Muhammad Altantawi sentenced to 35-60 years in mother's murder

Anna Liz Nichols
The Detroit News

Muhammad Altantawi, who was 16 years old at the time of the murder of his mother in 2017, was sentenced to 35 to 60 years in prison for her death.

In 2017, Nada Huranieh, 35, was smothered to death with a damp cloth or towel and was likely dead before being thrown out of a second-floor window in the family's Farmington Hills home, an autopsy found.

The prosecution and investigators throughout the five years of Altantawi's case have asserted that he suffocated his mother and threw her body out the window to stage her death as an accidental fall.

Muhammad Altantawi was sentenced to 35 to 60 years in prison for the 2017 death of his mother, Nada Huranieh.

Prosecutors said Altantawi took his father's side in his parents' divorce after his father, Bassell, was ordered out of the house in 2016 after a Valentine's Day domestic violence incident in which he pushed his wife down some stairs. She filed for divorce the following month. He pleaded guilty to spousal abuse. Bassell also pleaded guilty in 2016 to Medicaid fraud and two counts of health care fraud, having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution and being unable to work, according to divorce filings.

During the sentencing on Wednesday, Altantawi maintained his innocence. He said the prosecution and media have framed him as a woman-hating Muslim man. He read off a news article that cited court records that said his father had been concerned his wife was "Americanizing" their three children and dissolving them of their Syrian and Islamic roots.

Altantawi, who represented himself at the sentencing, spent the first two hours of court disputing the prosecution's sentencing memorandum by line and by word, interrupting the judge numerous times. Judge Martha Anderson warned him several times of courtroom decorum to stand when addressing the court and to not interrupt her, or he would be removed.

During victim impact statements, Altantawi's sister Aya, who was 14 at the time of her mother's death, talked about how their mother would forgive her brother and if he needs money or support while he is in prison, she hopes her brother will call her first.

The father tried to use the time for victim impact statements to address his son as the victim and discuss how a close family friend "coached his wife in the divorce," but Anderson didn't allow him to proceed.

Among evidence at trial were Altantawi's cell phone records, including multiple phone calls made between him and his father before the time he told investigators he had woken up the day of his mother's death, and a surveillance video showing shadows and lights going on around the house during which objects, including a ladder and cleaning supplies, were arranged near the window. The prosecution said Altantawi sent his father a picture of the window she she was thrown out of three weeks before her death. He also provided inconsistent statements to investigators of where he was and what he saw that morning before one of his sisters found their mother's body lying on the patio.

The Oakland County Prosecutor's Office originally had requested a life sentence for Altantawi without parole, but withdrew it in August due to a recent U.S. Supreme Court "juvie lifer" ruling that found sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole was "cruel and unusual punishment."

"He understood the consequences of his actions," Anderson said before sentencing Altantawi to 35 to 60 years, 60 being the maximum sentence allowed. He gets credit for time served for the five years he has been incarcerated.