Local News

Husband pleads guilty in wife's Chapel Hill shooting death

Posted October 27, 2014 11:33 a.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2014 3:05 p.m. EDT

— A man who authorities said gunned down his estranged wife outside a Chapel Hill elementary school in 2012 pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder.

Ali Cherfaoui, 51, has already pleaded guilty to other charges in connection with the case. He is facing the next 30 to 42 years in prison on those charges, and he was given another 24 to 30 years for the murder plea.

Police said Cherfaoui shot Chahnaz Kebaier, 40, multiple times as she waited for their 4-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter to be dismissed from Mary Scroggs Elementary School on May 25, 2012.

Authorities have said the case was the result of an "ongoing domestic dispute," and court documents indicate Kebaier had obtained a domestic violence protective order in which she claimed Cherfaoui threatened to kill her if she took the children.

Prosecutor Michelle Hamilton said in court Monday that Kebaier was shot at least five times in the face.

"Some witnesses saw that, as soon as she saw him, she put her hands up and started to back away like she was in fear," Hamilton said.

The victim's older sister, Dorsaf Kebaier, told Superior Court Judge Rueben Young that Chahnaz Kebaier was full of life and loved people. She said her sister's life changed soon after she married Cherfaoui, whom Dorsaf Kebaier described as controlling, abusive and manipulative.

Dorsaf Kebaier said the day before her sister was slain, Cherfaoui called his mother-in-law and said, "I will kill her and kill myself and die as a martyr for my children."

"She still wanted to find a solution so that the children could have both parents in their life," Dorsaf Kebaier said. "Her exact words were, 'I do not want to deprive him from his children, and I do not want to deprive my children from their father.'"

Cherfaoui, who was initially charged with first-degree murder, has also pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping, discharging a weapon on school property and possession of a weapon on school property.

Defense attorney James E. Williams said Cherfaoui "unraveled" when his wife asked for a divorce because he was committed to his family.

"It's not clear to me that on the day he went to that school what his intentions were – nobody ultimately did," Williams said. "I know he said he was going to kill himself."

The couple's children now live with Kebaier's parents in Tunisia.

"On that Friday afternoon more than two years ago, (the children) found themselves alone without a mother, without a father," Dorsaf Kebaier said. "Sadly, what their father did will always be a heavy label and a source of pain and suffering."