Slain Jamestown teenager had sought new life in America

JAMESTOWN, N.D. - Eighteen-year-old Abdi Ali Ahmed moved to Jamestown in March seeking education, work and a new life. He'd moved to the United States in 2006 to escape violence and civil war in Somalia. So it's ironic that he died a violent deat...

Family and friends are mourning the death of Abdi Ali Ahmed, 18, whose body was found in a ditch near Spiritwood, N.D. Ahmed moved to Jamestown in March from Columbus, Ohio, looking for education, work and a fresh start on life. Pictured, from left, are his half sister, Safia Dini, twin brother, Bilaal Ahmed, and aunt Marian Ghedi, all of Columbus. Katie Ryan-Anderson / Forum Communications Co.

JAMESTOWN, N.D. - Eighteen-year-old Abdi Ali Ahmed moved to Jamestown in March seeking education, work and a new life.

He'd moved to the United States in 2006 to escape violence and civil war in Somalia.

So it's ironic that he died a violent death, said his aunt, Marian Ghedi.

A passing motorist discovered Ahmed's body at the edge of a dirt field Saturday about 1½ miles north of the Spiritwood exit on Interstate 94. Jamestown residents Leron "Ra Ra" Howard and Janelle Cave have been charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder, both Class AA felonies.

"He died here, the place that we thought was safe. With violence he has been killed," Ghedi said.


Ghedi lives in Columbus, Ohio, but was in North Dakota for Ahmed's funeral, which is today at the Fargo mosque, 2102 6th Ave. S. Four other family members from Ohio are here for the services. Ahmed's mother did not make the trip. Her family said she was too devastated.

"She couldn't come. She was very sad," said Ahmed's twin brother, Bilaal.

Ahmed lived in Columbus before moving to Jamestown. He took a Greyhound bus to the city, where he knew a friend, but crashed in different houses with various Somali families.

In Ohio, he liked school up until his junior year, Bilaal said. In the second semester he started missing classes. He hadn't gotten into trouble but wanted a fresh start. So he moved to Jamestown, where he had a friend, and was taken in by other Somali families.

It's a small community, the Somalis said of themselves, so they take in newcomers like family.

Ahmed had enrolled in Jamestown High School, where he'd hoped to join its soccer team.

"He was trying to get a diploma. He was trying to get a job," said Bilaal.

Abdi Ahmed was arrested and charged with simple assault in April. However, friends he'd stayed with called him a "sweetheart," saying he was friendly and outgoing.


He was last seen Friday. Friends said Ahmed had planned to hang out and enjoy his evening that day.

Friends and housemates said they were unsure of any connection Ahmed may have had with Cave and Howard.

The Stutsman County Sheriff's Department hasn't released information regarding motive or the cause of death. The North Dakota Medical Examiner's Office is expected to perform an autopsy this week.

Ahmed's half sister, Safia Dini, traveled from Columbus for the services and also to identify the body. She said it appeared her brother had defensive wounds on his arms from a knife or even a sword. She said she believed he'd been bitten and his body dragged.

"When I see his body today - it's not human," she said.

The suspects

Twenty-two-year-old Cave grew up in Jamestown. She lived with Howard, 33, in Jamestown, although Howard is originally from Minnesota. He lived in Jamestown about a year and a half, said Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser.

Cave was convicted of a DUI in 2010 as well as other minor traffic offenses. Nothing on her record indicates a violent background, Kaiser said.


Howard, however, has several convictions in Minnesota, including at least seven counts of theft and at least three counts of assault.

Investigators still have a lot of questions.

"They're not answering any. They're not really talking to us," Kaiser said of Cave and Howard. "They're waiting for attorneys."

It's not uncommon for suspects to wait for legal advice before speaking with officials, he said.

Bond was set at $450,000 cash each for Howard and Cave. Howard has requested a public defender. Cave plans to retain her own counsel. A second court date has not been set for the two.

A Class AA felony is punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment without parole.

Fear among community

Born in Ethiopia in 1993, Ahmed lived with his brother and family in refugee camps before immigrating. Like many Somali families, siblings, aunts, uncles and other relatives lose contact through the refugee and immigration process. Sometimes they don't hear from each other for years. That was the case for Ahmed and his half sister, Dini. She'd lost touch with him for 10 years.


"I'm losing him again, forever this time," she said through a translator.

Somali families here in Jamestown say they fear for their own safety although they don't know if Ahmed was targeted for his ethnicity. Many of them moved to Jamestown within the past year.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, many Muslims feared for their safety, Ghedi said. However, in most cases, interactions with Jamestown residents are welcoming and friendly, they said.

"We are already scared, and then this thing happened and we don't have answers," Ghedi said.

After Ahmed's death, some are reconsidering their residency.

"One hundred percent, I'm getting out of here," said Yurup Abdi, a friend of Ahmed's. A single mother, Abdi had considered moving but now plans to move by the end of the month.

Police seek help

The public continues to assist the Stutsman County Sheriff's Department with its investigation. Anyone with additional information is asked to call its office at (701) 252-9000.

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