LOS ANGELES - An Iraqi man found guilty of beating his wife to death in California because she wanted a divorce was jailed for 26 years to life on Monday.
Kassim Alhimidi, 50, was convicted of first-degree murder in April for killing 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi at their home outside San Diego, in what was initially thought to be a hate crime.
On Monday he told judge William McGrath that he would rather face the death sentence and have his remains sent to Iraq.
"I am not guilty," he said through a translator.
"I swear I am not guilty." Initially, police suspected the March 2012 killing was a hate crime after finding a note near the body saying: "This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist." But they subsequently alleged Alhimidi wrote it to confuse investigators.
Prosecutors said Alhimidi killed his wife - a mother of five - by hitting her at least six times in the head with a blunt object as she sat at a computer.
Alhimidi said he was out at the time, but surveillance cameras and a neighbour contradicted his claim.
Alawadi was taken off life support three days after her teenage daughter found her unconscious in their home near San Diego following an "absolutely brutal beating."
Upon hearing the guilty verdict in April, the couple's oldest son, Mohammed, stood up and screamed out profanities.
"My dad is innocent; he was tried unfairly," he said, before being escorted out.
On Monday he apologised to the judge saying: "I basically just lost both of my parents."
He also said he felt he was betraying his mother by forgiving his father.
"As much as I want to hate you, I can't," he told his father, adding: "I do forgive you, man."
Prosecutor Kurt Mechals read a letter from Alhimidi's daughter, Fatima.
"How could you kill someone who was always there for you?" she wrote.