When Ola Salem’s physique was found in a park on Staten Island in October 2019, her pals and family members have been left greedy for a proof.
Ms. Salem, 25, was referred to as a devoted advocate on the home violence shelter for Muslim girls and kids the place she volunteered, and suspicion in native media targeted on her husband, with whom the police mentioned she had a tumultuous relationship.
Her father provided one other concept: Kabary Salem informed The New York Occasions that his daughter had shared tales of being adopted by somebody on the freeway.
However authorities now say that tip was a lie meant to misdirect investigators, and it was Mr. Salem who killed his daughter, dragged her physique into Bloomingdale Park and coated it with branches. Mr. Salem, 52, appeared nearly in courtroom this week to face a seven-count indictment, with prices together with homicide, strangulation and concealment of a human corpse.
He pleaded not responsible, courtroom information present. A lawyer for Mr. Salem couldn’t be reached for remark this week.
Officers mentioned that regardless of Mr. Salem’s statements to reporters, he had been thought of a suspect in his daughter’s demise.
“All through the course of this tragic case, we had by no means misplaced hope that the alleged killer could be arrested and charged,” Michael E. McMahon, the Staten Island district legal professional mentioned in an announcement. “We are going to proceed to work tirelessly to carry this defendant accountable.”
The fees adopted a yearlong investigation right into a killing that perplexed a lot of those that knew Ms. Salem. Her pals mentioned that they have been rattled by the information of her father’s arrest.
Final 12 months, on Oct. 23, Ms. Salem had been in Pennsylvania together with her father, a former skilled boxer who had competed on the Olympics, officers mentioned.
Later that night or early the subsequent day, Mr. Salem strangled his daughter, in accordance with the indictment. Officers mentioned he then drove to Staten Island, dragged her physique to Bloomingdale Park within the Prince’s Bay neighborhood and coated her with branches and leaves. Afterward, they mentioned, he traveled again to Pennsylvania and later fled the nation.
Key to the investigation was the invention this 12 months that Mr. Salem had rented a automobile from Avis on Oct. 22, a regulation enforcement official accustomed to the case mentioned.
Beforehand, Mr. Salem had informed investigators that he had pushed his daughter residence to New York of their household automobile. Investigators additionally discovered his daughter’s telephone within the household automobile, the official mentioned, and Mr. Salem informed them she had forgotten it when he dropped her off.
In actuality, the official mentioned, detectives found that Mr. Salem used the rental automobile to journey extensively on Staten Island, together with a quick cease within the park close to the place his daughter’s physique was discovered. He was arrested in Kuwait in December with the help of the State Division and Interpol and quarantined earlier than being extradited again to New York.
Prosecutors didn’t present a possible motive for the killing.
However relationships between Ms. Salem and shut family members appeared to have been fraught for a while.
On the time of her demise, Ms. Salem’s household had an lively order of safety towards her, in accordance with the regulation enforcement official, who was not approved to debate the case publicly.
Mr. Salem, who had additionally labored as a driver, was a boxer on Egypt’s Olympic staff in 1992 and 1996. He was referred to as “The Egyptian Magician” and held a blended fame amongst followers and different fighters, gaining notoriety in 1999 when an opponent whom he had repeatedly head-butted throughout a match misplaced consciousness and died after mind surgical procedure. He retired from the game six years later.
On a now-defunct Instagram account, Mr. Salem posted an image of himself and his daughter in March with the caption, “I miss you and love you rip my love.” After Ms. Salem’s demise, Mr. Salem was quoted in a New York Occasions story saying that his daughter “all the time mentioned someone would observe her” when she was driving and that he hoped to obtain readability.
“I wish to know what occurred to her, what’s the motive for that — however nobody tells me — I’m simply ready,” he mentioned on the time. He’s set to seem again in courtroom on Feb. 5.
Members of Ms. Salem’s household declined to remark additional when reached on Wednesday, saying they have been nonetheless processing the information.
As a teen, Ms. Salem, who grew up in Coney Island, was an lively member of the Muslim American Society Youth Middle in South Brooklyn. Buddies mentioned she loved boxing like her father, led spiritual discussions at Kingsborough Group School on weekends and was recognized for her caring spirit and protecting disposition on the Asiyah Girls’s Middle, a home violence shelter the place she volunteered for night time shifts.
Dania Darwish, the co-founder of the shelter and buddy for greater than a decade, mentioned her abdomen turns when she encounters reminders of her Ms. Salem’s demise. She added that she hopes “justice is served.”
Ms. Darwish recalled the final days of Ramadan, when she and Ms. Salem would dance and sing, change laughs and envision their lives sooner or later. As she was opening the shelter in Brooklyn, Ms. Darwish mentioned she reached out to Ms. Salem for assist, figuring out that her buddy had a “manner of creating individuals really feel protected” and comfy.
“Folks could be so traumatized coming to us, and she or he simply had this relaxed spirit and calming presence,” Ms. Darwish mentioned. “She simply made individuals instantly giggle at one thing regardless that they have been having the worst days of their lives.”
Ms. Salem was recognized to be outspoken. When she was 17, she made headlines after a go to to Playland Park, an amusement park in Rye, N.Y., on a youth journey to mark the tip of Ramadan. When Ms. Salem was informed by staff she couldn’t be a part of her youthful sister on a trip due to her hijab, she requested to talk with administration.
The difficulty escalated, and a small melee broke out. “I mentioned, ‘It’s not my headgear. It’s my faith,’” Ms. Salem informed The Occasions.
For Ms. Darwish, the killing of her buddy — who fiercely defended different girls — stays a devastating loss.
“There are girls who have been experiencing home violence and left conditions the place they may’ve gotten murdered. She was the explanation they felt protected sufficient to go away,” she mentioned. “I want our group did extra to guard her in the best way she protected them.”
Annie Correal contributed reporting, and Kitty Bennett contributed analysis.