Was Noor Almaleki the victim of an honor killing?

In one of first U.S. cases prosecuted, father charged with killing daughter to preserve family honor

Produced by Lisa Freed and Jonathan Leach
[This story originally aired on April 7]

(CBS News) PEORIA, Ariz. - The horrifying news that Noor Almaleki had been run over by her own father spread quickly among her friends.

"When I found out Noor was in an accident-- I was so shocked. I didn't wanna believe it," said Nuha.

"Is this true? Is my friend really-- hurt?" Sana said. "Why would something like this happen to Noor?"

"I didn't believe it at first...and when I found out exactly what had happened, and it was just...you know, really heartbreaking," said Adhi.

The 20-year-old college student was in a coma... fighting for her life.

"Noor's condition was -- was very critical," Peoria, Ariz. police detective Chris Boughey told "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Troy Roberts. "She...suffered multiple vertebrae fractures, an ankle fracture, a severe closed head injury and multiple soft tissue injuries from head to toe, basically."

Noor's friend, Amal Khalaf, had been thrown 27 feet, fracturing her pelvis and femur. Miraculously, she survived.

"This is a serious crime," Det. Boughey said. "Two people were severely injured and it was an intentional act. That's a big deal."

But the man suspected of running them over -- Noor's father -- had vanished. So on Oct. 20, 2009, Det. Boughey launched a manhunt.

"When you're moving on a case, you don't have a whole lot of time to reflect," he explained. "We've got a bad guy that's on the loose. We need to catch him."

Detective Boughey also tried to figure out the motive.

"We know that something happened," he said. "Was it anger? Was it frustration? Was it greed? ...Why would a father do this to a daughter?"

Those questions also intrigued journalist and CBS News consultant Abigail Pesta.

Asked what kind of girl Noor was, Pesta told Roberts, "Noor was an all-American teenage girl. ...She called her friends 'Dude.' ...At school she played tennis on the tennis team. She -- worked on the yearbook."

Pesta wrote about Noor for Marie Claire magazine.

"Her friends told me her hair was always perfect," Pesta said. "She could always be counted on to have a bottle of hairspray handy."

Read Pesta's story: An American Honor Killing

Like most teens, Noor loved shopping and hanging out with her friends -- female and male. She was also passionate about school and dreamed of being a teacher.

"She was -- somebody that wanted to get an education. She was somebody that wanted to be somebody, to do something with her life," said Boughey.

Noor was just 4 years old when her family fled Iraq and Saddam Hussein. They eventually settled in the Phoenix suburbs, home to a large Arab community.

"She had a foot in two worlds. She had one foot in suburban America and one foot in Middle Eastern tradition," said Pesta.

"Did she struggle with trying to straddle both of those cultures?" Roberts asked.

"Absolutely," Pesta replied. "In public she tried to put on a brave face...and tried to live her life and enjoy the freedoms that American offered her. In private, she fought with her father all the time."

At home, Noor was supposed to obey her parents. It was her job to cook, clean and help take care of her six younger siblings.

"And if she didn't she would be beaten," said Pesta.

Noor told her friend, Adhi, that her father disapproved of everything she did -- from the way she dressed to her choice of friends.

"You can't tell your child, you know, today in America, 'Oh, you can't hang out with boys. No, you can't look -- go outside lookin' like that,'" he said. "In her home, it was just, like, tons and tons of rules."

Video: Noor's friends talk about growing up in America

Noor's father became enraged when he saw a photo of her with some male friends on the internet.

"And he just thought...that was a really bad thing for his daughter to do, for a Muslim daughter to do. And he just thought she was a slut," Adhi explained.

But Boughey calls those photos typical of most teens.

"Nothing salacious. Nothing risque. Nothing - out of the ordinary," he said. "Young people posin' for a photograph."

"When he saw that she was kind of going, you know, her own way, you know...they kind of went nuts," said Adhi.

But the independent Noor refused to be controlled.

"She'd moved in, moved out, moved in, moved out ...was living with different friends," said Boughey.

No matter where she went, her parents would track her down.

"It was almost a constant -- attempt to get her back in that house," said Boughey.

Sometimes Noor stayed with Amal, who was also from Iraq and an old family friend. Amal's son, Marwan, says his mother and Noor had developed a special relationship.

"They were more than best friends. More than a mom to a daughter," he said. "She really loved Noor."

In June 2009, after another blow up with her parents, Noor moved in with Amal's family.

"How did that affect the relationship between your family and hers?" Roberts asked Marwan.

"Well, her dad wasn't happy with it," he replied.

And he became furious when Noor fell in love with Marwan.

"He saw that as -- just a real smack in the face. Noor, in his mind, wasn't supposed to be dating anyone," said Pesta.

Asked if Noor feared for her safety, Marwan told Roberts, "She feared that something was really gonna happen to her."

Four months later Noor was clinging to life, unconscious and unable to breathe on her own.

But for investigators, there was a break in the case. After a week on the run, Noor's father was captured in England.

"The same day we received the information that he was in London, we recovered the vehicle in Nogales -- on the Mexican side of the border," Boughey said. "So that was a big day for us."

Faleh Almaleki was brought back to the United States and charged with aggravated assault. But everything changed on Nov. 2, 2009, when Noor died from her injuries.

"I wish it would have happened to me instead of her," said Marwan.

"Do you think of her?" Roberts asked.

"All the time," he replied.

"I miss her. I wish we spent more time together," Nuha said, tearing up while looking at photos of her friend.

"Losing her wasn't just like losing a friend. But someone just taking, like, a huge chunk outta your life. There's so much that she wanted to do. And she couldn't," Adhi said in tears.

Six weeks after Noor's death, her father was charged with her murder.

"You believe this was a calculated and premeditated act?" Roberts asked Boughey.

"I do. ... There's no accident. There's no accident," he replied. "He felt like it was his duty to do this...to restore his honor, restore his family's honor."

"This isn't an isolated incident as we know now," Boughey continued. "It's happened around the world. And now here we have it in the United States ... This is a really big problem."

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