On the night of January 15, 2005, 27-year-old Abere Karibi-Ikiriko called 911 from her Capitol Heights, Maryland home and said she had fatally shot her ex-boyfriend, 26-year-old Okechukwu Ohiri, in the chest.
Karibi-Ikiriko, a fourth year medical student with a 4.0 grade point average at Howard University College of Medicine, was charged with first degree murder.
She went on trial in Prince George’s County Superior Court in April 2006. The prosecution contended that Karibi-Ikiriko shot Ohiri, a fellow medical student with whom she had had an on-and-off relationship for several years, because he was seeing prostitutes. Karibi-Ikiriko contended the shooting was an accident.
Karibi-Ikiriko, whose family was from Nigeria, testified that after enrolling at the University of Missouri as a biological sciences major in 1995, she became involved in the Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation to educate women in Nigeria about the dangers of female circumcision. Karibi-Ikiriko, who in 1999 was named one of the nation’s top 10 undergraduate women students by Glamour magazine, said that she wanted to obtain a medical degree to work in poor, rural areas.
After working for a pharmaceutical company, Karibi-Ikiriko enrolled at Howard’s medical school and bought the home in Capitol Heights. She met Ohiri during their first year in medical school and they began dating a year later. Karibi-Ikiriko testified that they were in love, but there were problems because he sometimes forced her to engage in sex.
Over the next two years, she told the jury, they broke up, reunited and broke up again. In July 2004, Karibi-Ikiriko testified, they were broken up, but Ohiri was renting the basement of her home. They got back together, but again broke up and she put a deadbolt on the door leading from the basement to the main floor of the home.
On the night of the shooting, Karibi-Ikiriko said she went downstairs at about 7 p.m. to do laundry in preparation for a flight to Austria to attend a Nobel Prize conference. She said that Ohiri arrived and wanted to talk about getting back together. Karibi-Ikiriko said she angrily refused, at which point Ohiri went upstairs and retrieved a pistol she had purchased for protection because of neighborhood crime.
Karibi-Ikiriko testified that he ordered her to a couch, pulled up her nightgown and put the pistol on the couch. She said she grabbed it and Ohiri grabbed it back and then the gun discharged and the bullet struck Ohiri in the chest.
The defense sought to introduce an email and seven letters from Ohiri to Karibi-Ikiriko, showing that he was so desperate to resume their relationship that he was willing to force himself upon her at gunpoint. The trial judge barred that evidence, however.
On August 8, 2005, the jury convicted Karibi-Ikiriko of second-degree murder and using a handgun during a felony. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
In November 2006, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed the conviction and ruled that the judge had erroneously barred the letters and email from Ohiri.
In March 2007, while awaiting a second trial, Karibi-Ikiriko attempted to hang herself in her cell at the Prince George’s Detention Center, but was rescued and survived.
She went on trial a second time and the defense was able to use the correspondence. On November 30, 2007, a jury acquitted Karibi-Ikiriko and she was released. Karibi-Ikiriko died in 2012.
– Maurice Possley