Family members of Samira Salmassi lost a custody battle yesterday in Howard County Circuit Court over the Ellicott City woman who has been in a vegetative state since her ex-husband choked her last year.
Judge Dennis M. Sweeney ruled that members of the family, who live in Ohio, were too far away to be responsible for the immediate decisions that might be needed for Salmassi's care at a Baltimore rehabilitation hospital. Salmassi, 40, will remain in the custody of the state Department of Social Services.
Members of the Salmassi family said they want to appeal the ruling. Salmassi's family also said they want to take guardianship of the couple's three children, who remain in the custody of Milton Hershey School, a boarding school in Hershey, Pa.
"First we lost the kids, now we are losing our sister," said a teary-eyed Simi Salmassi, the woman's sister. "I'm upset they did not give that to us; we are her family."
Salmassi's ex-husband, Ghafour Asemani, was sentenced this week to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree attempted murder in the July 9, 2005, assault.
After the brief guardianship hearing yesterday morning, Sweeney said he advised Salmassi's family and state officials to work together in overseeing Salmassi's care and return to court later to decide on issues such as do-not-resuscitate orders.
Because of privacy policies, Elyn Jones, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Resources, could not comment on the details of the Salmassi case, but she said the department has about 380 adults under its guardianship. Salmassi remains at the Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center & Hospital in Northwest Baltimore.
"The agency will work with the family and the medical professionals," Jones said. "It's done for the best interest of the individual."
Salmassi suffered irreversible brain damage caused by oxygen loss when Asemani choked her. The couple divorced in 2002 after 10 years of marriage but had decided to live together with their children at an apartment in Ellicott City.
Asemani, who believed his ex-wife was seeing other men, taped her phone conversations and confronted her about the recordings that July morning, according to the statement of facts from the case. Asemani told investigators that he struck his wife with the tape recorder and strangled her in the bathtub, according to the document.
Sima Salmassi said family guardianship is the best solution for her sister.
"I think her family should be making the medical decision, not somebody who does not know her," she said.