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Lurid Details Emerge in Trial for Attempted Murder, Rape : Crime: Prosecutor calls use of shovel handle and knife 'disturbing and reprehensible.' Defense says defendant did not intend to kill the victim.

February 06, 1992|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LA CRESCENTA — In a case that court officials have described as one of the most shocking in recent memory, a 39-year-old man was being tried this week on charges that he raped a La Crescenta woman repeatedly with a shovel handle, then slashed her breasts and stabbed her with a knife.

"It's an ugly case. It's a senseless case," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Carol A. Rash, a prosecutor for seven years. "I would say this is one of the most disturbing and reprehensible crimes that I've ever handled."

Ebrahim Joseph Haddad, the defendant in the Pasadena Superior Court case, is charged with attempted murder, aggravated mayhem, three counts of rape with a foreign object, residential robbery and burglary.

Rash has also charged that the attack involved deadly weapons and caused great bodily injury--special allegations that could be used to increase a prison sentence if Haddad is convicted.

Authorities have alleged that Haddad visited the 33-year-old woman's house in December, 1990, and asked to borrow a screwdriver to repair his car. The woman told police that she provided the tool because she recognized Haddad as someone who had done work for her husband.

When he returned the tool, Haddad threatened the woman, ordered her to undress, tied and gagged her, then attacked her with the shovel and the knife, authorities said.

The woman testified that Haddad placed a pillow over her head to muffle her cries so that she would not wake up her two young children, who were sleeping in another room.

Authorities said Haddad cut a telephone line before he left, but the woman was able to free herself and call for help on a second phone that the intruder apparently was unaware of.

The defendant, who had been living with relatives in Southern California, was tracked to Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he was arrested nine days after the attack.

Haddad's trial has been complicated by language differences. The defendant, who speaks Arabic, has needed an interpreter to help him understand the testimony, and the victim, who testified in French, also required a translator.

Attorneys in the case have disagreed about Haddad's intent and the severity of the victim's injuries.

Some of the woman's injuries were displayed to jurors in nine color photo enlargements showing cuts and bruises on her head, neck and chest.

Dr. Michelle Strasen, a surgeon who operated on the victim shortly after the attack, testified that the woman had sustained puncture wounds that pierced her liver and intestines and caused one lung to collapse. The woman also was bleeding heavily in the genital area, the surgeon testified.

Strasen said the attacker nearly severed major blood vessels that could have caused the woman to bleed to death. Some of her other injuries also could have been life-threatening if they had not been treated promptly, the surgeon said.

At the preliminary hearing and during the trial, Haddad's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Christopher Apostal, said the attempted murder charge was unwarranted.

"According to the testimony, he did a lot of horrible things to her," Apostal said. "But the one thing that is crystal clear is that he never intended to kill her."

The defense attorney said that if an intruder had wanted to kill the woman, he could have done so easily while she was bound and gagged. Apostal also noted that after the attack, the woman was able to free herself, telephone for help and wait four hours to undergo surgery.

"They're trying to create the impression she was at death's door when she arrived at the hospital," the defense attorney said. "Clearly, she was not."

But Rash insisted that the attempted murder charge was justified.

"Clearly, anybody who inflicted these kinds of injuries was doing it with the thought of trying to kill somebody," the prosecutor said.

She pointed out that the attacker left the woman tied up and cut a telephone line before leaving.

"This defendant wanted her to die and was taking precautions to make sure she would not escape," Rash said.

Jurors were expected to begin deliberations late this week.

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