Copt slaying Update:
Both Copts and Muslims express relief, look for healing
By Maria Zingaro Conte
Journal staff writer
As word spread yesterday that the two men allegedly responsible for the January slaying of a Coptic Christian family in Jersey City had been taken into custody and arraigned, reactions in the Coptic community ranged from shock to relief.
The arrests put an end to weeks of speculation that the brutal killings had been religiously motivated, fueled by a centuries-old rift between Coptic and Muslim Egyptians. The development brought some measure of relief to members of both religious groups.
"We are very relieved that the perpetrators are brought to justice and we hope that they will be severely punished," said Michael Meunier, president of the U.S. Copts Association. "We continue to endorse good relations between Egyptian Muslim and Christian communities both in New Jersey and abroad."
Prosecutors allege that Edward McDonald and Hamilton Sanchez, both convicted drug dealers, robbed and then killed the four-member Armanious family and used their ATM card to withdraw about $3,000 from the family's bank accounts.
At the time of the murders, McDonald was a tenant in the Armanious' two-family house.
Meunier also expressed strong feelings at the crime.
"I'm shocked at the stupidity of the killers. The guy was an ex-convict. He lived upstairs. I'm also shocked at the manner (in which) he killed the family, apparently for a PIN number. How much money can you withdraw for a PIN number, $300 a day?
"To kill a whole family for that, the smarter person would think, 'Let me get caught for robbery rather than the killing of a whole family.'"
For others, a note of skepticism remained amid the relief.
"We all feel lighter today, like a weight has been lifted," said Dr. Monir Dawoud, acting president of the American Coptic Association, in a written statement.
"It would be a great day for all of us in Jersey City and for all Americans if it turns out to be true that the sole motive for this murder was robbery. So many of us came to America from countries where we were persecuted for the way we worshipped God.
"We pray that the evil of prejudice has not followed us here and that the Armanious family was not slaughtered because of their religious faith."
Family members and acquaintances, as well as some Coptic leaders had urged authorities to investigate the killings as a hate crime in the weeks since the bodies were discovered, bound and with stab wounds in their Oakland Avenue home, on Jan. 14.
Sarah Issa, the director of media relations for the Council on American Islamic Relations-New Jersey, said there were important lessons to be learned from the outcome of the case.
"It was really a disappointment and a pity that we didn't wait and give a period of time and let the authorities first come to conclusions before we first jumped to speculations and accusations," she said.
"But even though the Islamic community was blamed, it's still understood that the tragedy is kind of what prompted this, and that is really a lesson for all of us to try to reach some common sense and wait for the authorities to come to the bottom of it before we start accusing others."
She also expressed optimism that relations between the two religious groups in Jersey City can be repaired and said her organization plans to work to bring the Egyptian community in Jersey City back together.
Maria Zingaro Conte covers Jersey City. She can be reached at email@example.com
Looks like some people are going to be forced to eat their words. Shining Eye, Tarkan, and company jumped the shark on this one.