A La Habra man was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder for the strangling death of his girlfriend, a crime prosecutors say he committed because he believed she was pregnant with twins and insisted on having the babies.
Amer Alhasan, a cash-strapped 28-year-old who worked occasionally at a smoke shop, admitted that he strangled Tiyanie Ly, a 38-year-old mother of three who worked at an Anaheim probiotics firm, in his bedroom in October 2018.
He admitted that he wrapped her in a sheet, dropped the body in a trash bin in Anaheim and tried desperately to flee the country.
Testifying at his murder trial in Orange County Superior Court, however, Alhasan insisted the slaying was an accident, and that he grabbed at her neck instinctively when she appeared unannounced in his bedroom and viciously squeezed his testicles.
“I told her, ‘Let go, let go, let go.’ She’s not listening,” Alhasan testified. “I just lunged forward and grabbed her by the neck.” He said he let go when her grip loosened, and she fell on top of him. “I started yelling and screaming … ‘Tiyanie, Tiyanie!’”
Deputy Dist. Atty. Janine Madera argued that Alhasan lied about how he killed Ly, noting a horizontal bruise on her neck that suggested he choked her from behind with a belt. A medical examiner testified that strangulation by hand would have ruptured the hyoid bone, which in this case was intact.
Even on its own terms, Madera argued, Alhasan’s account defied belief. Underscoring the implausibility of his story was the difference in size between killer and victim. Alhasan is 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds; Ly was 5-foot-4 and 126 pounds.
“She’s tiny,” Madera said. “He’s so much bigger than her.”
Alhasan, his big shoulders heaving as he wept on the witness stand, repeatedly claimed memory failure when pressed for details of the killing under cross-examination.
“How long did you have your hands around her neck?” Madera asked.
“I don’t remember,” he replied. “Everything just happened so fast.”
Noting that Alhasan had trained as a surgical assistant at a vocational college, the prosecutor said he should have known that a person being strangled would pass out from oxygen deprivation long before dying.
When the prosecutor was finished with his cross-examination, Alhasan slumped forward on the witness stand and gasped for breath. Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger told him he would hyperventilate if he didn’t control himself.
“Hold your breath,” the judge said. “Slow that down. … There you go.”
Days before her death, according to courtroom testimony, Ly informed Alhasan that she was pregnant with twins. She was not actually pregnant, but it was unclear whether she was simply mistaken or hoping to gain emotional leverage over him.
“What matters is that the defendant thought she was pregnant,” Madera told jurors. “The defendant does not want to pay for a baby. … He’s constantly after money from people.”
Soon before the slaying, Alhasan did Google searches with the terms “Cost of abortion” and “cost of abortion twins,” prosecutors said.
Soon after the slaying, his Google searches included the phrases “Is fleeing the country the best way to get away with murder,” “How do police catch a murderer,” and “How long does it take until someone is considered missing,” the prosecution said. He also found a site titled “10 Ways to Dispose of a Dead Body if You Really Need To.”
After dumping Ly’s body in a bin near an Anaheim apartment complex, Alhasan bought a plane ticket to Jordan, where he had family, but missed the flight. Police caught him at Los Angeles International Airport as he was trying to get another flight.
Another of Alhasan’s ex-girlfriends said that he spit on her and choked her with her necklace when she tried to break up with him in 2014.
Defense attorney Michael Bruggeman described the killing as a “horrible accident” that was “provoked” by Ly’s behavior.
“He was right to fear great bodily injury, being grabbed in the testicles,” Bruggeman said.
In her closing argument to jurors Tuesday, Madera argued that Alhasan’s selective memory during his testimony was a convenient reason to avoid having to explain his behavior.
“Why did you keep strangling her long after she passed out?” Madera said. “He doesn’t want to answer these questions. … Nothing he says makes any sense.”
Alhasan will face 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 6.