Gunes Erdem had been looking for her husband and their special needs son since her husband left her a cryptic telephone message Monday night. He told her that he was sorry and that she should tell their daughters that it was an accident. Then he hung up.
Some 90 minutes later, Fikri Erdem was on the phone to 911.
On the 911 call, Fikri Erdem’s breathing is labored. He says “church” to the 911 operator, “in Lilburn.”
“Church parking lot,” he says. “In Lilburn, on Lawrenceville Highway. Big church.”
The 911 operator repeatedly asks him if he’s OK., if he needs paramedics.
“You sound like you’re kind of struggling to breathe,” she said.
He does not answer. He does not mention his son, Hakan, 12.
Gunes Erdem was on her way to the Lilburn police department to report her husband and son missing when she stopped at Lilburn’s First Baptist Church. Police quickly determined that the family members she was seeking were in a small pickup truck in the back corner of the church parking lot, parked among several church vans. Fikri Erdem was being transported to the hospital as his wife arrived; their son was already dead.
It is unclear why Fikri Erdem took his son to the church. It is near the family’s home, but they are not affiliated with it.
What may have led 42-year-old Fikri Erdem to cut his son’s throat with a large kitchen knife and then stab himself in the arms in an attempt to take his own life remains a mystery. Erdem is charged with one count of malice murder. Tuesday, he was hospitalized under police guard with non-life threatening injuries at Gwinnett Medical Center.
Hakan, a student at Sweetwater Middle School, was a special needs child who needed constant care, his mother told police. He yelled and screamed, and Fikri Erdem had been unable to sleep for 10 days.
The family is Turkish, and when Gunes Erdem answered the phone Tuesday evening, she said, “Sorry, I do not understand” in response to questions. Someone who answered the door of the family’s Remington Court home declined to comment. Police said they had no history of calls to the house.
The family survived a devastating experience in Lilburn in July 2011 when their house caught fire during a lightning storm, damaging the structure and displacing the family. No one was injured.
Mohommad Bhuyan, a neighbor, told Channel 2 Action News that he had known the family for a decade. He said he had heard Hakan screaming before, but that he was surprised by the killing. Fikri Erdem, he said, is “a good guy.”
“Sometimes screaming, I heard that sound, but he take care of him all the time,” Bhuyan said. “All the time, he take care of his son.”
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