Fugitive's sentencing final chapter in '89 killing

 Murderer was tracked down in Bangladesh, where he was a math teacher

By Amy Oberlin
The Herald Republican

ANGOLA, Ind. (AP) — Eight years’ work by an Indiana State Police detective brought to conclusion a murder case that rattled the Steuben County community.

When he became a detective in 2005, Officer Kevin Smith took on a notorious cold case — the Aug. 9, 1989, stabbing death of Todd Kelley, 19, in rural Hamilton. Mahfuz Huq was the immediate suspect.

Huq’s disappearance the day of the crime left the Kelleys struggling for answers. The family offered rewards and hired private investigators, said Todd’s sister Shannon Kelley. They agreed to relive the story on national television programs “America’s Most Wanted” and “Unsolved Mysteries” as a “hail Mary that to get your face out there, we’d bring you to justice,” Shannon told Huq Monday from the witness stand in Steuben Superior Court.

Huq, 47, admitted to voluntary manslaughter in November. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison Monday by Judge William Fee, the maximum under a plea agreement. People filled the courtroom, with a waiting list outside the closed doors for seats that might be vacated. Many were Kelley’s family and friends as well as family and supporters of Huq.

Huq listened to the proceedings with a focused gaze. He cried while reading a statement to Kelley’s family and the court, apologizing for his actions and asking for forgiveness.

“Closure is a very misused word,” said Fee. However, he said, there can be a “reckoning” for Huq.

Monday, Shannon Kelley said the sentencing was the beginning of a healing process for the family.

“The pain is as real and raw today as it was 25 years ago,” said Shannon Kelley, who was 16 years old at the time her brother was killed.

Smith started working on the case in 2005 by poring over court documents and available evidence. He kept digging for information until, and after, Huq’s arrest in New Delhi, India, on Feb. 10, 2011.

Monday, Vern Kelley, Todd’s father, called Smith his hero.

Investigators surmised Huq fled to Bangladesh, where he has family. That could not be confirmed until late 2009, nearly five years into Smith’s investigation.

Smith made contact with Diplomatic Security Service agents at the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He provided the federal law enforcement officers with a former address of Huq’s family and a photograph, acquired through the initial investigation by Indiana State Police Officer Mark Carunchia and Steuben County Sheriff’s Department’s Mike McClelland. He included details about Huq obtained during the investigation of a 1988 burglary case, in which Huq allegedly assisted in two robberies from a truck stop in Fremont.

“We didn’t have any luck in 2005,” Smith told The Herald Republican. “I waited about a year and a half, and I sent it back again.”

Again, nothing.

In 2009, Smith made contact with DSS Agent David Koczot.

“He started working on it, and he had some luck,” said Smith. Koczot tracked the old address to a business location and through property records identified Huq’s relatives in Dhaka.

“He showed that picture around to people at the embassy,” said Smith. “Fortunately for us, somebody recognized him immediately as an instructor at the AIS school right there in Dhaka, because he was teaching children of theirs.”

In a dense, impoverished city of more than 14 million people, a murder suspect from Steuben County came onto the radar screen through his chosen career.

Huq, under the assumed name of Asif Haque, was a middle school math teacher and tennis coach. He played tennis when he attended Angola High School, said Smith, which helped confirm his identity.

“He was not using his real name or date of birth,” said Smith.

The American International School in Dhaka worked with investigators to first confirm Huq’s identity, then help with the capture of the fugitive.

The Steuben County case was sealed. Local people traveled to Bangladesh for Huq’s 1993 wedding and Huq took his mother, who lives in Detroit, on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 2010, according to testimony Monday. Smith said if Huq had learned he was under investigation, there was a “good chance he would disappear again.”

In mid-2010, American International School authorities revealed Huq would travel to New Delhi, India, Feb. 10-11, 2011, with the tennis team.

“They did not tip our hand,” said Smith. “We were able to keep that under wraps for about eight months.”

He filled out documents and provided a detailed affidavit for prosecutors in New Delhi, who issued a provisional arrest warrant. From there, FBI agents at the Indian embassy handled the logistics. Huq was taken into custody by customs agents in New Delhi after he entered the country.

