When I left off in part 1 of this terrible story, I was rushing to Mahwah, NJ from my home hours away in Pennsylvania to be with my son, Muriyd, who had been forced into spiritual transition. It was Wednesday, July 6, 2022, a beautiful clear and sunny day. Warm. Comforting. I had completed my daily five mile walk earlier, purchased several large picture frames from a local thrift store, and finally decided on purple paint for my living room which I had blended at Lowe's before returning home. All the while I had been chatting on the phone with one of my best friends. I was trying to make myself feel better because for two or three long months I had been filled with a persistent melancholy. I could not figure out why.
I was crying for absolutely no reason- or at least no reason that I could pinpoint. I was not feeling suicidal, but I felt like I did not want to be here in this world anymore. What was going on with me?? I talked to Muriyd about it multiple times, but he too was perplexed. The only advise he could give was to make dua to Allah (pray). I took his advice, but the intense sadness continued until the moment I received news that my greatest fear had been brought to fruition.
I neglected to mention in part 1 what had prompted me to make those frantic calls to relatives and friends. When I began the million-mile journey to my son, I called my best friend in a panic to let him know about the screenshots and that our Muriyd was dead.
"Ok, relax," he urged. "We don't know for sure that it's him. Call ___ [my grandson's mother] and find out more information."
"I don't think I can," I replied. "She's had me blocked for the past two years."
"Try anyway and call me back."
I felt the panic rising in me but did as he said. I found the mother's name and number in my phone's contact list, tapped the call icon then braced myself. When she answered her end crying I had my confirmation. "WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SON??! WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SON??!!!" I shouted into the phone through horrendous sobs.
"I don't know. I don't know." she barely managed to get out through her own tears.
I do not remember much more about that conversation, how long it lasted nor what was said. I just know that I started making calls. I phoned his father numerous times, to no avail, then finally sent one of his cousins a message asking her to let him know that Muriyd was dead; he needed to contact me immediately.
At some point I began searching for the phone number of the Mohawk elder my son spent much of his time with on the Akwesasne reservation. I could not readily find it in my phone, so I started scrolling Facebook, with one hand on the wheel, searching for his page. His online handle is in the Mohawk language so I accidentally messaged his daughter instead:
<please call me [--- ----]. This is Two Cloud's mother I can't find my son. Please call me. I [sic] scared something has happened.>
<No one can find him. His son's mother hasn't heard from him either.>
<The tribal office down there won't answer.>
Between calls, messages, and prayers I screamed at the top of my lungs into the Universe. There was nothing else to do besides drive the endless route and scream. I have had incidents in life where reality seemed skewed, as if I was moving in a dream state though wide awake. That day, that drive, was more surreal than anything I have ever experienced. I truly do not know how I made it to the land where my son had been found murdered without passing out, but I did. It could have only been through the Love and Guidance of Creator.
While driving I got a call from my grandson's mother with the medical examiner on the three-way line. I felt a tad bit annoyed that she had taken it upon herself to call him without contacting me first, but I squashed that feeling, choosing to instead focus on what was most important. (I did not realize at the time that this would only be the first action by others without authority making moves pertaining to my son, well-intended and not.)
The medical examiner proceeded to ask questions in order to identify my beloved baby who had been in the water for several days. He asked me to describe tattoos, scars, a missing tooth he lost during an accident when he was a child. He was wearing his hair in a Mohawk which I knew meant he was dealing with something tribal and intense. After asking and confirming, the medical examiner said to me, "Miss Ansari, I am sorry to inform you... this does appear to be your son."
I am sure I too died at that moment.
I kept my head together, as it were, in order to continue with him. He asked something about an autopsy, and I very confidently stated, "No. My son is a Muslim and would never want to have an autopsy." At that time, I was in protector mode. Someone had murdered my son, I believed that with every part of me. I did not know what had been done to him, but I refused to allow his body to be cut and his organs removed, assessed, and weighed; his skull cracked open and his brain- his beautiful brain that held so much wonderful and ancient knowledge that he shared eagerly- be held in someone's hands to be inspected. Muriyd and I had talked on occasion about autopsies and he, like a billion other Muslims who believe the body can still feel pain after death, cringed at the thought and called on Allah's protection from such ever happening to him. What I interpreted from the examiner was his asking me to give permission to hurt my son even further. I imagined Muriyd's spirit standing over his physical form watching in horror as his flesh was sliced, disemboweled, and resewn shut. And I said NO.
