TINLEY PARK, Ill. - On Tuesday, new information came out in court regarding the murders of four women in Tinley Park allegedly at the hands of their husband and father.
Maher Kassem, 63, was arrested on Sunday after allegedly shooting his wife, Majeda, and their daughters, Halema, Hanan, and Zahia, at a home they shared in the 7400 block of W. 173rd Place.
Halema and Zahia, both 25 years old, were twin sisters. The youngest, Hanan, was 24. The Cook County medical examiner said the girls and their 59-year-old mother were all shot multiple times. The murders were committed in front of the family's 19-year-old son.
Cook County prosecutors read a lengthy and bone-chilling description of the attack in court, but Kassem showed no emotion as he was charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
The following information is what was presented by prosecutors in court:
Around 11:21 a.m., Maher Kassem called 911 to report his wife had been shot. When officers arrived at the scene, Kassem gave them access to the house. The interaction was captured on police bodycam. An officer asked Kassem where everyone was at, to which he pointed toward the basement. The officer asked Kassem who else was there and he said, "they're gone" and "everything is ok."
When the officer asked Kassem if anyone was shot, he replied, "four people shot" and "I'm going to jail."
The officer then asked Kassem, "This was you?" – to which he nodded his head yes. The officer then ordered Kassem to the ground and as the officer was relaying what the situation over his radio, Kassem was saying, "I'm the only one. I'm the only one."
When the officer told other officers to go check out the basement, Kassem said, "they're all gone."
The officer then asked Kassem where the gun was, to which he directed the officer to look behind a pillow on a piece of furniture in the living room. There, the officer found a .38 caliber revolver with four spent shell casings in the cylinder and two live rounds. Kassem then spoke of a second gun and officers found a 9mm semi-automatic pistol in slide-lock position, and an empty magazine was discovered on the floor underneath a coffee table in the living room.
When officers went into the basement, they found the four female victims all dead from gunshot wounds. Also in the home was the family's 19-year-old son, who witnessed the incident. The son had woken up shortly before the shootings and heard his father arguing with one of his sisters. The arguing became yelling, which is when the son left his room and went to the basement to see what was going on. At first, the son observed Kassem arguing with one of his sisters, but then his other sisters and mom joined in. They were telling Kassem to calm down, but the initial sister arguing with him was getting loud.
At some point, Kassem left the basement and went to the main level where the son had relocated to. The son says he saw his father go up and down in the house multiple times. The son also had a partial view of the basement because of how the home was laid out. The last time the son saw his father go down in the basement, he heard more arguing and then gunshots. The arguing then turned to screaming.
The son went downstairs to the basement and observed his mother on the ground. At that point, he wasn't sure his mother had been shot. Two of his sisters appeared to have already been shot. The son then witnessed his father shoot his third sister, the 24-year-old.
The son then saw his father approach his mother, who was on the ground, and shoot her twice. He then saw his dad call 911.
An autopsy revealed the mother was shot seven times. She sustained one gunshot to the wrist, one to the chest, one to the rear base of her neck, a graze wound to the back of her head, and three wounds that formed a triangle to the rear of her head near her right ear.
One of the 25-year-old sisters was shot in the right side of the head, the front left shoulder, a graze wound across her chest, and a graze wound that involved her right shoulder and the right side of her neck.
The other twin sister was shot in the back left side of her head by her ear. She also sustained a graze wound across her face/mouth and another going from the right to the left of the breast.
The 24-year-old sister was shot in the left side of the mid-back that exited through her chin, and another gunshot to the left side of her head.
Thirteen 9mm shell casings were recovered at the scene, and the revolver contained four spent shell casings. Kassem has a FOID card but no Concealed Carry License. He also has no criminal history.
Police bodycam at the scene and eventually police in-car camera recorded Kassem making statements about having just retired and that "she treats me like a f***king dog. I worked 40 years." and "I worked all my life to give my family a better home and they treat me like sh*t. They treat me like a dog."
Kassem later said, "Wife's worried about money and where she can take it. Bury me and take the money." He also stated, "45 years. 45 years. I worked 45 years. Money hungry b**ch pushed me to it."
Kassem’s public defender asked for him to be released on home monitoring, but the judge ordered he be held behind bars, calling him a "real and present threat to the safety of the community."
"Words can’t describe how deeply saddened I am at this horrible tragedy," Tinley Park Mayor Michael Glotz said. "A mother and her three daughters are gone, murdered in an act of senseless domestic violence. The entire Tinley Park community is heartbroken at the loss of these four innocent women, and we grieve alongside the family, friends and neighbors who loved them."
Advocates for domestic violence victims said it’s likely the killer had a history of using violence and authority to exert his will over other members of the family.
"We do know that the family is of Arab descent, of Palestinian descent. They are Muslim," said Itedal Shalabi of Arab American Family Services. "And at this point, this has nothing to do with Islam or any other religion. This is about power and control. This is about gender-based violence."
Tinley Park police said they were not aware of any warning signs and had never been called to the house before. Friends of the victims gathered at the crime scene on Monday, placing flowers in front of the police tape surrounding the home.
Kassem will be back in court on February 16 to face indictments.