Attorney seeks bond for teen charged in mom’s death

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac – An Oakland County judge ordered attorneys to return to court Friday to continue a hearing on bond and possible community placement for a teenager charged with killing his mother and throwing her body out a third-floor window of their Farmington Hills mansion.

Defendant Muhammad Altantawi sits in the courtroom, handcuffed, in the Farmington Hills 47th District Courtroom of Judge Marla Parker.

Muhammad Altantawi, 16, is being held without bond in Oakland County Children’s Village, charged with the death of his mother, Nada Huranieh, who found lying on the patio of their home Aug. 21.

He walked into Oakland County Circuit Court Wednesday in a blue jail jumpsuit, smiling and trying to raise a handcuffed arm to wave at more than a dozen supporters.

His attorney, David Kramer, told Judge Martha Anderson the teenager has strong ties and support of his mosque and three upstanding members of the community have agreed to open their homes to him pending trial.

Kramer, seeking to have the teen freed on bond, noted that the 12th grader has no criminal history and said he faces irreparable harm because he is receiving a “9th grade education” at Children’s Village.

The defendant's father, Basel Altantawi, center, listens to testimony. The preliminary exam continues for Muhammad Altantawi, 16, who is charged with the second-degree murder of his mother, Nada Huranieh, a physical fitness trainer. Farmington Hills 47th District Courtroom of Judge Marla Parker hears the case, Friday morning, December 8, 2017.

“He’s 16 … he has the presumption of innocence and deserves bond,” Kramer said.

Assistant Oakland County prosecutor John Skrzynski objected to granting the teen bond, countering that evidence indicates Altantawi “caused irreparable harm to others.” He referenced the theory – supported by an autopsy – that Huranieh, a 35-year-old fitness trainer, “was already dead when she went out the window.”

“It would be a terrible mistake to allow someone with this kind of charge into the community,” Skrzynski told Anderson. “ (Potential custodians) are not cognizant of what could happen. I don’t doubt they are wonderful people and well-meaning but untrained to monitor a person like this.”

Nada Huranieh, 35, who was murdered on Aug. 21 at her home in Farmington Hills.

Anderson said she wanted to talk to potential custodians Friday before deciding the matter.

Huranieh and the teen’s father, Bassel Altantawi, were divorcing and their separation had caused some issues in the family.

According to court records, Muhammad Altantawi had run away from home on several occasions to meet with his father, who had expressed concerns his estranged wife was “Americanizing” their children, in contrast to their conservative Muslim and Syrian roots. The couple wed in Syria in 1999.

Skrzynski cited an assistant medical examiner’s finding that Huranieh’s injuries – no blood on the pavement or brain damage from the fall – reflect she had been suffocated and then thrown out a window. A ladder and tile cleaning solution left on the window were attempts to make it appear Huranieh was cleaning the window when she accidentally fell to her death, he said.

Altantawi initially told a detective he had not been in the room and didn’t know anything about the fall until he awoke to the screams of his 14-year-old sister, who had found their mother on the patio.

Skrzynski noted that, after learning a home security camera had captured images at an upstairs window, the teenager changed his statements to say that he had gotten out of bed to get a drink of water when his mother asked him to get her a spray bottle of cleaning solution; and later, that he was holding a ladder for her when she fell off it.

Altantawi explained to an investigator that he didn’t know what to do when he saw her fall and in disbelief, showered and went back to bed.

Skrzynski told Anderson that there were no signs of forced entry to the home and the only ones staying there were Muhammad Altantawi; his 12 and 14-year-old sisters; and their mother. The youngest sister was described as developmentally disabled.

The older sister called 911 upon finding the body and when she went to the door to meet first responders, Muhammad Altantawi was speaking with a dispatcher, holding a cellphone with one hand and making “half-hearted” attempts at CPR with his other hand until paramedics arrived, Farmington Hills police detective Richard Wehby testified at a previous hearing.

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