TULSA, Okla. (AP) — When an Oklahoma man befriended his Lebanese neighbors, his husband lashed out at the family, hurling epithets and at one point allegedly running over the mother with a car.
Stephen Schmauss leans on his walker and his cane as he talks at the front door of his home in Tulsa, Okla., Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. Schmauss’ husband, Stanley Majors, is accused in the murder of neighbor Khalid Jabara. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
The conflict went on for years until Aug. 12, when, authorities say, Stanley Majors shot and killed Khalid Jabara, whom his husband had come to think of as a kind of apprentice.
“He killed my best friend,” Stephen Schmauss lamented.
The case received a brief mention in the presidential campaign from Hillary Clinton, who said her “heart breaks” for Jabara’s loved ones. She shared a Facebook post Thursday from the family and urged the country to unite “to ensure that no other family loses a beloved son or daughter because of prejudice and bigotry.”
Schmauss told The Associated Press that he took the 37-year-old Jabara under his wing after the family arrived in the south Tulsa neighborhood. Schmauss said he trained Khalid to use power tools and to take apart computer circuitry when he came over on some afternoons.
His husband was never so welcoming. He repeatedly referred to the Jabara family as “filthy Lebanese,” ”dirty Arabs” and “Moo-slems.” They are actually Christian.
Majors, 61, “was never what you would call a friendly neighbor,” said Khalid’s brother, Rami Jabara. Majors was verbally abusive and sent the family abusive letters and email.
This Aug. 12, 2016 booking photo released by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office shows Stanley Majors, who has been jailed in connection with the death of his neighbor Khalid Jabara. (Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
Lebanese immigrants have long been a visible part of the Oklahoma population, with many making their living as merchants, restaurateurs and grocers.
Khalid Jabara’s mother, Haifa, said Majors’ venom was not reserved solely for her family. He would insult the lawn crews she hired, some of whom were Black or Hispanic. She recalled him using the N-word to taunt them as they mowed.
“He’s the racist,” Haifa Jabara pointed to Majors’ house, the grief in her voice still evident.
Schmauss tried to explain away Majors’ comments: His husband, he said, is “textbook bipolar” and a diabetic who refuses to take any medication.
“Anything that was said was done under the bipolar situation,” Schmauss said.
The abuse between the neighbors escalated to the point where Haifa Jabara obtained a protective order in 2013 that required Majors to stay 300 yards away and prohibited him from possessing any firearms until 2018. Majors — who had a 2009 felony conviction from California for threatening a crime with intent to terrorize — seemed undeterred.
“It’s just a piece of paper to some people. A judge said you can’t do these things,” said Tulsa Police spokesman Leland Ashley. There’s a segment of the population that won’t adhere to the order “unless they’re behind bars.”
Despite the court order, Majors was accused of plowing his car into Haifa Jabara last September. She suffered a broken shoulder, among other injuries. After Majors struck her, he kept driving. Officers who stopped him later reported that he was intoxicated.
While awaiting trial on assault and battery charges, a judge freed Majors from jail on $60,000 bond, overruling strong objections by Tulsa County prosecutors, who called him “a substantial risk to the public” and pleaded with the court to set a higher bond of $300,000.
Schmauss, 76, has been married to Majors for barely two years. He said his husband started Aug. 12 on a violent note, smacking him in the eye and pounding his wrist. Schmauss fled to a local motel for the rest of the day.
Before Schmauss fled, he watched as Majors emptied at least five rounds from a handgun inside the couple’s home, sending bullets in every direction. One hit the bed, another struck the carpet. A third shattered a cellphone. Then Majors reportedly tucked the weapon in the back of his shirt.
Hours later, Khalid Jabara was found mortally wounded on his front doorstep. Police are still investigating the motive.
“Every concern and fear in this family seems to have manifested itself,” Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said. “The system seems to have failed Khalid and his family, and we can and should be doing more.”
Majors is now being held without bond in the county jail on a first-degree murder complaint. No formal charges have been filed. Calls to his attorney were not returned.
On Friday, a group of friends and neighbors built a surprise memorial display in the Jabara family’s front yard, with dozens of flowers, ferns and a Lebanese cedar tree, all circled around a statue of St. Francis of Asssisi.
“I want them to think of this as a place where Khalid lived, not the place where Khalid died,” said longtime family friend Rania Nasreddine.
Schmauss, shifting his weight between a cane and metal walker in his foyer, said he viewed Khalid as a sort of woodworking apprentice. But his husband, who often went by the nickname Vern, could never accept the friendship.
“Vern told me this time and time again,” Schmauss said. “Vern told me that I am not to have any friends, and he repeated it over and over. I guess he was the only one who could have friends.”
So why marry that kind of man?
“Because he wanted to,” Schmauss said. “If I wasn’t going to, he was going to kick me out of the house.”