Scores of supporters of a 23-year-old Potomac man accused of killing his mother crowded into the bond hearing yesterday at which a prosecutor outlined the evidence against him, including blood found on his shoelaces.
A Maryland District Court judge ordered Mark Makki, 23, held without bond.
Most in the crowd, including relatives of both his mother and father, were members of the local Iranian American community, in which the Makki family is well known. Those inside the courtroom got a glimpse of the defendant through a flat-screen monitor linked to the closed-circuit television system that connects to a Montgomery County jail. Some were kept outside the courtroom because of space constraints.
Most were dressed in black. A few wept. Several declined to speak with reporters but appeared to be there to support the family. Friends of Makki's told The Washington Post earlier yesterday that they could not believe that the man they described as loyal, shy and well mannered could possibly have killed his beloved mother.
Prosecutors said they have strong evidence that Makki did kill Shohreh Seyed-Makki, 54. "The one person we don't have here today is the mother," Assistant State's Attorney Deborah Armstrong said, noting the large turnout. "This was a very brutal beating and strangulation."
Armstrong said investigators are conducting DNA tests on the blood found on Makki's shoelaces to determine whether it came from his mother.
Makki is charged with first-degree murder and robbery in the strangulation of his mother Thursday in the family's Potomac home. She was the wife of a prominent doctor, Khosrow S. Makki. Police said she and Mark Makki had argued for years about his relationship with his girlfriend.
Defense attorney Bruce L. Marcus asked the judge to release the defendant on $250,000 bond, arguing that he had strong ties to the community and no prior criminal record. He criticized the police investigation that led to the defendant's arrest.
Armstrong told District Judge Patricia L. Mitchell that state officials fear Mark Makki could flee the country if he were to be released awaiting trial, possibly to his parents' country of origin, Iran.
"The family does not believe the defendant did this," Armstrong said. "Coupled with the fact that this family is of means, he has every reason" to fail to appear in court if released on bond.
Police arrested Makki on Sunday night after his girlfriend, Aramis Mizani, told detectives that Makki had not stayed at her home Wednesday night, as he had claimed, according to a police charging document.
Armstrong said in court that Makki pressured Mizani to stick to his original story.
"He yelled to the girlfriend: 'Tell them I was with you,' " Armstrong said, describing what she said was an encounter between the suspect and Mizani outside Montgomery police headquarters over the weekend.
Armstrong said no weapon has been recovered. Police have not described the killing in detail.
Mark Makki had been living in the family home. Two men who called themselves close friends of the suspect said Makki, who is about 6 feet 1 inch tall and an avid tennis player, was never violent in their presence.
"In all the years I've known him, I've never seen him lose his temper," said Jacob A. Chacko, 22, of Potomac, a high school friend. "People have grated on his nerves, and I've never seen him crack."
Police said Makki and his mother had a long-standing feud over Mizani, whom Seyed-Makki didn't approve of. Makki didn't entirely ignore his mother's concerns, his two friends said.
"I think the fact that she didn't go to school, that she's not an educated girl, that sort of thing, would lead the mom to say: 'That's not the right girl for you,' " said Amirreza Vaziri, 24, of Potomac, another high school friend who said he is also Persian. "In our culture, that sort of thing, family reputation, is very important."
Mizani does not hold a full-time job and is not enrolled in college, the friends said. She did not respond to a request for an interview submitted through a man who answered the phone at the family business and identified himself as her father.
Makki, a graduate of Winston Churchill High School, attended Montgomery College intermittently from 2000 to the current semester, said Elizabeth Homan, a spokeswoman for the college. He earned 62 credits and has not declared a major, she said. He works part time at his father's medical office in Greenbelt, said Marcus, the defense attorney.
His friends described him as a caring son who shared his mother's passion for checking stock prices online.
"Mark couldn't hurt a fly," said Vaziri, a frequent workout partner of the suspect, who said he chatted online with the Makki the day before the homicide. "If you hated your mother enough to strangle her, you wouldn't be checking stocks with her the day before. Mark will beat this. Mark is innocent."