Arson Case Briefs
provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
for more information on this Brief, contact:
ATF, Arson and Explosive Programs Division - (202) 927-7930
Kabob House Restaurant
Fargo, North Dakota
October 23, 1995
A. IN: 33410-96-0008 V
B. CASE AGENT: John Keating
C. FIELD DIVISION/OFFICE: Kansas City/Fargo
D. PHONE: 701-239-5176
Alan S. Dohrmann
Assistant Cass County State's Attorney
Fargo, North Dakota
On October 23, 1995, an arson fire occurred at the Kabob House Restaurant,
3051 25th Street Southwest, Fargo, North Dakota.
Prior to the fire, the defendant, Zhaleh Sarabakhsh, a native of Iran
and co-owner of the restaurant, claimed that during the previous few months
she had received various threats and "hate mail/paraphernalia"
indicating "hate crimes" against her and her family. These alleged
hate crimes consisted of messages stating that they were going to kill her
son and burn the rest of the family. She also received a small doll with
a swastika drawn on its midsection and yarn tied around its neck in a noose-like
fashion. In addition, swastikas were drawn on the restaurant doors.
North Dakota Century Code
Section 12.1-21-02, Arson
Section 12.1-21-02, Endangering by Fire or Explosion
Section 12.1-11-03, False Report to Law Enforcement
1. On October 23, 1995, at approximately 8:40 p.m., a fire occurred at
the Kabob House Restaurant. At the time of the fire, Sarabakhsh was found
by the front door of the restaurant with her wrists and ankles bound with
black tape, and her mouth was gagged with tape. Additionally, a rope tied
in a noose had been placed around her neck, and a large "X" had
been cut in her abdomen.
2. A subsequent crime scene search revealed the presence of four 1-gallon
plastic containers containing flammable liquid marked "Splash"
windshield washer fluid; plastic jugs; playtex gloves; and "Ruffies"
3. During a preliminary interview, Sarabakhsh, who had been taken to
a local hospital for treatment, stated that just prior to the fire two or
three individuals had entered her restaurant, come up behind her, and choked
her. Shortly thereafter, she had regained consciousness and found that she
had been bound and gagged. Sarabakhsh stated that she had been able to crawl
out to the front door, thus escaping the fire.
4. On October 26, investigators canvassed area Target stores, the exclusive
dealer for Splash windshield fluid and Manko plastic tape in the Fargo/Moorhead
area. This canvass, along with an examination of the transaction tapes,
revealed that on October 22, 1995, at 12:55 p.m., a customer had purchased
5 gallons of Splash windshield washer fluid; two rolls of Manko plastic
tape; one pair of playtex gloves; one box of Ruffies plastic garbage bags;
and a funnel.
5. On October 27, investigators interviewed a witness who gave a tentative
description of Sarabakhsh as the individual who had made the purchase.
6. On November 2, Sarabakhsh was reinterviewed and subsequently admitted
to purchasing the items, setting the fire, cutting herself with a knife
to make the arson appear to be a hate crime, and sending the threatening
letters to the restaurant.
7. On November 2, a State search warrant was executed at Atlas Company
Storage Facility, where Sarabakhsh stored personal belongings. During the
search, a word processor and large brown mailing envelopes (identical to
the ones used in the previous mailings of hate mail) were retained as evidence.
I. LEGAL ISSUES AND PROBLEMS: None.
J. VERDICT AND SENTENCING:
On June 7, 1996, after several psychiatric evaluations, Sarabakhsh was
found to be suffering from psychotic depression and not criminally responsible
for these crimes due to her mental condition. However, the Circuit Judge
ruled that Sarabakhsh presented a substantial risk of harm to others and
ordered that she be committed to the North Dakota State Hospital for a period
not to exceed 2 years.