Thankfully, that answer was not good enough for the examiner. He gently nudged as we went back and forth a few times. "I understand that it is your religion. I just need you to understand that you will only have this one chance to do this. If something was to happen where you may need an investigation, let's say, you will not be able to have this done later."
His words started to rouse my intellect, but I was aware that I could not make such a decision on my own, at that time. I told him I needed to speak with my spiritual advisor. He agreed that would be good to do, but that I absolutely needed to call him first thing in the morning. Muriyd had been out rotting for days, and we needed to get him in the ground as soon as possible.
We three disconnected, and I continued through the door of a new reality.
When I approached the land hours later there were several people standing around. I made a left off Halifax Road then another left into the entrance I had driven through so many times to my son's greeting, "Salaamu 'alaykum," or a rythmic, "Mamaaaa!" or playful, "Waddup son?" followed by an inviting hug and dual giggles. It was odd that he was not there to greet me, only solemn, mournful faces with eyes that seemed fixed on me, waiting to see how I would react.
I saw another of my best friends- Muriyd's surrogate uncle- who had gotten there with his wife long before me. "Yaa, Allah, please help me," I prayed aloud before parking and getting out my car. I did not know how to be. I usually smile even when I do not necessarily feel like smiling, more concerned with others' hurt or current situations; more concerned with helping others before myself. I attempted to offer this default gesture by greeting everyone, as if we were all there for some arbitrary reason, not because an evil act had been done to my son on the land he loved and felt most safe. I walked towards the back of my car heading for the path that leads to the water where he was found. By the time I made it to the trunk something took over my body and flung me, or so it seemed, against the car. I had no control. I heard myself gasp or moan or something then my friend grabbed me and held me in his arms, I believe, as I wept.
I do not remember a whole lot about the space between then and when we all made it across the grass to the river's edge. I do remember that there was a lot of chatter from everyone piecing together bits of information they knew or had heard. We all noticed that Muriyd's car and canoe (which we assumed had been taken from the water by law enforcement and stationed on land) had both been left in the open for anyone to taint or retrieve evidence from; there was no police tape warning people to keep away like we often saw on television. My friend and I made short videos that I have since threaded together and uploaded to YouTube documenting in real time all that we saw, found, were told, and believed. I also remember walking away from the river and again losing control of my body and limbs, falling to the ground. I was stunned. As a long-term care nurse, I deal with death all the time, and I normally can keep my mind together when hit with virtually anything life brings my way. I fully understand that Creator alone controls death and life, that Earthly living is a balance that we, ultimately, have no hand in.
But there I was, sitting on the grass that my son had crossed so many times yet never would again, demanding to myself, "GET UP! GET UP!" My cousin and her husband had arrived to the land soon after me, so he and my friend came on each side and lifted me up. After convincing them I was ok I wandered a few feet away and sat on the grass voluntarily, numb. My grandson's mother came and sat next to me, and we silently agreed on a truce.
While we sat and the others swapped theories, a received a call from a funeral home director. She is a friend of ours and part of the village who helped raise Muriyd. She had gotten a call explaining that he was gone, and called to give condolences and start me in the process because as Muslims we bury our dead, preferably, within the first twenty-four hours. We were already three days behind. She asked if I was having an autopsy done. I began crying, repeating to her what the medical examiner said, and reiterating that I did not want to have it done.
"Listen to me, baby," she coaxed. "I know you don't want to do it, but you may have to. Inshallah, this may be an expiation for his sins."
I did not want to hear that, could not hear, but even then I was grateful. Later that night my imam- another member of the village- said pretty much the same thing. "In Islaam if there is a chance that a homicide has occurred, it is permissible to have an autopsy done." I still could not fathom my baby being sliced open like I had seen acted out on CSI a hundred times. I asked Muriyd to forgive me and made the decision to give the go-ahead in the morning.
After leaving the land I finally received a text from the Mohawk elder's daughter informing me of the mix-up. Either she or her father gave me the phone number of S1. This is when it all started falling into place.
Initially, S1's calls kept dropping. He had a certain urgency in his voice, I remember, and through text said that his phone was not working well. However, when we were able to talk a few things stuck out to me. Let me preface this by saying, again, that when I was told about the screenshots I knew my son had died, and I also knew that he definitely had to have been killed by someone who could get close to him. Muriyd was very proficient at several forms of martial arts as well as boxing. He lived outdoors on that land for more than five years. He studied it, hunted and trapped on it; he knew it. There was no way someone could sneak up on him nor incapacitate him without help. With that, at the time I knew of only two people who were part of his circle, always around him: S1 and S3. (Later, I would learn of S2.) I worked to quail my instincts and waited for evidence. It did not take long.
