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 Mom's Greed, not sids, killed baby, jurors told

Chicago Tribune, Staff Writer, January 23, 1999

Dina Abdelhaq went on trial Friday on charges of insurance fraud, with federal prosecutors alleging she suffocated her newborn daughter in 1995 in an attempt to collect on a $200,000 life insurance policy. Fifteen months before 7-week-old Tara Abdelhaq's death, another daughter of the defendant, Lena, also died in her crib.

Abdelhaq, 34, of Hickory Hills, insists that both infants died from sudden infant death syndrome. But in laying out the government's circumstantial case in opening remarks to jurors, Assistant U.S. Atty. Ronald Safer said the odds of more than one death in the same family from SIDS are one in a million. The one thing both sides in the case agree on is that Abdelhaq had a gambling addiction: Three days before Tara's birth, she was arrested on a riverboat casino for passing bad checks, according to Safer.

In 1995, within two weeks of Abdelhaq taking out the $200,000 policy on Tara's life, naming her as sole beneficiary, the baby was found dead under conditions mirroring the death of the other child. In both instances, Abdelhaq told authorities that her daughters had blood around their nose or mouth when she found them dead in their cribs.

But Safer said an expert witness for the government will testify that the circumstances indicate suffocation, not a SIDS death. One of Abdelhaq's lawyers, Scott Frankel, told jurors that in order to prove the insurance fraud, prosecutors must prove his client killed the infants. "And they simply can't do that," he said.