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Painting a Picture of Events

Prosecution presents opening arguments in Oweiss murder trial.

Forty-four blood stains were found on the pants of Zakaria Oweiss the morning his wife Marianne Oweiss, 49, was found lying in a pool of blood in their Potomac home on Kentsdale Drive on Aug. 15, 2001. At least 10 more stains were found on his shirt, according to Katherine Winfree, prosecuting attorney with the State's Attorney for Montgomery County.

The trial of Zakaria Oweiss, who is charged with the first-degree murder of his wife Marianne Oweiss, 49, began last Friday, Feb. 21, one year after his original trial date and more than 18 months after he was charged with his wife's murder in August of 2001.

The trial was continued three times — the original trial date last February, last May when Oweiss changed attorneys, and last October when road blocks during the sniper investigation interrupted jury selection.

"Zakaria Oweiss had his wife's blood on him from head to toe," said Winfree, in her opening remarks to the jury of eight men, four women and three alternates. "Yet Zakaria Oweiss said he hadn't touched his wife's body."

INFIDELITY was the reason Oweiss murdered his wife, according to Winfree. "Zakaria Oweiss learned his wife had been unfaithful. It was a betrayal he refused to tolerate," said Winfree.

During her opening arguments, Winfree showed the jury a picture of Marianne Oweiss smiling during her summer vacation in 2001 in Egypt where she studied Arabic and scuba diving in her husband's homeland.

Winfree then showed the jury a completely different picture. "This is how she looked the morning of Aug. 15, 2001, after her husband beat her to death with a hammer," said Winfree, showing them photos taken by police the morning of her death.

"He hit her over the head with a hammer over, and over, and over again," said Winfree. "He left his wife lying in a pool of blood."

He hit her on the head at least seven times, said Winfree.

ACCORDING TO WINFREE, Oweiss had gone to join his wife in Egypt for two weeks at the end of July. He was supposed to return on Aug. 14 with her. Instead, Oweiss discovered his wife was having an affair. "He called his son Omar and said he would take the next flight back," said Winfree.

Marianne Oweiss returned on Aug. 14, the day the couple were to return home together. It was their son Omar, now 22, who drove her home from the airport that evening.

Winfree said Omar and his girlfriend, Claudia, awoke the next morning to the sound of a scream. "It was a long, prolonged, anguished scream," Winfree said. Omar "found his mother, face down in a frog-like position in a pool of blood."

According to Winfree, Omar found his father in the driveway with a hammer in his hand. "His father told Omar, 'She attacked me,' and Omar said, 'I'm going to call the police.' [His father] said, 'Don't do anything yet, I'm going to get rid of this.'"

Omar was confused, said Winfree. "He just found his mother dead. He knew his father was responsible. He told 911 his mother was badly hurt. His instinct was to shield his father until he had time to think."

ZAKARIA OWEISS' STORY to police changed, Winfree said. He said that he first stated his wife had been attacked, then that she could have fallen, and then that she fell. He first told investigators that he had a good marriage, then that he was in he middle of a divorce.

"Lots of contradictory stories," Winfree said.

According to Winfree, Zakaria Oweiss chose the day to murder his wife carefully. He chose Wednesday, Aug. 15, the day after his wife returned from Egypt. That morning, his younger son Amin, now 19, would be at soccer practice at Gonzaga High School; the housekeeper Aziza would be cleaning another house in the community, and his older son Omar, a student at the University of Maryland, would be sound asleep upstairs.

Instead of going to work at his obstetrics practice in Washington, Oweiss drove his red Volkswagen Jetta back.

"He parked it out of sight and slipped back into his house," Winfree said.

When paramedics arrived, they immediately knew this wasn't an accident and noticed the blood on Oweiss, she said.

"He had nearly a week to decide to kill his wife," Winfree said. "A jealous husband who refused to let his wife go — till death do us part."