ME: Teen’s mom died before fall from home

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Farmington Hills — A woman whose teenage son is accused of killing her was dead before she fell from a second-story window of their Farmington Hills mansion, a medical examiner testified Friday.

Ruben Ortiz-Reyes, a deputy Oakland County medical examiner, made that startling pronouncement during a preliminary hearing in 47th District Court for Muhammad Altantawi, 16, who is charged as an adult with second-degree murder in the Aug. 21 death of Nada Huranieh.

Ortiz-Reyes said Huranieh, 35, died from suffocation and blunt force trauma to the side of the head. Her injuries were not consistent with a fall, the deputy medical examiner said.

Police originally thought the death was accidental, but eventually came to suspect the son. Judge Marla Parker continued the teen’s hearing until 9 a.m. Dec. 8, when he will learn whether he will be tried in his mother’s death.

Court records and people familiar with the family show there was trouble in the home before Huranieh’s death, including allegations of domestic violence, a parental split and Medicaid fraud charges against her husband, a Canton physician.

At the time of the death, Huranieh and Bassel Altantawi, who were married 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.

Huranieh had filed for divorce in March 2016. According to court records, 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, has 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.

His divorce attorney, Timothy McGlinchey, said in a court filing last year that his client “denies violently throwing anyone down stairs.”

It was unclear if the son was at home during the February 2016 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.

Altantawi, a successful physician, was charged in May 2016 by the Michigan attorney general with fraud at his Canton Urgent Care clinic.

In March, he pleaded guilty to two counts of Medicaid fraud and two counts of health care fraud, which are felonies that can carry up to four years in prison. Altantawi was spared prison time but his physician’s license was suspended and he paid $277,953 in restitution, according to the state attorney general’s office.

According to divorce filings, Altantawi — who once had an annual income in excess of $350,000 — found himself unable to work as a physician or meet previous court-ordered support payments for his estranged wife and their children.