Havertown Man Kills 2, Then Himself

Posted: January 06, 1990

A Havertown man who had a reputation for loud arguments with family members shot and killed his wife and daughter yesterday morning before turning the gun on himself after an apparent dispute over money, police said.

The bodies of Fakhri Taji 72; his wife, Fatima, 70, and daughter Sara, 45, were found by police in an upstairs bedroom of their home in the 500 block of Ellis Road.

They were pronounced dead at the scene. Each had been shot in the head at close range. Police recovered a .357 magnum revolver, believed to be the murder weapon, from the room where the bodies were found.

Fakhri Taji's son, Saadi Taji, 40, who also lived in the house, escaped by locking himself in another upstairs bedroom, police said.

According to Haverford Township police Sgt. Charles Brooks, Saadi Taji gave a statement to police in which he said, "It was only $100. Just $100. I can't understand it. I can't understand why he got so upset."

Police learned of the shootings about 9 a.m. when a distraught telephone operator reported an emergency call from what was later determined to be the Taji residence, Brooks said. The operator gave police the telephone number at the house. When a dispatcher dialed the number, a man answered. The man said, ''I am going to commit suicide," then apparently hung up, Brooks said.

Moments later, police received a call from Saadi Taji, who asked for help and said he believed his mother and sister had been killed.

Haverford police arrived at the house just moments before hearing a single, and final, gunshot inside the house. Members of the special response team then broke through the rear door.

Terry Gavin, who lives two doors away, said she awoke to see several police officers with "rifles aimed at the (Taji) house." Her husband, William, said, "At one point all I heard was, 'Keep your hands in the air. Don't move and keep your hands in the air.' "

Shortly afterward, the Gavins said, they saw officers leading Saadi Taji away in handcuffs.

"I just heard yelling - 'Is he dead, is he dead, is my father dead?' "

said Margaret Daily, another neighbor.

Police said they searched the house and found Saadi Taji locked in the bedroom. He apparently could not get out of the room because the lock was jammed, and police had to force their way in.

He was released after questioning at the Haverford police station, and is not a suspect, Brooks said.

The Tajis are Palestinians from Jordan, according to police and neighbors. The family had moved into the quiet, middle-class neighborhood about three years ago from near Jacksonville, Fla.

Next-door neighbor Daily said the elder Taji, who went by the name Frank, once told her that he was retired. She said Fatima Taji appeared to be a submissive woman who sometimes bowed to her husband and prayed over a string of beads. Fatima Taji spoke little or no English, Daily said.

"They seemed to do a lot of hollering and arguing in a language I couldn't understand," said Daily's husband, Donald.

Margaret Daily said Saadi Taji sometimes apologized for his father's behavior and once told her, "Oh, my parents are strange."

The family had employed an Indian housekeeper for about six months last year, said Daily.

The housekeeper sometimes appeared at her door asking for food, crying and claiming that Fakhri Taji locked the refrigerator to keep her from eating, Daily said.

Police said they had not received any prior complaints of trouble at the Taji home.

A family acquaintance, Naim Ayoub of Upper Darby, who is a leader in the local Palestinian community, said Fakhri Taji was raised on the West Bank of the Jordan River, a territory now occupied by Israel, and came to the United States in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

Ayoub said Taji had been a police officer and soldier in his homeland. He said that he saw the family about a month ago and that the elder Taji said he had recently undergone open-heart surgery.

Daily said the Tajis have another son, Hafez, who visits occasionally from Beirut, Lebanon, and another daughter, Maya, who lives in New Jersey and brings her two children to a school in Havertown each day. Police said a son of Fakhri Taji, who they said lives in North Carolina, appeared to be the

financial supporter of the family.

A Dodge van with New Jersey license plates that neighbors said belonged to Maya was parked in the circular driveway of the Taji house yesterday morning.

Neighbors said that the Tajis sometimes hung wash out to dry on clotheslines in the front driveway and that the women often wore Middle Eastern-style garb. The elder Taji, for a time, raised chickens in the garage, they said.

"They weren't your normal, everyday neighbor," said Terry Gavin.

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