When police in Syracuse, New York discoverd the body of three-year old Ameen Washington on November 5, 2011, they didn't have to look far to find their main suspect. The boy's father, 28-year-old Marcel Washington openly admitted killing Ameen in an attempt to exorcise the "Shatan" or devil that he believed was possessing him.
According to family members, Washington had been showing increasingly erratic behaviour in the weeks leading up to Ameen's death. His mother described her son reporting deeply paranoid ideas such as believing that people were whispering about him and his sisters felt he was acting "out of character". Even his girlfriend, Enida Ibrahimovic, who had been dating him for several months prior to the killing reported that he was acting in a bizarre manner. Still, nobody would have believed that he posed a risk to his son. "It all just happened so fast," said a cousin, "People who knew him are in total disbelief."
Despite these clues, he showed no indication of posing any risk to his son and was seen as a caring father. Still, on November 5, Washington reportedly placed his son in a cold shower and demanded to know if Ameen "worshipped only God." After hearing his son say "no", he then placed his face under water for ten minutes. In the statement Washington provided to police, Ameen's struggling convinced him that "Shatan" was resisting and he continued holding him under water until the struggling stopped. When he removed Ameen from the shower, he saw foam coming out of the boy's mouth and he laid him on the bed until the foam finished draining out.
When Washington noticed that Ameen had no pulse, he believed that he was still alive because "the pulse of the Shatan is very hard to track." Though he fled after realizing his son was dead, he subsequenty turned himself into police with his sister at his side. During the lengthy police interrogation that followed, he While he was arrested shortly afterward, he was emotionally upset at times as he described his reasons for attempting to exorcise his son. He also voiced little remorse for Ameen's death stating that "his child was better off dead than living with a devil inside of him."
A self-professed Muslim, Washington reported seeking guidance from the local religious community over his concerns about his son being possessed. He also claimed that Ameen was acting in a bizarre fashion and that a community elder told him to take the boy to the local Mosque where he could be treated by prayer.
While Washington was arrested in 2011, he wa only indicted for second-degree murder last month due to the delay in completing a psychiatric assessment. While his defense attorney has declined to provide the results of his assessment, the question surrouunding Marcel Washington's mental state at the time of his son's death are likely to dominate the trial. In the meantime, family members continue to grieve over Ameen's death and openly wonder whether they could have done anything to prevent it.