Mohamud Ahmed came to America from his native Somalia seeking a better life.
What he got instead was a gruesome end on the streets of Tacoma, slashed to death in the cab he drove to raise money for college.
Jaycee Fuller, convicted last month of first-degree murder in Ahmed’s death, maintained his innocence Friday, but a Pierce County judge rejected those claims and sentenced Fuller to 25 years, four months in state prison.
“I don’t have any doubt that it was you,” Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper said in handing down the sentence.
Ahmed died March 8, 2009. Police found his body, tangled in his seat belt, hanging out of the driver’s side door of his cab. His throat had been cut and he’d been stabbed in the liver.
Prosecutors alleged at trial that Ahmed died in the course of a robbery and that Fuller, himself a former cabbie, had expressed a dislike of immigrants taking American jobs. The cab’s meter still was running.
Investigators also found a knit cap nearby. It had Ahmed’s blood on the outside and what turned out to be Fuller’s DNA on the inside.
Fuller, 37, later admitted he’d received such a cap as a Christmas party favor when he’d worked at The Keg restaurant but claimed to have thrown it away.
Prosecutors also had video evidence taken from a surveillance camera that showed a man who resembled Fuller and wearing a similar cap outside a restaurant in the vicinity of where Ahmed picked up his final fare.
It was enough evidence to persuade a jury that Fuller was a murderer.
Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, who tried the case with deputy prosecutor Erika Nohavec, recommended a sentence of 29 years, nine months.
“This was a savage, up-close crime,” Lindquist said in arguing for the high-end sentence.
The victim’s uncle, Hersi Mohamed, then told Culpepper about Ahmed’s flight from war-torn Somalia to what he hoped would be a better life in the United States.
His nephew studied English and was saving money so he could go to college, Mohamed said.
“He had plans and dreams of education,” he told the judge. “His life has been cut short by the man who is sitting there. We have to live with the emptiness that has been brought about by his death.”
Fuller, who represented himself, then got a chance to speak.
He told Culpepper he felt remorse for Ahmed and his family, but he insisted he did not commit the murder and would continue to fight, even in prison, to try to bring the true killer to justice.
“I’m going to be the state’s victim, and I’m going to pay for that,” said Fuller, who also was convicted of killing Ahmed during a 2010 trial only to see that conviction thrown out on appeal. “But I will continue to work on my case because I am innocent.”
Culpepper wasn’t swayed.
He described Ahmed as someone pursuing the American dream, working hard to try to earn some money to improve his life.
“And for no reason I can discern, no good reason whatsoever, he gets viciously murdered and dies, because of you Mr. Fuller,” Culpepper said.