Rohail Sarwar, a native of Pakistan, is on trial for the murder of Sacramento resident Junying Lu, 51, in a Woodland, CA massage parlor last August. Last Friday in Yolo County Court, the defendant did not testify but the first witness charted a back story about women under Islamic law.
Tamsila N. – full name withheld because she is a victim of sexual assault – revealed that Rohail Sarwar worked for her husband’s landscaping business and that she had been having an affair with him beginning in May of 2018. At first consensual, the affair soon became abusive.
Deputy district attorney Diane Ortiz told the court, “‘No’ is never an answer in Sarwar’s world.” Ortiz then asked Tamsila about her culture and religion, which she identified as “Islam.”
In Pakistan, she said, “men dominate. The women are silenced.” If the woman should disclose, “the blame is on women.” Tamsila’s mother told her not to tell about the affair, or “they might kill you.” Tamsila had been shunned by family and, she told the court, “I’ve been told I’m just dead.”
As it happened, after the affair emerged, her family tried to take her back to Pakistan. Tamsila’s husband told her “you have no choice” and would not allow her to take along her son. As Sarwar’s attorney Ron Johnson told the court, her husband “planned to have her killed in Pakistan.”
Tamsila N. testified that after she denied Sarwar’s demands for anal sex, he yelled “I will break your legs!” and “I will kill you!” In the scenario laid out by prosecutors, the next day, August 21, 2018, an enraged Sarwar went to the Cottonwood Massage in Woodland. This time, instead of urinating on the massage table when denied sex, which got him tagged the “pee guy,” he murdered the masseuse.
On Monday, Diane Ortiz asked Tamsila to tell the court about women in Pakistani culture, whether they were expected to “obey orders” from men.
“Yes,” Tamsila said. Obeying orders from men was the custom in Pakistan. Ortiz asked if women were expected to “submit sexually” to men.
“Yes,” Tamsila told the court. As she explained, it was customary in Pakistan for women to submit to men’s sexual demands. Ortiz asked the witness if her marriage had been based on romantic love or arranged by others.
Tamsila told the court the marriage had been “arranged” by family members. That was also the case, with murder defendant Rohail Sarwar, whose wife showed up briefly during a break but did not testify or speak with reporters.
Prosecutor Ortiz also asked Tamsila about divorce in Pakistan. “Not very good,” the witness testified. “We have no rights, only men have rights.” Her husband, not named or present in court, was furious over the affair and family members told Tamsila, “they wished Rohail would have killed me.”
Rohail Sarwar did not testify Monday but the jury did get to know the woman he is charged with murdering. Deputy coroner Melissa Fehrenbach told the court that Junying Lu, 51, was 62 inches tall and weighed 132 pounds.
Forensic pathologist Jason Tovar told the court the cause of death was multiple stab and incised wounds. On Monday, prosecutor Diane Ortiz displayed autopsy photos on a large screen, in full view of the jury and Rohail Sarwar.
Police identified Sarwar through surveillance video, and he knew details of the crime scene only someone there could know. The blood and fingerprint evidence, prosecutors contend, ties Sarwar to the scene. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty and a verdict is not expected for two weeks. On the other hand, the case has already left plenty to ponder.
In sworn testimony it emerged that family members had plotted to return Tamsila N. to Pakistan so she could be executed. This sounds like conspiracy to commit murder, or murder for hire, but this plot prompted no investigation or charges against those planning such a killing.
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