Authorities ruled out a domestic dispute yesterday as the motive for the shooting deaths of an Iraqi native, his wife and their teenage son inside their McLean house, saying they were treating the case as a triple homicide.
Fairfax County police declined to discuss any other possible motive or suspects in the slayings of Fuad K. Taima, 63, Dorothy M. Taima, 54, and their son, Leith F. Taima, 16, whose bodies were found Friday afternoon in their Broyhill Street house. But investigators said they did not believe the deaths were a "random occurrence" such as a robbery gone bad.
Autopsies confirmed the cause of all three deaths to be gunshot wounds to the upper body, police said. Neighbors said that on Wednesday night they heard sounds that they later realized had been gunfire coming from the home. On Friday, police received a call from someone who asked that they check on the family, and officers found the front door unlocked and no signs of forced entry.
Fuad Taima, an international business consultant with ties to the Middle East and a founder of the American Iraqi Foundation, frequently alluded to the possibility that he faced threats on his life, said Betsy Crawford, a friend of the family for more than 10 years. A business associate, Assaad Khairallah, said yesterday that Taima's car had been firebombed in front of the family's house in 1990, about the time that he helped create the foundation.
"He told my husband for years that he was afraid someone might kill him," Crawford said. "He said, `It may sound paranoid, but I know that my life is not that secure.' " She said she believes that he feared other Iraqis who opposed furthering trade between the two countries.
Some friends and associates said the family had been struggling financially since a profitable American-Iraqi venture collapsed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1989, setting off the Persian Gulf War. Fuad Taima and Khairallah had launched American-Iraqi Finance and Trade Inc. in 1988 to sell U.S. oil and gas equipment to Iraq.
"We were very much welcomed, and we had many projects," Khairallah, 50, of McLean, said yesterday. "We had a huge opportunity. It was wonderful."
But Khairallah said that after the war, when a trade embargo was imposed on Iraq, "we knew that the business wouldn't survive, because all of our business was with Iraq."
At the same time, Taima helped establish the foundation and became involved in trying to broker a diplomatic solution to the conflict. He was a member of a seven-person delegation that traveled to Iraq in 1991 to meet with President Saddam Hussein and returned with 14 former hostages.
Since then, Taima worked as a consultant for American companies in the Middle East.
Dorothy Taima -- "Dot" to her family and friends -- spent much of her time shuttling between various English-teaching jobs, including American University's English Language Institute and the Arlington County schools. She also worked as a contract employee with the Federal Reserve and as the referee coordinator with the McLean soccer league, a job that paid her about $5,000 a year.
Gil Couts, director of the English Language Institute, described Dorothy Taima as "flamboyant," saying she often wore brightly colored clothes to work and occasionally dyed her hair red.
"She was very popular with students," Couts said. "She took a considerable personal interest in them."
Others involved with the soccer league said Dorothy Taima often spoke of the family's financial squeeze and how she was frustrated that she had to hold down several jobs to make ends meet. Even with her help, said Toby DeBarr, a member of the league's board, the money pressures on the family were "enormous."
Fuad Taima also took a position with the soccer league, in part to get his mind off his faltering consulting business, friends said. "He joined the board of directors to keep himself occupied," DeBarr said. "Soccer made him really happy."
Fuad Taima came from a wealthy Iraqi family and immigrated to the United States more than 30 years ago. He attended Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania and had four children from a previous marriage. He met his second wife in Northern Virginia at a party held by a mutual friend.
The couple's son, Leith, was a sophomore at McLean High School who family friends said was putting his parents though the usual difficult teenage years. Christine Triplett, a neighbor, said Leith would smoke cigarettes with his friends while spending many of his afternoons out in the street, and the youths had recently taken to zooming their mopeds around the neighborhood.
Alex Morse, 16, a longtime friend of Leith's, said yesterday that Leith had recently dyed his hair purple. "He was a fun-loving, friendly guy. He liked to have a lot of fun," Alex Morse said. "He basically liked to hang out with friends and talk. He had some troubles here and there, but he was basically okay."
Triplett said the deaths sent a shock wave through the community.
"Everyone in the neighborhood is just very alarmed, very shocked," she said. "It just doesn't seem like something like this could happen in such a nice, quiet neighborhood. It seems like something out of Hollywood."
Staff writers Justin Blum and Maria Glod contributed to this report.