A Woodbridge man who stabbed his wife to death while a police officer was in their house was convicted of first-degree murder yesterday in Prince William County Circuit Court.
After deliberating 30 minutes, the jury recommended life imprisonment for Zainool Baksh, 45, for the Jan. 8 murder of his wife Zameena, 31.
"I hope a message goes out to men who abuse women," said Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert. "And likewise to women who are abused who are somewhat hesitant to come forward and avail themselves of the protection the law allows."
If Judge William Hamblen follows the jury's recommendation during sentencing on Sept. 25, Baksh would be eligible for parole in 15 years.
The killing occurred shortly after Zameena Baksh filed an assault complaint before a Prince William County magistrate, saying she believed her husband was going to kill her.
The couple had a history of domestic altercation and had begun counseling in 1988.
Zameena Baksh had called police on Jan. 6, claiming her husband had beaten her. He was arrested and released. On Jan. 8 she went to the police station in the afternoon, saying her husband had threatened that morning to kill her.
She was accompanied to her home by Officer Ramon Gomez, who was looking for Baksh to serve him with a warrant.
When Zameena Baksh went upstairs to pack some clothes in preparation for leaving, Baksh sneaked past the officer, who was in the downstairs living room, and locked himself in the bedroom with his wife and their son, who was then 4.
Gomez, who was exonerated after a police review of any wrongdoing in the incident, testified that he bolted upstairs after Baksh but was unable to open the door.
He said he heard repeated screams from Zameena Baksh. A few minutes later Baksh, his hands and clothes bloodied, opened the door and came out holding his son, Gomez said.
Police who responded to Gomez's call for help testified that Baksh had made statements admitting to killing his wife.
"She won't bother me anymore," Sgt. Timothy Rudy testified that Baksh told him as he took him from the house.
Gomez testified that Baksh told his mother after the killing, "All your problems are over."
A medical examiner testified during the two-day trial that Zameena Baksh had died of multiple stab wounds, some of which passed completely through her body.
"The severity of the assault was the key," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Wenda Travers, evaluating the conviction.
Travers said that the evidence showed that Baksh had premeditated the killing when he ran past Gomez. "The jury also didn't buy his statements about blacking out," she said.
Baksh testified that his wife came at him with the knife and that he grabbed her, but he said he couldn't remember the attack. "The next thing I felt was a hand shaking my shoulder and I saw it was my little son," Baksh said. "He said, 'Daddy, what's wrong? What did you do to Mommy?' I dropped the knife down and reached down and picked him up."
Baksh sat, seeming without emotion, through much of the testimony but he sobbed when his 77-year-old mother took the witness stand. The frail elderly woman is now in the custody of the Arlington Department of Social Services.
Relatives of Zameena Baksh said they would have been afraid for their safety if Zainool Baksh was released.
"We're glad that he won't be out for a while," said Shafiek Mohamed, 34, Zameena Baksh's brother. "In a way it's good news, but I don't know how much it really matters because it won't bring my sister back."