Ummad Rushdi
Ummad Rushdi

Ummad Rushdi could face the death penalty for allegedly killing his girlfriend's 7-month-old son, a prosecutor said Monday.

Rushdi, 30, of 979 Castle Pond Drive in Windsor Township, appeared Monday morning in an Upper Darby Township district court for his preliminary hearing on his current charges of kidnapping and related offenses.

Clad in a brick-red jumpsuit, his face showing no expression, it was unclear if Rushdi spoke at the bench. His defense requested a continuance on his behalf.

His preliminary hearing is now set for Sept. 9, according to Delaware County deputy district attorney Stephanie Wills.

"We're still working on the investigation," she said. "The investigation has been complicated in light of the fact that we don't know where the body is.

Hamza Ali
Hamza Ali
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Homicide charge: But Wills said she expects Rushdi will be charged with the homicide of Hamza Ali whether the baby's body is found or not.

"And we're working on that currently," she said.

Wills also said her office is evaluating the case to determine whether prosecutors should seek the death penalty against Rushdi.

Michael Malloy, Rushdi's defense attorney, has not returned phone messages seeking comment. Representing Rushdi in court Monday was Elizabeth McDonald, an associate of Malloy's.

A comment could not be obtained from McDonald. She did not immediately leave the courtroom after the hearing and did not return a subsequent phone message seeking comment.

Where is Hamza? Officials said the chance of finding Hamza's remains has dwindled.

"I think beyond the defendant telling us where the baby is, we'll need a miracle," Upper Darby Township Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood said.

Numerous searches in York and Lancaster counties by foot, air, boat and by search dogs and a police dive team have failed to locate the baby's body.

On Monday, Chitwood told The York Dispatch his detectives are still chipping away at the case.

"We're still doing interviews," he said. "We're getting lots of tips, but nothing of any substance."

The baby's mother has repeatedly begged Rushdi to reveal where he allegedly buried her son, according to Chitwood, who likened the search to trying to find a needle in a haystack.

The background: Hamza went missing from the Upper Darby Township home of Rushdi's parents the morning of Aug. 4.

He was taken there for a visit by his mother, 20-year-old Zainab Gaal, and Rushdi. Gaal and Hamza lived in Rushdi's Windsor Township home, police said.

Rushdi has told family members he fatally shook Hamza because the child wouldn't stop crying, put the child's body in a car and drove it to the Columbia area, then buried the body, according to court documents.

But Chitwood said he suspects Rushdi beat Hamza to death because he apparently didn't like the child.

Rushdi remains in Delaware County Prison on $750,000 bail, so far charged with kidnapping and related offenses.

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.