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Killer of Tucson imam gets 25-to-life prison term

Killer of Tucson imam gets 25-to-life prison term

  • Updated

A man was given a 25-to-life prison term Monday for the 1990 knife attack that killed an imam at a Tucson mosque.

Glen Francis, 52, was sentenced to life in prison with release possible after 25 years on Monday in the slaying of of Rashad Khalifa.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Christopher Browning sentenced Francis to the only sentence for first-degree murder possible under the law in 1990.

Khalifa's body was found in the kitchen of his 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.

Khalifa, 54, was likely killed because of his religious teachings, authorities believe. 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 led 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 that 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 his support and guidance.

She told Francis that although he killed her father, "you didn't silence his voice; you didn't take away his light."

Evidence showed Francis moved to Tucson under an assumed name with the express desire to kill Khalifa, Deputy Pima County Attorney Casey McGinley told jurors at trial. He rented an apartment, got a job and a driver's license so he could 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

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