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3 teens arrested in woman's slaying in Dearborn

Dearborn — The Friday night crime spree shocked and alarmed the city: a trio of armed robberies that left a 29-year-old woman dead outside of a home where relatives were waiting for her.

As Saja Aljanabi’s family sought justice, authorities, corralling Detroit and federal resources, doggedly followed up on tips to find the suspects. On Thursday, the family learned closure was nearer: police announced three teens had been arrested in connection with the slaying.

Chief Ronald Haddad answers questions during a press conference announcing arrests in the slaying of Saja Aljanabi on Friday.

Aljanabi’s younger brother thanked investigators for their dedication and finding the suspects held in connection to her death.

“It is what it is, but hopefully they will be in jail soon and we can find justice for my sister,” Ali Aljanabi said Thursday.

Ali Aljanabi, 23, of Dearborn listens during the press conference about the police investigation into the slaying of his sister, Saja Aljanabi.

Names of the suspects, identified as males from Detroit ages 13, 14, and 17, have not been released. The 17-year-old is being treated as an adult, the  Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said.

“To say this case was complicated is an understatement,” said Dearborn police Chief Ron Haddad.

Aljanabi was among three victims in a series of armed robberies reported in the city late Friday, Dearborn police said. 

The first occurred at Steadman and Moross, where a woman’s purse was stolen at 9:40 p.m. Aljanabi was heading to her family’s home on Bingham when she became the second victim: her purse was taken and she was shot. Minutes after, a third victim was shot at, police said.

The slaying was a rare violent crime in the city, Haddad said. The suspects were arrested by Dearborn police with the help of Detroit and federal partners, he said.

“There were five total taken into custody on this, two during a traffic stop ... but only three were related to this case,” Haddad said. “This was a random act of violence. It wouldn’t have mattered who the subjects encountered.”

Aljanabi, who lived in Warren, was in Dearborn to take her mother to a mosque for Friday prayer, but when she arrived at 9:45 p.m., she was approached by multiple people and shot while sitting in her car, police said. The incident appeared to have begun as an armed robbery, police said. 

Ali Aljanabi was texting Saja when he heard a “crack.” His brother burst into his room to report Saja had been shot. Aljanabi said he made it two or three steps outside toward the 2014 Buick Regal she had been driving before finding his sister’s body.

She died at Henry Ford Hospital. Police have not disclosed who they believe was the shooter.

Portraits of Saja Aljanabi at a makeshift memorial on Bingham.

Maria Miller, assistant Wayne County prosecutor, said a 17-year-old is an adult under Michigan law but declined to further comment on charges.

The incident was the latest offense for a 14-year-old who previously got into trouble for shoplifting, beating his mother and lighting a girl’s hair on fire in school, according to juvenile records reviewed by The Detroit News.

He was charged with retail fraud, and resisting and obstructing police this spring after he stuffed $53 worth of underwear in his pockets and tried to steal them from a Dearborn Walmart.

On March 7, the 14-year-old and 13-year-old were captured on a closed-circuit television taking the merchandise and attempting to leave the store without paying, according to a complaint filed with Wayne County’s juvenile court.

Juvenile records show that the 14-year-old turned himself in for a hearing in August after missing a  court date. He’d been on probation and monitored with a tether. 

Haddad said the GPS tether did not help locate the 14-year-old after last week’s incident,  but aided in his arrest.

The 14-year-old is expected to face a court appearance on Saturday. Authorities are scheduled Friday to announce hearings for the two other teens. 

Haddad said unsolved crimes throughout the region will be revisited in light of the arrests.

“Our special operations people did not sleep,” the chief said. “We put them to a challenge they’ve never seen before, and they came out successful.”

Aljanabi was laid to rest Monday at Maple Grove Cemetery in Westland.

The family, who immigrated to the U.S. from Iraq 20 years ago, said the killing was troubling as they prepared to attend the Friday prayer during Ashura, a 10-day mourning period to remember the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.

Zainab Aljanabi, sister of shooting victim Saja Aljanabi, puts her hands over her face as she cries at the make-shift memorial of her slain sister.

Lavinia Alnawfali Elio became friends with Saja Aljanabi about eight months ago and said they would spend their weekends talking or hanging out. 

“An innocent girl was killed,” Elio, 19, of Clinton Township, said before the arrests were announced. “It’s not fair the killers are out doing what they wanna do while my friend is in a grave. I want to look into the suspect’s eyes when they’re caught.”

Twitter: @SarahRahal_