Details of Disappearance Hamza was reported missing from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania on August 6, 2013. He lived with his mother, Zainab Gaal, and Gaal's boyfriend, Ummad Rushdi. His mother called the police to say she, her son and Rushdi had been visiting Rushdi's parents in the 6600 block of Chestnut Street in Upper Darby for the weekend when Rushdi took the baby and vanished. She suggested they went back to York, Pennsylvania, a town 90 miles away from Upper Darby where they lived.
A photo of Rushdi is posted with this case summary. He was arrested at his home in York at 2:30 a.m. on August 7 and charged with kidnapping and other offenses, but Hamza wasn't with him. He told the arresting officer the baby was "with God."
Authorities told the media they believed Hamza was dead, and launched a search for his body at sites in the York and Lancaster areas of Pennsylvania. After Rushdi abducted the baby he'd gotten his vehicle stuck in the mud near the intersection of Routes 30 and 441 in Columbia, Pennsylvania. Investigators believe he initially buried Hamza's body near that spot but moved it later. He asked two people for a ride, and they stated when he approached them he was carrying a copy of the Quran in one hand and a plastic bag in the other. Rushdi wound up going to church with the two witnesses and attending a Sunday School class with one of them, but left during a prayer session and started crying loudly in the hallway.
Rushdi allegedly told his brother he had killed Hamza by shaking him because the baby wouldn't stop crying. He has a prior criminal record for disorderly conduct, trespassing and making terroristic threats.
Gaal stated Rushdi had abused her, forced her into an illegal marriage ceremony and kept her captive, never allowing her to leave the house alone, and that he "tortured" Hamza and referred to him as "an idiot baby" and "a negative-energy baby." She and her child lived with him, his brother and some other relatives, and some boarders in the 900 block of Castle Pond Drive in York. Rushdi's mother's testified that Rushdi told her he wanted to "get rid of" Hamza, perhaps by taking him to his grandmother in Maine, and that he said, "If not, I will throw him off I bridge before I get there."
Late in August, Rushdi was additionally charged with Hamza's murder, as well as kidnapping to facilitate a felony and inflict injury or terror, concealment of a child's whereabouts, tampering with evidence, and abuse of a corpse. He confessed the murder to police, stating he wrapped the baby's body in a sheet and buried it under branches in the York, Pennsylvania area. He said they would never be able to find the body.
Authorities plan to seek the death penalty against him. In September 2017, Rushdi was declared incompetent to stand trial. Two mental health experts testified; one diagnosed Rushdi with a schizotypal personality disorder, and the other said he had schizophrenia. Rushdi was involuntarily committed to Norristown State Hospital until his competency could be restored. The case has been revisited several times, but each time he has still been deemed incompetent.
Foul play is suspected in Hamza's case due to the circumstances involved. His body has never been located.
- Upper Darby Police Department
Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated November 30, 2020; details of disappearance updated.