California father drowns severely autistic sons, 13 and 8, by driving car into ocean, collects $260,000 in insurance payouts
Ali Elzayen, 44, is facing death penalty or a life in prison without the possibility of parole over the deaths
A 44-year-old California man has been charged with capital murder for the 2015 drowning of his two autistic sons after he drove off a Los Angeles pier with an aim to get $6million in insurance money.
Ali Elmezayen is facing charges of capital murder for deliberately killing his two sons, 13-year-old Elhassan and 8-year-old Abdelkrim, announced the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
On April 9, 2015, Elmezayen was driving a vehicle with his wife, Diab, and two sons in San Pedro when the car went off the berth and plunged into the water.
Elmezayen and his wife managed to escape the sinking vehicle.
The Daily Mail reported that the 44-year-old got out through an open window and surfaced within 30 seconds before swimming to safety to a ladder on the pier.
Authorities said his wife could not swim and had to be rescued by fisherman Ray Prince, who said she was and screaming hysterically, "My kids, my kids!" after surfacing.
The two boys, both severely autistic, did not know how to swim and had been strapped into their child seats at the time of the accident.
They drowned as their lifeless bodies were later pulled from the car by rescue divers.
When questioned, Elmezayen told investigators that the crash was a tragic accident and he didn't know how the car ended up in the water but conceded he might have accidentally pressed the gas pedal.
A police mechanic had subsequently found that the brake pedal did not work properly, and a case involving Elmezayen was presented to the LA District Attorney's office on December 2017. However, it was rejected due to a lack of evidence.
But further investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Harbor and Robbery-Homicide divisions and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office revealed the deaths were not an accident.
Authorities said the Elmezayen did not have legal status in the US and alleged that, despite having a yearly salary of just $30,000, he paid $6,000 a year for a $6 million insurance policy to cover his family in the event of an accidental death.
After the accident, Elmezayen collected more than $260,000 in insurance payouts for the deaths and wired $170,000 of that amount back to his native country Egypt.
He was arrested on November 2018 and has since been charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. There is also a special circumstance allegation that the children were killed for financial gain.
If convicted as charged, Elmezayen faces either the death penalty or a sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. The LA District Attorney's Office said that a decision on whether to seek the death penalty would be made at a later date.
He is currently in federal custody on insurance fraud charges related to the plunge, and he will be tried on the murder charges once that case — which will go to trial on September 3 —is completed.