Still no trial for accused York County baby-killer arrested in 2013
A Windsor Township man charged nearly seven years ago with murdering his then-girlfriend's 7-month-old baby has once again been ruled incompetent to stand trial.
The body of Hamza Ali has never been found, despite numerous searches by land, air and water in York, Lancaster and Delaware counties that utilized search dogs and a dive team. The lead prosecutor in the case has described those searches as exhaustive.
Hamza has not been seen since he traveled with his mother and Ummad Rushdi to visit Rushdi's parents in Upper Darby, police have said.
"He despised that child ... and he killed that child," now-retired Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood said two months after Hamza's disappearance. "I believe it was a horrible death."
Rushdi, 37, formerly of Castle Pond Drive, has been in custody in Delaware County since being arrested in August 2013, charged with first-, second- and third-degree murder, kidnapping, concealment of the whereabouts of a child, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse.
Prosecutors there are seeking the death penalty for Rushdi, who is accused of killing Hamza and hiding the baby's body on Aug. 4, 2013.
'Incompetent': The case against Rushdi was moving forward until August 2017, when a Delaware County common pleas judge, acting on a psychiatric examination, determined Rushdi was incompetent to stand trial and ordered him involuntarily committed to Norristown State Hospital, a state-funded psychiatric hospital near Philadelphia.
Since then, the case has been revisited in court on several occasions, with Rushdi being found incompetent to stand trial each time, according to court records.
His case was back in Delaware County Court a week ago, on Feb. 20, where a county judge again had Rushdi recommitted to the state hospital and ordered the criminal proceedings against him be stayed, court records state.
"It's unfortunate, but he obviously has a very significant mental-health issue," defense attorney Michael Malloy said. "They've tried everything they could to make him competent."
That includes being medicated against his will, although it appears that hasn't improved Rushdi's prognosis, according to Malloy.
Rushdi is a paranoid schizophrenic with fixed delusions, and such delusions are difficult to successfully treat, Malloy said.
"That's the overriding problem — how to stop those delusions," the attorney said.
Delaware County deputy district attorney Stephanie Wills could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The background: Rushdi in 2013 told investigators they would never find Hamza's body and claimed the baby died after he shook him, Chitwood said at the time.
Police believe Rushdi drove Hamza's body back to the York County or Columbia area and hid it.
"We don't know what's left of the baby," Chitwood said. "His exact words were, quote, 'The baby can't be retrieved.' ... What did he do? Did he dismember the baby? Did he burn the baby?"
Rushdi told investigators he only has to answer to God and bragged to Hamza's mother that he could get away with murder, officials have said.
Chitwood has said he suspects Rushdi beat Hamza to death and didn't want the child's bruised body found. He also said that detectives kept going after Rushdi, asking him for Hamza's location, but that Rushdi refused to say any more about where he allegedly hid the baby's body.
Hamza's mother, Zainab Gaal, testified at Rushdi's October 2013 preliminary hearing that he told her he wanted to "get rid of" Hamza, perhaps by driving the baby to his grandmother's home in Maine.
"If not, I will throw him off a bridge before I get there. ... I can get away with murder," Rushdi allegedly told Gaal.
Rushdi allegedly told detectives, "When I get out of jail I'm going to dig him up and I'm going to bury him in my backyard," police have said.
'Idiot baby': Gaal testified that Rushdi would refer to Hamza as "an idiot baby" and "a negative-energy baby," and would tell her that Hamza "doesn't belong here."
Two people contacted police to say that about 8:30 a.m. Aug. 4, 2013, they were waiting for a church bus near the intersection of Route 30 and 441 in Columbia, Lancaster County, when Rushdi approached them carrying a plastic bag in one hand and a Quran in the other, according to court records.
He told them his car broke down and asked for a ride, then ended up going to church with the witnesses and attending a Sunday school class with one of them, but left during a prayer session, police have said.
"The defendant left the room and proceeded to sob very loudly in the hallway outside the Sunday school room" and was seen on his knees, crying, court documents state.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.