Information conflicted Monday in court as to what happened after Huq was caught.

More than two years passed between the arrest and when Huq was released from Tihar Prisons, New Delhi — the largest incarceration complex in South Asia.

The Indian court affirmed extradition in mid-2013. In late July, Huq, in the custody of federal agents, arrived at the Indianapolis International Airport. He was initially held in Marion County, then transported to the Steuben County Jail.

Smith worked with Mike Hess in the Steuben County Prosecutor’s Office and the Steuben County Sheriff’s Department to get a strong case assembled. Because it was so old, Smith said, it was like “starting over.”

He had kept tabs on the main witnesses, those who lived in Steuben County and those who had left the area. DNA and fingerprint data were collected from Huq and used to assess evidence from the crime scene. Among the findings were that blood on the front seat of Huq’s car belonged to Huq himself.

When he pleaded guilty on Nov. 22, 2013, Huq indicated the killing was done in self-defense. Huq said Kelley introduced the knife during a fight after Huq knocked on Kelley’s door during the early morning hours.

When he first arrived, Christine Mutzfeld was in the house; she and Kelley had been on date, according to testimony Monday. Huq listened to Kelley and Mutzfeld have sex while standing outside a window, says a presentence investigation compiled by the Steuben County Probation Department. The confidential presentence report, used by the judge for sentencing purposes, is created in part through an interview with the suspect.

Court documents say Huq waited for hours, entering the house after Mutzfeld left.

While Huq contended in November there was a skirmish at Kelley’s front door, Monday’s testimony indicated there were attempts to clean the crime scene and that the body had been moved. The bedroom carpet was bloody, and there were spatters on the bedroom walls and furniture, say investigatory documents. Kelley was stabbed in the back four times, said Smith, and “at least three stab wounds in the front of his body and a defensive wound on his arm.”

Huq said he was sliced by Kelley in the ordeal, but on the stand Monday, Vern Kelley said he believes Huq attacked Todd while he was relaxed in his bed. He always left his door unlocked, said his father, in case his friends needed a place to stay.

A charge of intimidation was pending against Huq from July 25, 1989, when he allegedly told Kelley he would kill him if he continued to date Mutzfeld.

“He told everyone at a party he would kill anybody who dated his ex-girlfriend,” said Vern Kelley.

Smith said the murder case was a good one. McClelland believed there was probable cause when he investigated it in 1989. Smith said he agreed, though evidence and witness recollections were 25 years old.

“We knew it was a difficult case,” he said.

Huq hired Indianapolis attorney James Voyles and Angola attorney Linda Wagoner, who for the sentencing hearing imported four education professionals from across the globe as character witnesses.

Huq pleaded guilty to felony voluntary manslaughter late last year, allowing the dismissal of murder and intimidation charges as well as the burglary case. Smith said it was an appropriate resolution, and Monday after the hearing, Vern and Shannon Kelley agreed.

“I am very appreciative of the thoughtfulness that Judge Fee put into his sentence,” said Smith. “He spent a lot of time thinking it through.”

Fee said court proceedings are an opportunity for the truth to emerge.

“I have never seen a case that is surrounded by so many good people,” Fee said Monday. The Kelleys and Steuben County community were shocked and disconcerted. Overseas, Fee likened the scene to the police showing up at Angola High School and “leading one of the most respected teachers away.”

Huq was raised by good parents, said Fee; his father was a professor at Tri-State University.

“He was given good values, but he walked away from those values as a young man,” said Fee, who had just taken the bench when the case was filed in Steuben Superior Court. There were serious pending causes that Huq fled from, Fee noted.

While Huq’s good deeds overseas seem to point to remorse, Fee said Huq never took full responsibility for his crime. He fled the country and was brought to justice only through diligent police work. He admitted to voluntary manslaughter, but told the probation department he could not remember the stabbing and provided no details on the attack.

With credit for time already served and Indiana good-time credit, Huq will be in an Indiana prison for about 17 years. And the Kelley family can close a chapter and begin to move on with their lives.