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Ohio man held in deaths of four

Suspect caught trying to flee U.S. with sons

Monday, September 13, 1999

By Jan Ackerman and Diana Block, Post-Gazette Staff Writers

A Belmont County, Ohio, physician and her estranged husband were supposed to be in court today for a hearing on the final decree for their divorce and custody of their two children.

  Nawaz Ahmed is being held in connection with the slayings of his estranged wife, Lubaina Bhatti Ahmed, and three of her relatives. (KDKA-TV)

But on Saturday afternoon, police went to the Richland Township home of Dr. Lubaina Bhatti Ahmed and found the body of the 39-year-old physician along with the bodies of her father, Abdul Majid Bhatti of Canada, her sister, Ruhie Ahmad, 35, and Ruhie Ahmad's 2-year-old daughter, Nasira Ahmad, both of California.

The throats of all four victims had been slit in the home on a rural street just outside St. Clairsville, Ohio, Belmont County prosecuting attorney Frank Pierce said yesterday.

Several hours after the gruesome discovery in a downstairs recreation room, Dr. Ahmed's estranged husband, Nawaz Ahmed, 44, was detained by U.S. Customs officials at Kennedy International Airport, where he was awaiting a flight to Pakistan.

Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Pakistan, was preparing to board the jet with the couple's two sons, Tariq, 7, and Ahsan, 4. Pierce said Ahmed had three valid Pakistani passports for himself and his sons.

Ahmed, a computer technician for MCI WorldCom in Columbus, Ohio, had been living there. He was to be charged today with four counts of aggravated murder, Pierce said.

Belmont County Sheriff Tom McCort and Chief Deputy Olen Martin flew to New York City yesterday morning, where an extradition hearing is expected to be held to send him back to Ohio for prosecution.

Police said the couple's sons were safe. They are believed to be in the custody of the children's services agency in New York City.

As police pieced together the tragedy, said it appeared that Ahmed killed his wife and other relatives in order to gain control of his sons before he had to appear at the Belmont County court hearing today.


Dr. Ahmed, a doctor at East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, Ohio, began filing domestic violence reports against her husband in August 1994, said Grace Hoffman, a St. Clairsville lawyer who was representing Dr. Ahmed in her divorce case.

Her client filed reports twice in West Virginia in 1994 and 1995 but didn't pursue the cases and wouldn't prosecute, Hoffman said.

"She was afraid of him but the thought of him murdering her never crossed our minds," Hoffman said.

Ahmed routinely insulted his wife and threatened to have her deported since she was not yet a U.S. citizen, Hoffman said.

Nawaz Ahmed's divorce attorney, Eric Costine of St. Clairsville, could not be reached for comment. There was no answer at the phone listed in his name yesterday.

After filing for divorce in February, Dr. Ahmed received a court order barring her husband from their house.

In June, she received an order barring Ahmed from further verbal harassment, Hoffman said.

Hoffman said Ahmed asked last week that the two divide their property at the house last night. They were scheduled to appear before Judge Jennifer Sargus of Belmont County Common Pleas Court today for a final hearing.

Dr. Ahmed's father, a naturalized citizen of Canada, had been staying with his daughter for several weeks.

The two picked up Dr. Ahmed's sister and niece at the Columbus airport about 10:30 p.m. Friday, Hoffman said.

Ruhie Ahmad was to have testified at today's hearing, Hoffman said.

Neighbors described Dr. Ahmed as very reserved. She lived in a modest, two-story, brick-and-stone house on a country road. On one side of her house were two trailer homes. Across the street, a sheep and two horses rested in a rusted metal shed yesterday.

  Lubaina Bhatti Ahmed (KDKA-TV)

Dr. Ahmed had been hoping to move to a larger house in a new development farther down the road, the neighborhood she toured on her morning walks, a neighbor said.

Few of the neighbors knew her.

"They kept to themselves," said Shirley Tomich, who lives in the house facing Dr. Ahmed's but had only seen her neighbor a handful of times and had never spoken to her. Dr. Ahmed's boys occasionally crossed the street with their grandfather to feed Tomich's horses, but they, too, were quiet.

Dr. Ahmed was a native of Nigeria, according to medical license information on file with the state of Ohio. She graduated from medical school in Nigeria in 1983.

Her marriage to Ahmed was an arranged one and the two were wed on May 22, 1992.

She completed her residency at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, W.Va., where she worked diligently, according to faculty member Dr. Vishwanathan Chokkavelu.

"She was very considerate, very quiet," Chokkavelu said. "She never expressed that she was having any problems."

  Ruhie Ahmad and her young daughter, Nasira. (KDKA-TV)

For the past five years, she had been practicing internal medicine in a building adjacent to the East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, Ohio, where spokeswoman Maggie Espina described her as a daily fixture of the hospital.

"She was an asset not only to our hospital, but to the entire Ohio Valley community. She was a gentle mother and a genuinely good person," Espina said.

Police became aware that something was wrong at Dr. Ahmed's house when concerned relatives called to say they were unable to reach the family members.

The bodies were discovered by a Belmont County road deputy Saturday afternoon.

From evidence found at the scene, Nawaz Ahmed became a suspect.

Ahmed emigrated to the United States after leaving the Pakistan Air Force Academy in 1987, Hoffman said. He earned a bachelor's degree in computer science at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.

The bodies were transported to the Franklin County coroner's office in Columbus for autopsies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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