NEWARK — A Bloomfield man was sentenced today to 50 years in prison for the fatal stabbing of his wife by a judge who accused him of penning jailhouse letters to his daughter to keep her from offering “damning” testimony against him.
Khalid Khan, a former bus driver, declined Superior Court Judge Martin Cronin’s request to speak on his own behalf during the sentencing in Newark.
Cronin zeroed in on Khan’s decision to send several letters to his 10-year-old daughter, Samira, from his Essex County jail cell after his arrest for the July 2011 slaying of 31-year-old Shazmina Khan.
“You can hate me all you want,” one read. “But just remember. I am the someone who will always love you.”
Samira’s testimony at Khan’s trial this fall became a centerpiece of the prosecution’s case against Khan, placing him in the Wheeler Street home in Montclair around the time his wife’s bloodied body was discovered in a second-floor bathtub.
The girl told jurors her father dropped her off at the apartment earlier that evening after the two spent the day together.
“Those letters were intended to alienate the witness from her mother,” Cronin said today. “It was an effort to manipulate that witness and an effort to obstruct justice in the trial of this case.
“She’s putting him there,” the judge said. “He tried to “fix” it through the letters.”
In October, a jury found Khan guilty of murder, endangering the welfare of a child and weapons charges.
Khan’s lawyer, Paul Condon, suggested the letters were sent by a distraught man sitting in jail facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.
“Was it woefully inappropriate?” Condon said. “Yes, your honor.”
Samira Khan was 8 years old on July 3, 2011, when she awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and could not find her mother.
She used her mother’s cell phone to call a neighbor after she was unable to open the bathroom door. The neighbor soon arrived, managed to pry open the door with a butter knife and discovered Shazmina Khan’s crumpled body in the bathtub.
Authorities say Shazmina Khan, who worked as a waitress in a Montclair café, was stabbed three times in the neck, the final thrust proving fatal.
The fifth grader took the witness stand at her father’s trial and, clutching a gray stuffed elephant for courage, recalled for Assistant Prosecutor Gina Iosim the moment the bathroom door opened.
“I really didn’t see anything,” she said. “I just ran downstairs.”
The couple’s marriage was marked by at least three incidents of domestic violence, the judge said. Each of three restraining orders Shazmina Khan took out against her husband in the months leading up to her killing were eventually dismissed for reasons that are unclear.
Khan’s ex-wife, Kathleen Khan, told Cronin that Khan he had never abused her during a marriage that produced three children. “He was a good father,” she said.
Assistant Prosecutor Rachel Gran suggested Khan was motivated by jealousy after discovering his wife was seeing other men during their separation. “She was killed in a terrible manner,” Gran said.
Khan, 44, must serve at least 85 percent his prison sentence, or 42 years and six months, before he is eligible for parole. With credit for more than two years in jail, he would become eligible for parole at the age of 94.
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