Skull could hold key to case
Woman’s disappearance in 1976 remains unsolved
By ANNYSA JOHNSON
Posted: June 18, 2008
Wauwatosa – A partial skull found in the Menomonee River in April will be sent to a national lab for DNA analysis in hopes of closing a missing persons case that has dogged detectives in this Milwaukee suburb for more than 30 years, Wauwatosa police said Wednesday.
Missing Person Case
Nahida Khatib, a 30-year-old Lebanese-born mother in the midst of an ugly divorce, disappeared from her home on the Menomonee River Parkway on Oct. 1, 1976. In the house, investigators found her purse, a half-empty cup of coffee and meat thawing on a counter in the kitchen. Her 2-year-old niece, whom she’d been baby-sitting, was unattended in a playpen.
Preliminary reports suggest the skull is that of a woman in her 30s who’s been dead at least 20 years. It could be from anyone, from anywhere along the river, investigators say. But they want to know if it’s Khatib’s.
“I’ve carried this in my heart all these years,” said King De Seve, a retired Wauwatosa detective who believed from the beginning that Khatib was murdered. “I’ve always wanted to bring closure to the family.”
The skull will be analyzed at the University of North Texas Health Science Center for Human Identification in Fort Worth, which maintains a national database of DNA results from unidentified remains and relatives of missing persons.
Khatib’s son, who was 10 when she disappeared and now lives in California, has agreed to provide a sample for cross-referencing.
“It’s been a long time, and I want to know,” said Eddy Khatib, now 42.
The Texas facility, which is federally funded, is among a select group of labs that conduct both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analyses, the latter of which is less subject to degradation. But there’s no guarantee, said Linda LaRose, the lab’s quality assurance manager, that the skull will yield a viable sample.
“We will make every attempt, and try several times, before we’d say we could not get anything,” she said.
The skull was discovered by a fisherman on the south bank of the Menomonee River near N. 43rd St. on April 5. Milwaukee police alerted other agencies that might have missing persons cases to call the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office.
Wauwatosa Police Detective Lisa Hudson inquired because she’d been working on a case from 1991 involving a man. When officials there described it as a woman in her 30s, dead “for decades,” she thought of Khatib.
“This could be from anyone, from a potter’s grave or a cemetery down the road,” Hudson said. “But it fits the time frame and the age. Why not ask?”
De Seve has always believed that Khatib’s husband, Fahmi “Sam” Khatib, who owned a string of businesses in Milwaukee, was involved in her disappearance. Sam Khatib died in 2001 at the age of 71.
Eddy Khatib last saw his mother when he left for school the morning she disappeared. He was raised by his father in the years that followed to believe she had abandoned her only child.
That’s highly unlikely, said De Seve, based on evidence at the scene and interviews with family and friends at the time.
“She loved that boy. She never would have left him,” De Seve said.
Eddy Khatib isn’t sure what to believe about his mother’s fate.
“I really don’t know until the evidence comes back,” he said. “I just have to wait.
“I’ve been this patient. I can wait a little longer.”
Test finds no match between piece of skull and long-missing Tosa woman
A partial skull found in the Menomonee River in April is not that of Nahida Khatib, a 30-year-old Lebanese-born woman who disappeared in 1976 in the midst of an ugly divorce, DNA analysis has shown, Wauwatosa police said this morning.
Wauwatosa Detective Lisa Hudson said she was notified yesterday by a Texas lab that it found no genetic match between the skull and Khatib, who disappeared from her home on the Menomonee River Parkway on Oct. 1, 1976.
“I am disappointed,” Hudson said. “It was a long shot, but it would have been nice” to know that she had been found.
The Khatib case has haunted retired Wauwatosa detective King De Seve since he first worked it 32 years ago.
“I carry it with me; I think about it every day,” said De Seve, who has maintained a friendship with Khatib’s son, who was 10 when his mother disappeared and now lives in California.
De Seve has always suspected that Khatib was murdered and that her husband, Sam Khatib, who died in 2001 at the age of 71, was involved. The day Nahida Khatib disappeared, she left her purse, a half-empty cup of coffee and meat thawing on a counter in the kitchen. Her 2-year-old niece, whom she’d been baby-sitting, was unattended in a playpen.
De Seve and Hudson hoped for a break in the case when the partial skull was found last April by a fisherman on the Menomonee River in Milwaukee. Hudson had the skull analyzed at the University of North Texas’ Health Science Center for Human Identification in Fort Worth, one of the few labs in the country that conducts both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analyses – the latter of which is less subject to degradation.