Alawadi, a mother of five, left Iraq in the early 1990s after a failed Shiite uprising. She lived in Saudi Arabian refugee camps before coming to the U.S., according to Imam Husham Al-Husainy of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center in Dearborn, Mich. Saddam's troops hanged Alawadi's uncle.
The family arrived in the Detroit area in 1993 and later moved to San Diego. Shaima Alawadi was a religious Shiite Muslim who wore a hijab.
Alawadi's father, Sayed Nabeel Alawadi, is a cleric in Iraq, Al-Husainy, a close family friend, said shortly after the killing.
The investigation appeared to hit a snag when a court employee inadvertently gave a U-T San Diego reporter a search warrant affidavit that a judge had ordered sealed. The document said detectives found a text message sent from the 17-year-old daughter's cellphone that read, "The detective will find out tell them cnt talk."
The affidavit, which was released to the newspaper while the family was in Iraq for the burial, showed Fatima Alawadi was upset about a pending arranged marriage to a cousin. She told police that she was in her bedroom when she heard her mother squeal and glass break.
The affidavit also said Alawadi wanted to get a divorce and move to Texas.
Redman said detectives were in contact with Kassim Alhimidi during the investigation. The police chief declined to say what authorities told him when they asked him to come to the police station Thursday.
Redman said he never doubted that Alhimidi would return from Iraq after burying his wife.
"We believe he came back because he lives here," he said.