‘They still made me send my kids to him’
Mother of slain children says she sounded alarm about abuse repeatedly
By LINDSAY WISE and ERICKA MELLON
Sept. 21, 2010, 5:27PM
Volunteers from a womens shelter say the man had been abusing his wife and children for years.
A woman whose estranged husband shot and killed their three children while they slept in his Harris County apartment on Sunday says no one heeded her warnings that her husband was dangerous.
“I have documents of everything, all the abuse, and I showed it to everyone, but no one believed me, and they still made me send my kids to him every weekend,” Norma Martinez said in a statement read by Tayseir Mahmoud, a board member at An-Nisa Hope Center, a nonprofit that operates a shelter for battered women.
Martinez and the children had been living at the shelter since March, Mahmoud said. The children would visit their father every weekend in accordance with a court-ordered visitation schedule, she said.
“She’s been married to this man for 15 years, and she’s gone through a lot of domestic abuse,” Mahmoud said of Martinez, who was too distraught to speak publicly on Monday. “Since three years ago, she’s been trying to tell people her story and raise awareness of what’s gong on and nobody really took her seriously.”
Martinez’s husband, Mohammad Goher, 47, is charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of son Saeed, 12, and daughters Saeedah, 14 and Aisha, 7.
The children were at the heart of a bitter custody dispute that dragged on for years as their parents’ marriage deteriorated.
In May 2006, Goher was convicted of assault of a family member and placed on deferred adjudication, district attorney’s spokesman George Flynn said. Official records indicate Goher, who was intoxicated, beat his wife with his hands and fists, leaving her bruised and injuring her right hand.
In 2008, Goher took the children to stay with relatives in Pakistan and refused to tell his wife where they were, said Christina Diaz, the vice president of operations for An-Nisa. Diaz said Martinez, who’s Hispanic, sought help from the FBI, consulates and embassies. She finally reunited with the children about six months ago after An-Nisa volunteers helped her locate them in Pakistan.
Martinez filed for divorce in February. She planned to request joint custody at a divorce mediation on Friday, Mahmoud said. “She was not asking for sole custody of the children,” Mahmoud said.
But Goher apparently feared he might never see his children again. He’d threatened to kill or hurt himself if he lost visitation, said attorney Syed Izfar, who was appointed by a court to represent the children in the mediation.
About four weeks ago, Goher called Manzoor Memon, the editor in chief of a monthly journal and weekly radio show serving Houston’s Pakistani community.
“He wanted me to help him to get his family back,” Memon said. He said Goher suspected his wife had a relationship with another man, who planned to marry her.
Volunteers with the An-Nisa Hope Center denied any improper relationship existed and said Memon’s involvement just made a fraught situation worse. Mahmoud said Memon’s wife “claims to be some kind of psychic” and told Goher the judge would grant full custody to his wife.
Memon said his wife is psychic, but she never made any predictions to Goher. “She had told him that you need to get your act together otherwise you’ll lose your kids,” Memon said.
Memon and his wife visited Goher’s apartment on Saturday and Goher agreed to discuss his situation on Memon’s radio show on Sunday. Memon said he called Goher that morning to confirm his appearance on the show, but no one picked up the phone.
‘They were scared’
Goher is accused of shooting the children to death in their beds at about 9 a.m. Sunday before turning the gun on himself at his apartment in the 13000 block of Homestead.
Goher survived and was taken to Ben Taub General Hospital, where he remained unconscious on Monday, said Harris County Homicide Sgt. Ben Beall.
One of the children’s former teachers recalled that Saeedah expressed fear that she and her younger siblings had to spend the weekends with their dad.
“She really liked being with her mom. They were scared to go with their dad,” said Jodi Fisher, a math teacher at Schindewolf Intermediate in the Klein Independent School District. “They loved him, but they were scared.”
Quiet and reserved
Even so, Saeedah told her teacher that her younger sister and brother did enjoy going to their dad’s place.
“The reason she went was to protect them,” Fisher said.
Saeedah never mentioned if her father was violent, Fisher said, but the girl would tear up at times talking about her family.
“But I never ever thought anything like this would happen,” said Fisher, who taught Saeedah last school year and her younger brother, Saeed, this school year.
Both children were quiet, Fisher said, but they always asked for help with their work and were very bright.
“They were two of the best kids,” Fisher recalled. “Very reserved, but, oh my goodness, they were so sweet.”
Saeedah was a freshman at Klein Collins High School this year and was on the track team. Saeed was a seventh-grader at Schindewolf, and Aisha was a second-grader at Lemm Elementary.
Vicki Bevan, Saeedah’s track coach at Klein Collins, said the teenager didn’t have track experience but called her over the summer to ask to join the team.
“She just said she wanted some normalcy in her life, and she felt like being part of a team could bring that,” Bevan recalled.
Reporter Allan Turner contributed to this report.