. She started wearing makeup. She told me she loved going to work. That job had her feeling real good about herself. She started getting this amazing self-esteem. Unfortunately, her husband didn’t like this part of her. He expected her to stay home and take care of her children,” McGuire said.
Prosecutors said Sam argued with his wife Wednesday about the fact that he is unemployed. She tried to leave their house, and he blocked her path, authorities said.
His wife bit his finger and ran out of the house. He followed her with the curling bar, and their son followed them both outside, prosecutors said.
Sam told police he hit his wife twice in the head, but an autopsy found she was struck more than 10 times, prosecutors said.
Police saw blood splattered on the driveway, sidewalk and pooling in the lawn.
Sam was inside the house, also splattered with blood, prosecutors said. He allegedly asked police, “Are you taking her to the hospital? Is she dead?”
While a prosecutor outlined the case in court, Sam interjected comments while his attorney tried to quiet him.
At the mention of the blood on the lawn, driveway and sidewalk, Sam said, “This never happened.” And as a prosecutor recounted how Sam’s son told police his father killed his mother, Sam said, “He doesn’t know that, he’s 4 years old!”
Rickmon asked an interpreter to tell Sam he should remain silent.
Sam appeared to understand English and answered questions from the judge, but an interpreter on a conference call told Sam everything in Arabic, too.
Sam is next scheduled to appear in court Jan. 11. If he posts bond, he would be required to surrender his American and Egyptian passports.
Sam was charged in June with domestic violence but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of battery, court records show. He was ordered to have no contact with his wife and to undergo medical treatment and was given 12 months supervision.
As of November, Sam had attended 10 counseling sessions, and the case was continued to January, according to court records.
In October 2005, Sam was charged with domestic violence and resisting police, records show. In a bench trial, he was found not guilty of domestic violence, but guilty of resisting police and was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service.
“She came running into our house after that incident,” next-door neighbor Tim Meade said.
Meade knew the couple had their problems but said he had not seen Bahaa Sam “for a while.”
Knowing the couple’s troubled past, McGuire feared the worst about her neighbor when, while out shopping Wednesday, she got a phone call from her husband about police activity near the Sam home.
“I drove home saying, ‘Please don’t let her be dead,’ ” McGuire said. “I feel like I failed her. They found her outside. I bet she was running to come here. She came here all the time when she needed me.”
The four children were born in America, McGuire said, and the two eldest are good basketball players.
A friend of the Sam family took the children clothes shopping Thursday, McGuire said, because they can’t enter their home, considered a crime scene.
Summit Hill School District 161 is working with St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Monee to establish a fund to help the family, Supt. Barb Rains said in a news release. She said support networks had been developed at each child’s school.
Services are pending at St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, 4601 W. Pauling Road, Father Samuel Azmy said.
“She was a wonderful lady,” Azmy said of Nermeen, “a great servant of the church who will be missed a lot. We pray for God to give comfort to the family.”
Contributing: Susan DeMar Lafferty, Janet Lundquist