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Petra Muhammad

May 6, 2012

Petra Muhammad

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke

Who would speak for you if you could not speak for yourself?  We all would like to believe that someone would step forward for us, take our part, if we could not. But women whose partners abuse them often have no one to speak for them because their abuser purposely isolates them, cuts them off from family and friends. Abused women often feel they have nowhere to turn. Petra Muhammad not only was an abused woman, she had no close family ties in this country.  It is easy to make a person disappear if there is no one to look for her.

I emailed Petra Muhammad’s uncle in Belgium. Because of language difficulties, we were not able to get into a very in depth conversation. But I understood what he wanted. He wanted someone to care enough about Petra so she would not be forgotten and the search for her would not end until she was found. This may sound overly simplistic: I don’t want the bad guy to win. The police continue to call Petra’s husband a “person of interest” in this case. If we stand by and do nothing, someone will have gotten away with a heinous crime. Please read Petra’s story and talk about it. Tell people she is still missing. I believe there is someone, somewhere, who may have a clue to where Petra is or how she disappeared.

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Though you would never know it from her cheerfulness and determination, Petra Muhammad’s life did not begin easily. Petra was born in Grenada and was adopted by her family as an infant. She spent her childhood years in the care of different relatives. At 14 she moved to Trinidad. When she was 22, she went on vacation to New York City and met her future husband, William Jackson, who would later change his last name to Muhammad when he converted to Islam. William was a kind, considerate man who, like Petra, wanted to wait until marriage to begin a sexual relationship. Petra was smitten with him and his old fashioned values. Petra returned to Trinidad but could not get the handsome man out of her mind. Two years later she returned to New York and married William. They moved to Highland Falls, near William’s family, to start their life together. Petra was thrilled. She was finally going to have the close, loving family she always wanted.

<A year after their marriage, Petra became pregnant. It was a difficult pregnancy. William was now working in Washington, D.C. leaving his wife in Highland Falls. As the pregnancy progressed, Petra had to be hospitalized due to complications. Her husband was not there for support. The couple began to bicker and the marriage started to show serious signs of strain. William was becoming angrier and Petra was feeling emotionally abandoned. Petra began to visit family in the Bronx and complain about her husband. Petra claimed her husband was becoming abusive. Back together in Highland Falls, after the baby was born, Petra claimed things got even worse. The couple finally decided to throw in the towel and in July 2005, William filed for divorce. In September, Petra followed suit and requested an order of protection from her husband. She claimed that her husband had abused their child and threatened to kill her. She testified in court that William had told her he hadn’t killed her yet because he couldn’t find a place to dispose of her body. While both agreed they wanted the divorce, the point of contention became the couple’s son. They both wanted full custody. William wanted to raise his son as a true and faithful Muslim. Petra claimed her husband wanted to raise her son as a bigot and train him to “kill white people”.

While the divorce and custody fight plodded forward, Petra began to put her life back together. She got a job, part-time, at the United States Military Academy at West Point as a cashier. She signed up for classes at the local community college. She found an apartment and planned to meet the landlord to sign the lease. Once her divorce was finalized, Petra felt her life could finally move in the right direction.

On January 11, 2006, the Muhammads had a court date regarding their divorce. Neither of them showed up in court. The case was rescheduled to January 24th. On January 24, 2006, neither of the Muhammads again showed up for their day in divorce court. No one realized at this time, Petra had already been missing for almost two weeks. William had not filed a missing person’s report. The judge dismissed the case. On February 24, 2006, Petra missed a family court date regarding harassment charges she leveled against her husband. Even though no one showed, the judge ordered Child Protective Services to check on the welfare of the child.

It slowly became evident to family members in the Bronx they had not heard from Petra in awhile. They tried to contact her. Concerned, they called police to do a welfare check. That last time anyone remembered seeing Petra was on January 7, 2006. She had paid some bills, visited the mall and was seen by a relative entering the house she still shared with William.

When the police questioned William, he said he had no idea where his wife was. He assumed she had finally taken off for good. He did not report her missing because he didn’t realize she was missing. After all, they were in the middle of a contentious divorce and he just assumed she finally got her own place and moved on. The disturbing point, however, was that Petra left behind her son and all her belongings. If she was “moving on” wouldn’t she have taken her personal belongings with her? Wouldn’t she have taken her son? Why would she miss the court dates that would have freed her from William and defined custody arrangements?

The police conducted an extensive search in March 2006 in the home the Muhammad’s. Nothing suggesting Petra’s whereabouts was found. However, the police found a doll in Petra’s seat in the kitchen with a noose around its neck. As to date, the police have followed hundreds of leads and searched extensively for Petra. Not one clue to whereabouts has been found.

Why didn’t Petra show up for her court dates? Why didn’t William show up for his court dates? Did he know that Petra would also not show and the cases dismissed? If Petra left the country why hasn’t she contacted anyone as to where she is? Where is Petra?

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