Police: Katrina hero plotted ex-wife's murder

Associated Press Published: August 10, 2012
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He also was charged with violating a protective order his ex-wife had against him. In March 2011, he was charged with domestic abuse battery and accused of beating Kathy Zeitoun in her home. The Zeitouns were divorced in February of this year.

Abdulrahman Zeitoun's lawyer could not be reached for comment.

In Eggers' book, Abdulrahman Zeitoun chose to stay in New Orleans as Katrina bore down to look after the his house and other properties the family owned. The Zeitouns had been married for nearly a decade and ran a busy house painting business.

After the levees failed and caused the flooding of New Orleans, he paddled through the floodwaters in a canoe helping stranded victims and feeding dogs.

Then he and three other men were arrested and falsely accused of looting even though they were at one of the Zeitouns' properties, according to Eggers' book.

Over the next month, Zeitoun was thrown first into a makeshift jail at New Orleans' Greyhound bus station and then transferred to a prison in St. Gabriel, La. He and another Muslim friend were accused of being members of al Qaeda before being released by Homeland Security officials.

Reached by telephone Friday, Kathy Zeitoun said her ex-husband more recently had become a much different person from the one described in the book with his behavior turning violent toward his family.

"Over time, it just started getting aggressive, more and more way out of hand," she said. "He was a good man, he changed too much."

She added that Eggers has given his support to her and "condemns what has happened."

Her lawyer, Neil Montgomery, said she and her children were terrified and were in hiding. He added that Abdulrahman Zeitoun also threatened his ex-wife and daughter in June with a screwdriver because he was upset at his daughter for wearing shorts.

"Hopefully he won't get out (of jail)," he said. "He clearly wants to kill her (his wife), or have her killed."

Eggers won critical acclaim and awards after his book was published in 2009. Recently film maker Jonathan Demme has said he was interested in turning the book into an animated film.

The two artists issued a statement saying they were "profoundly saddened by the recent events" involving the Zeitouns. They said they had been in daily contact with Kathy Zeitoun since the July 25 domestic abuse incident and that they were "shocked" by the solicitation for murder charges against Zeitoun.