Killer of Tucson imam given 25-to-life term

Glen Francis

Thursday marks the 23rd anniversary of Rashad Khalifa’s slaying.

On Monday, the man who wielded the knife was sentence to life in prison with release possible after 25 years for first-degree murder.  

Pima County Superior Court Judge Christopher Browning sentenced Glen Francis, 52, to the only sentence possible under the law in 1990.

Khalifa's body was found in the kitchen of an East Sixth Street mosque on Jan. 31, 1990. The imam had been stabbed 29 times, beaten and doused with a flammable solvent by a killer who turned on a gas stove's burners in an apparent attempt to destroy the crime scene.

Authorities believe Khalifa, 54, was likely killed because of his religious teachings. After studying the Quran for years, he found a mathematical code and came to believe two verses were satanic. In his English translation of the Quran, he removed those verses. He also taught that people should follow the word of God and not that of human beings.

Physical evidence lead to Francis being named a suspect in 1994 and to his eventual arrest in Canada in 2009.

He was convicted by a Pima County jury last month.

On Monday, Browning said he found it ironic Francis apparently killed Khalifa in the name of Islam, even though Islam “values peace and wholeness and denounces aggression.”

“The pain which Dr. Khalifa undoubtedly enduring during the 29 times you plunged your knife into him must have been horrific,” Browning said.

Browning told Francis that in the U.S. everyone’s Constitutional right to believe or not to believe is celebrated along with the right to speak and teach “in peace.”

“Finally, we punish criminals like you and crimes like yours strongly and decisively with far greater dignity and peacefulness than you afford Dr. Khalifa,” Browning said.

Khalifa’s daughter, Beth, told Browning she’d never met a more humble and caring man than her father and misses the support and guidance he gave her and many others.

She told Francis he killed her father, but “you didn’t silence his voice, you didn’t take away his light.”

During Francis’ trial, Deputy Pima County Attorney Casey McGinley told jurors the evidence showed Francis moved to Tucson under an assumed name with the express desire to kill Khalifa. He rented an apartment, got a job and a driver's license so he could easily join Khalifa's congregation and get to know the layout of the mosque and Khalifa's schedule.

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or

Senior Editor, News, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Az.