JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman died in prison Wednesday while serving a life sentence for the 1989 slaying of her teenage daughter in a crime that was chillingly captured on an FBI surveillance tape and apparently prompted by the girl's resistance to the family's Islamic traditions.
Maria Isa, 70, died at a prison in Vandalia "of apparent natural causes," the Missouri Department of Corrections said in a written statement. Isa had been in prison since 1991.
She was convicted along with her husband, Zein Isa, in the fatal stabbing of their 16-year-old daughter Palestina Isa in St. Louis. The killing was caught on a surveillance tape by the FBI, which had placed a microphone in the family's apartment because it suspected Zein Isa of being involved with the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
The recording captured the girl's screams for mercy and her father saying in Arabic, "Die, my daughter, die!" The FBI wasn't monitoring the taping at the time of the killing.
Zein and Maria Isa initially were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 1991. While awaiting execution, Zein Isa died in prison in February 1997 after a long illness.
Maria Isa's sentence was overturned on appeal because of questionable jury instructions and, after a new hearing, she was re-sentenced to life without parole in June 1997.
Isa was accused of holding down her daughter while her husband repeatedly stabbed her after Palestina Isa came home from her first day of work at a fast-food restaurant. Maria Isa's attorney had asserted in 1997 that she had been trying to protect the girl.
Witnesses at the couple's trial testified that the daughter was a popular and accomplished student who frequently clashed with her fundamentalist Muslim parents and older sisters over her boyfriend, job and time spent away from home.
The slaying of Palestina Isa was the focus of a 1995 book by St. Louis author Ellen Harris that was entitled, "Guarding the Secrets: Palestinian Terrorism and a Father's Murder of His Too-American Daughter."
The nonfiction book described the slaying as an Islamic "honor killing" in which a man kills a female relative for disobeying or disgracing the family. It included comments from other members of the Isa family, including the girl's older sisters, who said Palestina had wanted to be like American teenagers against her family's wishes.