When I spoke to S1, multiple things seemed odd or simply did not add up. Later I would be able to prove without question that I was correct in my skepticism that first night.
Perhaps the strangest and most haunting take away, especially as I play it back time and again, is S1's repeated questions, "What did he look like? Did they say what he looked like??" Why would that be important? Then he kept countering my emphatic belief that my son was murdered by trying to convince me that Muriyd died from a heart attack. I said, "My son was murdered! And it had to be someone who could get close to him!" and he replied, "No, no... It was a heart attack. It was a heart attack that killed him." I rejected that notion saying, "My son didn't have a heart problem! He didn't die from a heart attack." Then he, not letting up repeated, "No, it had to be a heart attack! It had to be because if somebody... No, no, it had to be a heart attack!" Even in my distraught state of mind I paid attention to his words, and the emotion- or lack thereof- that accompanied them.
As we went on, I asked certain questions that he did a lot of talking around without actually giving answers, or least viable answers. (I have since learned that this is his way. He comes across as a pathological liar, but is not a competent critical thinker. He yells at and bullies weaker people who fall in line so he is not used to being challenged. When he is challenged, he talks in circles and makes no sense. This is how he continuously implicates himself in the murder of Muriyd.)
3. I knew from the fact that Muriyd and I had spoken twice Saturday, and that he had been texting his son's mother Sunday about picking him up yet had not, that he had been killed then. I also knew that S1 was always with him. So I asked what happened. When was the last time he had seen my son. He told me that he had gone with Muriyd Saturday night to a girl's house, interjecting, "He's always with
some girl... but anyway..." That stood out to me because a) it was unneeded information; b) he sounded jealous; c) he was essentially telling the mother of his friend who was found dead that very day that he was promiscuous. It seemed to me that he was tattling, intentionally trying to befoul Muriyd's name. Also, he did not come across as sad or upset by the death.
(It turned out that the girl he went to see with Muriyd is my son's best friend since childhood. She had surgery and was unable to shower due to the pain. Muriyd brought her a shower chair, constructed it, took out her trash then left. That was a week prior which again, had nothing to do with information pertinent to the murder. So why did he bring it up?)
4. He told me that he always had Muriyd's location on his phone in case anything ever happened. However, he also said that he could not find a location for four days. This made no sense to me because if the sole purpose for having his location was for protection, why did he not do or say anything after not seeing a location nor hearing from him for days? (Remember this for future reference.)
(It has been expressed to me by multiple people that S1 was constantly following Muriyd and popping up to places where Muriyd did not invite him. This included the day before when my son was driving back from New England. Allegedly, S1 popped up on him when he veered of the road in order to stretch his legs and take a call. I am told Muriyd was really angered about it and let S1 know he was. So again, S1 pops up everywhere all the time except when Muriyd was murdered and missing for four days?)
5. Another very odd thing he kept going on and on about was a pillow he claimed he brought down to the land because he did not like Muriyd sleeping in his car uncomfortably. Not only was it very strange how much he kept talking about bringing a pillow, but my son routinely slept not only in his car, but on the ground in a tent, even in the dead of winter. Not only would he have not been uncomfortable, but there certainly would not have been any urgency for him to receive a pillow. Plus, why would it have been so important that night, in particular, to get Muriyd a pillow when S1 had been around him for several months without giving him one before.
6. S1 and S3 both claimed (separately) that they had been with Muriyd on the land sitting out by the water Saturday night until 1:30 am Sunday. By the next day, Thursday, they both had (separately) changed their stories saying they were with him Sunday night until 1:30am Monday morning. I asked S1 straight out if he was sure it was Sunday into Monday because he had said something different the night before. He insisted it was Sunday night into Monday morning. I did not mention that I knew that was impossible nor how I knew.
Incidentally, by the weekend S2 also claimed to have been in contact with Muriyd during that time. She stated that she had been texting with him throughout Sunday night until 6:30 am Monday morning. Again, impossible. Not only because he had already transitioned, but because there is no way on God's green Earth my son would have invested an entire night communicating with her. She, too, lacks basic critical thinking skills, and I have had confirmed by friends of Muriyd what I already suspected based upon how well I know my son: he was incredibly annoyed by her and thought her shiesty. (Remember this for future reference.)
So S1, S2, and S3 all stayed close to Muriyd. They all also lied.