Wael Ali's family and friends stood by him when he was accused of killing his identical twin brother, Wasel, by strangling him with his bare hands in a fit of anger.
But investigators considered him a lead suspect as they mulled the location where the 19-year-old's body was found, in a strip of woods near the Mall in Columbia, in Maryland, where they and childhood friends had played, and recent trouble the two young men had been in together. Allegedly angry at being implicated by his brother in a work-related shoplifting scheme to which police say Wasel admitted, Wael was sent by their father to pick his brother up after Wasel was fired, the Washington Post reports.
Wasel never returned home. A little over four years later, on Sept. 15, 2011, Wael was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Insisting on his innocence in the Howard County case, he spent months in jail before the case finally went to trial. The prosecution wove together a web of circumstantial evidence, but there was no weapon and no DNA evidence—identical twins share the same DNA. The jury deliberated for 21 hours but couldn't reach a verdict.
The government declined to retry Wael Ali, 24, but officials say they haven't closed the case against him even though he was released from jail in April.
Meanwhile, Wael Ali and his family say, his own presence at family gatherings is a constant reminder of his dead twin's absence. Living under the continuing suspicion of others outside the family, the surviving brother tells the newspaper, isn't as hard as looking in the mirror. Every time he does, he sees his brother.