NORRISTOWN — Two months before he fatally stabbed his wife with a 14-inch kitchen carving knife, a Hatfield Township man enrolled in combat training involving the use of knives, prosecutors alleged in court papers.
“In March 2013, the defendant enrolled in and began taking combat training involving the use of knives with a personal trainer,” Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele wrote in court papers, referring to Walid Esmat Mitwalli, who is accused of fatally stabbing his wife, Mona, on June 7, 2013.
Steele and co-prosecutor Jason Whalley want to present evidence of Mitwalli’s alleged interest in combat training with knives to a jury as a so-called “prior bad act” when Mitwalli’s trial begins in September.
“The commonwealth seeks to offer this evidence to demonstrate the defendant’s intent, motive, malice and ill-will towards Mona Mitwalli and to provide the natural progression of events leading up to her murder,” Steele and Whalley wrote.
Autopsy results detailed in a police criminal complaint indicate the victim suffered more than a dozen stab wounds to her chest, her back, the back of her head and to her throat, which perforated her trachea. She also sustained defensive injuries to both arms and hands, according to authorities.
Mitwalli, 37, is charged with first- and third-degree murder and possessing an instrument of crime in connection with the fatal stabbing inside the couple’s home in the 2900 block of Denbeigh Drive during the early morning hours while the couple’s twin 5-year-old daughters slept upstairs.
In addition to Mitwalli’s alleged combat training, prosecutors want to introduce evidence at trial that in February 2007, Mitwalli “was involved in a domestic dispute” with a former wife in Queens County, N.Y., “during which he punched her repeatedly in the head,” according to court papers.
On March 10, 2008, prosecutors alleged, Mitwalli attacked Mona Mitwalli after she confronted him about his infidelity.
“The defendant held her down and threatened to kill her,” Steele and Whalley alleged, claiming the incident led Mona Mitwalli to file for a temporary restraining order which was granted and she moved in with her parents “to escape his abusive behavior” at that time.
In court documents, prosecutors contend Mitwalli also hired a private investigator to follow his wife in February 2013, had security cameras installed at the couple’s home in April 2013, used a digital voice recorder to surreptitiously record conversations with his wife in the weeks leading up to the murder and sent an email to Mona Mitwalli’s prospective employer alleging that she was suffering from severe mental health issues.
Steele and Whalley claim all of Mitwalli’s alleged actions are admissible as evidence of prior bad acts.
Under state law, evidence of other crimes, wrongs or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person. However, such evidence is admissible when offered to prove motive, opportunity, intent or preparation, prosecutors argued. Specifically, prosecutors claim, in cases of domestic violence, the state’s highest court has held that evidence of prior relations between a defendant and homicide victim is admissible evidence of the defendant’s intent, ill-will, motive or malice towards the victim.
“In this case, the evidence the commonwealth seeks to admit establishes the turbulent and deteriorating relationship between the defendant and Mona Mitwalli and demonstrates the escalating pattern of conduct on the part of the defendant which culminated in Ms. Mitwalli’s murder,” Steele and Whalley wrote.
The requests could set the stage for a pretrial hearing before Judge Steven T. O’Neill. At that time, defense lawyer John I. McMahon Jr. will have the chance to challenge Steele’s request.
McMahon has vowed to wage a self-defense claim on behalf of Mitwalli at trial.
Hatfield police responded to the home after Mitwalli called 911 about 3:30 a.m. and stated that he had stabbed his wife to death after she attacked him with a knife, according to court documents.
Police alleged they found Mona Mitwalli’s lifeless body lying in a pool of blood in the family room, a 14-inch kitchen carving knife on the floor next to her.
The investigation by county detectives and Hatfield police “revealed difficulties in the Mitwallis’ marriage and an escalating pattern of behavior on the part of the defendant,” prosecutors alleged in court documents.
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On April 9, 2013, Mitwalli filed for divorce. Two days later, on April 11, according to court papers, Mitwalli met with his in-laws at a New Jersey hotel and showed them surveillance pictures, GPS coordinates and other records on his computer, telling them he had been tracking his wife’s “every move” and had set up recording devices in the house and in her car to prove that she was cheating on him.
Later on April 11, according to court documents, Mitwalli tried to have his wife involuntarily committed to a Montgomery County mental health facility, claiming his wife had threatened to kill herself with a knife. However, following a psychological evaluation, a doctor at the facility determined that Mrs. Mitwalli was “not in need of emergency treatment, nor was she suicidal, but involved in a domestic dispute,” and she was discharged that same night, according to court records.
On April 12, court records indicate, Mitwalli applied for and was granted a temporary Protection From Abuse order against his wife in county court, although a judge dismissed the PFA on April 18.
Following that PFA hearing, according to an arrest affidavit, Mona Mitwalli told her nanny that her husband had texted her, telling her that “he did all these things (to her) to get back at her for her cheating.”
If he’s convicted of first-degree murder, which requires a finding that there was a specific intent to kill, Mitwalli faces life imprisonment. Third-degree murder, which is a killing committed with malice or recklessness, carries a possible maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison upon conviction.