Morrisville detective thinks apparent suicide may be homicide

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comMarch 4, 2013 

Moses Mark Tafarki

CCBI

It appeared to be an open and shut case.

Morrisville police found a 41-year-old man dead in the bathtub of his apartment in the 3600 block of Quail High Boulevard last month, a near-empty bottle of vodka nearby, and thought at first he had drowned himself.

But investigators have not ruled out the possibility that Moses Mark Tafarki was the victim of a homicide, according to search warrants made public Monday at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office.

Tafarki, a native of Nigeria, was found Feb. 21 by a neighbor and maintenance man. The neighbor, described in search warrants as a friend of Tafarki’s, contacted the maintenance man and asked him to check on Tafarki because he had not seen him for several days and was becoming worried, according to the search warrants.

The maintenance worker later told police that he had to enter the apartment through the back door because a deadbolt was in place on the front door, according to the warrants.

When police arrived they found Tafarki lying in a fetal position, his body completely submerged in the bathtub.

The investigating detective, M.C. Ballard, was intrigued by another piece of evidence: The shower curtain had been torn down and was between Tafarki’s legs, court records show.

“My research into suicide by drowning tends to show that a bathtub is not a common method used,” Ballard stated in the search warrant application. “The position of the shower curtain, between the legs of the victim, leads me to believe a struggle had occurred or the victim slipped and fell. It is unclear at this time how the shower curtain came to be in that position.”

Tafarki’s body was transported to the Office of the State Medical Examiner in Raleigh. His autopsy is not yet completed, spokeswoman Sharon Artis said Monday.

Ballard began looking into why someone would want to harm Tafarki and learned that he was having a difficult time prior to his death. According to the search warrant, Tafarki was going through “an ugly divorce” with his estranged wife who had filed a restraining order in Wake County District Court after Tafarki was charged with assault on a female last April.

Tafarki’s wife accused him of punching her in the face, court records show.

Tafarki, a licensed pharmacy technician, spent 48 hours in jail after his arrest. He was convicted of the charges on June 25 and sentenced to 24 months probation. Tafarki was also ordered by Wake County District Court Judge Jennifer M. Green to enroll in two abuser treatment programs, comply with a restraining order filed by his estranged wife and pay court costs of $320, court records show.

Tafarki appealed the decision. His appeal was scheduled to be heard in Wake County Superior Court on March 25, according to the Wake County District Attorney’s Office.

Ballard also learned that Tafarki owed “a significant amount of money to many individuals.”

“It is possible this would be a motive for someone to hurt or kill the victim,” Ballard stated in the warrant application.

Investigators obtained a warrant from a Wake County magistrate on Feb. 21 to search Tafarki’s apartment and black Ford Explorer. The police recovered his wallet, four cell phones, a mini laptop computer, a phone answering machine and legal documents.

The investigators returned to Tafarki’s apartment again on Sunday morning. They retrieved the vodka bottle and a packet of papers titled “Tafarki Foundation Tax Information,” court records show.

The foundation has a website, which states the organization is “committed to improving the health and quality of life of populations across the continent of Africa.”

Members of the foundation could not be reached for comment Monday.

News researcher Teresa Leonard contributed to this report.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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