The victim’s children took the stand for the first time Tuesday during a lengthy preliminary hearing for a man arrested in Dubai and charged with the murder of a woman in Ashburn.
Furqan Syed, 40, was arrested in Dubai in March after an international, multi-agency search. He is charged with fatally shooting 57-year-old Najat Chemlali Goode in her Brambleton home on Dec. 30, 2021.
Syed’s attorney, John Boneta, previously said his client was on his way back to Loudoun from Dubai when he was arrested, and a Loudoun County dispatcher confirmed that Syed had called authorities to say that he was returning.
In her opening statements during the April 26 hearing, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Michele Burton described Chemlali Goode as “a hard worker for a tech company who had two children who loved her life.”
On Dec. 30, Chemlali Goode’s son, Alexander “Amir” Abbas, returned home to find her unresponsive inside her home on Connie Marie Terrace. She was taken to StoneSprings Hospital Center where she died from her injuries.
“She was the kindest, most giving person I can ever think of … the least deserving person to have this happen to her,” Abbas said.
He recalled finding his mother after she was shot. He said he returned from work around 8:30 p.m., and his mother was on the floor laying in a pool of blood. He said the home’s door to the garage and the backdoor were both left open. He also said that the home’s security camera, which normally was pointed toward the street, was pointed to the ground. He recounted his phone call to county dispatchers, in which he was instructed to perform CPR on his mother until emergency crews arrived.
Abbas said on Dec. 27, 2021, the day when Syed allegedly met his younger sister at the front door of the family’s home, his sister Facetimed him and seemed “distressed and confused.”
“I’ve never had a conversation with my sister where she looked that sad and freaked out,” he said.
He also said that Chemlali Goode’s brother-in-law is the head of Messiah Foundation International, the same international religious group to which Syed belongs. Syed’s brother, Urquan Syed, is the president of the organization’s chapter in the U.S.
Chemlali Goode’s daughter, Shema Abbas, recounted meeting a man she identified as Syed at the front door of the home on Dec. 27. She said she was painting in the dining room when she heard the doorbell at around 3 p.m., and encountered a tall South Asian man standing at the door who asked for “Brother Amir.” When she said Amir wasn’t home, the man asked if he “he still works at that mobile store.” She also described being “really shaken” by the interaction, and described details like teeth that were “long, and flat, and had a brown outline around every tooth.”
“It was a really unfriendly smile, it was a smile that kind of didn’t reach his eyes,” she said.
Syed was identified as a suspect through neighborhood security camera footage and cell phone data. Burton said that cell phone data located Syed near Chemlali Goode’s home, both at the time of her killing and in the preceding days, when Syed allegedly stalked her. Burton suggested that Syed established Chemlali Goode’s pattern of life in the days before the shooting, and knew to manually open the garage door, which she frequently propped open to ventilate her garage when she smoked.
However, Syed’s attorney successfully kept some of that footage out of evidence, arguing that prosecutors had failed to establish the foundation for using that video.
A second suspect, Abdul Waheed, 54, of Leesburg, had been charged with being an accessory before and after the murder, accused of driving Syed to and from Goode’s home. Prosecutors sought to have the two men tried together, but defense attorneys successfully defeated that, arguing that doing so could be detrimental to each defendant’s case as evidence that might otherwise only be admissible in the other’s case was heard in case. They also argued that the defense had not been given timely notice—prosecutors only entered the motion to join the two cases during the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing in that case was rescheduled for Thursday afternoon.
The April 26 hearing, which began shortly after 2 p.m., stretched until almost 11:30 p.m. District Court Judge Deborah C. Welsh found probable cause on charges of murder, armed burglary and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Prosecutors also dropped some charges, including one count each of shooting in the commission of a felony and use of a firearm in commission of a felony for Syed, and accessory to murder before the fact for Waheed.
The case will now be referred to a grand jury for indictment and then to the Circuit Court for adjudication.