Los Angeles: A California man was charged with murder on Wednesday for the 2015 drowning of his two severely autistic sons after he drove off a pier in order to collect on insurance policies.
Ali Elmezayen's 13-year-old and eight-year-old were strapped in the back of his Honda sedan as it plunged off the commercial wharf in San Pedro, south of Los Angeles.
The 44-year-old has also been accused of trying to kill his wife Raba Diab, who was saved by a fisherman throwing a flotation device as the suspect swam to a ladder on the dock.
The couple's eldest son, who suffered from a milder form of autism, was away at camp at the time of the tragedy.
Elmezayen, who was arrested in November and is being held without bail, also faces federal insurance fraud charges in connection with the crash.
He told investigators he did not know why he drove off the pier and that he may have mistakenly pressed the accelerator instead of the brake or may have had an "evil inside me that pushed me to go."
The Egyptian national collected more than USD 260,000 from two companies, even though he told investigators he had no life insurance policies on his sons, according to court documents.
Authorities said Elmezayen transferred most of the money to Egypt and about USD 80,000 was seized from his US account.
His trial on nearly two dozen federal charges, including mail and wire fraud, is set to start September 3.
He will then be tried in state court on the murder and attempted murder charges for which prosecutors could seek the death penalty.
The prosecutor's office in Los Angeles initially declined to file charges, citing a lack of evidence.
But further investigation led to the latest indictment.
"This case alleges a calculated and cold-hearted scheme to profit off the deaths of two helpless children," US Attorney Nick Hanna said when the federal charges were handed down in November.
"The alleged conduct shocks the conscience, and we will use every tool available to us to ensure that justice is done."