A 22-year-old man was arrested for the fatal stabbing of a Nazma Khanam, a 60-year-old woman from Jamaica, Queens. On Sunday afternoon, the suspect, Yonatan Gálvez-Marin, was charged in Queens Criminal Court with one account of fourth degree criminal possession of a weapon, an account of first degree attempted robbery, and two counts of second degree murder.
Police found Gálvez-Marin blocks away from where the incident originally occurred.
On Wednesday, Aug. 31, Khanam and her husband were walking home from their souvenir shop. They stopped at a local supermarket to pick up groceries and continued on home.
Then, around 9:15 pm Gálvez-Marin approached Khanam and started demanding money. Khanam refused, and Gálvez-Marin stabbed her in the stomach before fleeing.
Wounded and screaming, she ran toward her husband, an asthmatic who was lagging behind her; he immediately called for help. Khanam was rushed to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
Khanam’s nephew, police officer Humayun Kabir, told The Islamic Monthly that his “uncle lost it. He started crying and screaming in Bangla: ‘We came to this country, a country that everyone loves just to get killed!’ And then ‘I couldn’t save her! I was right behind her, why did this happen!’ He was repeating over and over, ‘I just brought my wife here just to get killed!'”
Khanam and her husband were both teachers in Bangladesh for 35 years. The couple and their youngest son immigrated to the U.S. in 2009, after winning a lottery visa. They opened up a souvenir shop and moved to Queens, which has a large Bangladeshi population.
“Sadly, the Bangladeshi community once again finds itself having to deal with another senseless murder of one of its own,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown stated, referencing the murder of an imam and his associate in Queens. Brown then promised that Gálvez-Marin would be “vigorously prosecuted for this unprovoked and heinous attack.”
Following the murder, many of Queens’ Muslim residents called for police to investigate Khanam’s death as a hate crime. According to the Council on Islamic American Relations (CAIR), Khanam was dressed in Muslim attire when the attack occurred. Overall, CAIR is satisfied with the quick apprehension of the suspect reported Ibrahim Hooper, a CAIR spokesperson.
However, Khanam’s family is still “disgusted” by the murder.
“She was a loved woman and thousands prayed for her and are devastated by this loss,” Kabir, her nephew, said. “It is difficult to not imagine this as anything other than a hate crime.”
Currently the case is being tried as a robbery gone awry with Gálvez-Marin facing 25 years to life. Hopefully the trial will shed more light on what led to Khanam’s murder.
Khanam’s body was sent to her hometown in Bangladesh. Her funeral was attended by hundreds if not thousands. Nazma Khanam leaves behind her husband, her three children, and her many students.
A GoFundMe page has been created for her funeral expenses.