El Cajon man pleads not guilty in wife’s stabbing death

EL CAJON (CNS) – An East County man accused of stabbing his wife to death in their apartment last weekend pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder charges in El Cajon.

Salem Zora, 47, was charged with murder Wednesday but his arraignment was postponed because a Chaldean interpreter was not available until today.

Zora — being held on $1.5 million bail — faces 26 years to life in prison if convicted, according to prosecutors.

Zora made an emergency call shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday, telling a dispatcher he had returned to his rental residence on Roanoke Road in El Cajon to find that his wife, 39-year-old Gankil Wijdan, was not breathing, police officials said.

Medics tried in vain to revive the woman before pronouncing her dead at the scene.

While questioning the victim’s husband, detectives noted “several inconsistencies” in his account of the circumstances of her death, Lt. Mike Moulton said.

Zora was arrested early Monday morning and booked into the San Diego Central Jail.

Authorities have not released a suspected motive in the slaying.

Sandra Hoffmann, manager of the apartment complex where the couple lived, told news crews she was “shocked” by Wijdan’s death and Zora’s arrest.

“They are a fantastic couple,” Hoffmann said. “That’s all I can say.”

Outside court on Wednesday, the victim’s nephew, Steven Rofaeel, said he was “very shocked” to hear she had been killed.

“This is the last person you’d ever think to get murdered,” he said. “She’s very loving. She’d always do everything for everyone. Nobody would ever say she was a bad woman.”

Rofaeel said the victim and the defendant had been married about three years.

The day of the killing, the victim told her sister that she couldn’t come to a birthday party as planned because her husband didn’t want her to go, family members said.

“We don’t know why,” the victim’s uncle told reporters.

Zora’s next court appearance was scheduled for June 19.