On a quiet street in a neighborhood with an active homeowners association – where everything has its place – the new car stands out. Someone has parked it 3 feet from the curb, partly jutting over a driveway, with a window partly down.
No one realizes there’s a body tucked inside the dark gray 2017 Chevy Cruz LT.
Until a curious neighbor looks into the trunk.
It’s the senseless shooting of a 26-year-old pizza delivery man from Bangladesh, who had been enjoying good tips for his efficient work, who was perhaps joining the Air Force so he could become a pilot and eventually work for NASA – his American Dream.
The crime doesn’t look like a robbery to police, who tell his family that he still had money and his billfold.
The discovery of Hasan Rahman’s body is all the more disturbing to people in the Rockwood neighborhood because his body is found only 13 hours after and just three blocks away from where someone went into a home and shot to death Huong Pham, 62, and her son, Cody Ha, 23.
Rockwood residents say they can’t remember any other homicides on their oak forested streets in decades, if ever.
Some can’t help but think that three cold-blooded killings so close in time and space are related. At a neighborhood meeting, someone asks police whether the same kind of gun was used. The officers don’t say. Nor are investigators divulging whether there is a link but indicate that the mother and son’s killing weren’t random.
No matter what the motives or whether there is a link, “For something like this to happen in this neighborhood is just really crazy,” one woman says.
The concentration of unsolved killing fuels fears, makes some people wonder whether a serial killer is prowling east Wichita.
Curiosity leads to body
It’s Sunday, Nov. 26, and a woman notices the car parked haphazardly in front of a neighbor’s house in the 7800 block of East Pagent. That location is just across a creek southwest of the sprawling Dillons grocery store at Central and Rock. Her neighbor is out of town. The car window is partly down. She detects a smell, looks into the trunk and sees the body of a small, young man positioned around a contour of the trunk. Blood covers his face.
She begins to tremble and can’t speak as another woman approaches, walking a dog. The other woman peers inside and tells the first woman she needs to call police.
She collects herself, pulls out a cell phone and calls 911.
The trunk remains open when police arrive. As other neighbors watch the crime scene unfolding on the street, they can see a hand visible inside the trunk.
All of the neighbors who saw the car and provided description for this article asked that they not be identified because they are afraid.
One neighbor described the car as looking as if “someone just dumped the car and got out of it.”
Another said she noticed that the car had been parked in the same block on Saturday night. By Sunday morning, she recalled, it had been moved about 50 feet. It sat out from the curb, the trunk lid slightly ajar.
‘My best friend’
Abdulla Naim, 29, says he and Rahman were more than cousins. “He was my best friend.”
Rahman had recently scored well on a test for getting into the Air Force. He wanted to become a pilot, and his ultimate goal was to be a NASA astronaut, Naim says.
He was close to getting an engineering degree from Wichita State University and was applying to the University of Kansas. His mother – his parents are in Bangladesh – took out a loan to help him pay for college, Naim says.
Pizza delivery was a way for Rahman to pay the bills as he continued on his academic and career path. He liked the delivery job because he was good at it. He was an efficient driver who knew his way around, mostly delivering pizza from a store at Central and Rock, Naim says. He worked mostly Friday, Saturday and Sunday and preferred night work because the tips are better.
Rahman never expressed a fear of violence to his cousin. “He never had any issues with anybody.
“He was trying to fulfill his American Dream. He came here for a better future.”
‘In the dark’
According to Naim, Rahman went to work at 6 that Saturday night, Nov. 25. Police said he disappeared that night and that they were looking for him. Rahman made deliveries in the 1100 and 1300 blocks of North Williamsburg, a townhome development on 13th east of Oliver. It is about 3 miles from where his body was discovered.
Co-workers went to check on him after he didn’t return to work and found some Pizza Hut property in a yard on Williamsburg.
The killer attacked Rahman on Williamsburg before he and his car were moved to East Pagent, said police Lt. Todd Ojile, head of the department’s homicide unit. The pizza deliveries didn’t appear to be related to Rahman’s death, Ojile said. Residents on Williamsburg told police they didn’t see Rahman or anything that happened to him.
Police have told Rahman’s family that the crime didn’t appear to be a robbery, that he still had some cash in his pocket and his wallet, Naim says. Rahman’s cell phone was missing.
At a Nov. 27 briefing for news media, Ojile said of the killing: “This is out of the ordinary and strange. We’re looking at every angle of what could have happened or why this occurred.”
Investigators told the family they were hoping to learn from the built-in GPS on the car where it had traveled and were trying find where Rahman’s cell phone had last been used, Naim says.
In the Rockwood neighborhood, police have been asking residents to show them security camera video of anything that could be related to either Rahman’s killing or the killing of the mother and son three blocks away.
Rahman’s parents in Bangladesh “are in the dark like I am,” Naim says.
“They are curious (why) anybody there could harm him.”