ORLANDO, Fla. - Prosecutors paint her as an accomplice to one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, but Noor Salman's attorneys claim she didn't know the terror her husband, Oman Mateen, planned to unleash at Pulse nightclub.
"I was unaware of everything," Salman told The New York Times in a November, 2016 article.
Most of what is commonly known about Salman’s personal life and her marriage to Mateen is from that November 2016 New York Times interview, her first and only interview before or after her arrest.
Now, Salman, 31, is charged with aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors allege she knew about Mateen's plan to orchestrate a mass shooting in Orlando and even helped him prepare for it.
Her attorneys, however, say she was an unwitting accomplice in fear of her husband.
In court documents trying to get bond, her lawyers laid out Salman's life story and how it might help explain her actions.
Salman is of Palestinian decent and grew up in Southern California with her three sisters. Her parents emigrated to the U.S from the West Bank.
Her defense attorneys say Salman grew up with learning disabilities.
"In school, Noor struggled with learning disabilities and was enrolled in special education classes, but was able to graduate high school," court records show.
She attended Heald College, where she obtained an associate degree in medical administration. Around the same time, at 19 years old, she was in an arranged marriage, to a man from her father's hometown. According to court records, she said her first husband was abusive to her and they divorced in 2009.
Then, in 2011, Salman met Mateen on the online dating site Arab Lounge and the two were married not long after.
"I thought he was the whole package," Salman told The New York Times.
It was Mateen’s second marriage. Sitora Yusufiy, Mateen’s ex-wife, told CNN that he was controlling and abusive throughout their relationship. After a few years of marriage, she left in 2009 with the help of her family. Yusufiy, an Uzbekistan immigrant, now lives in Colorado.
Not long after Salman and Mateen married, Salman was pregnant and moved with Mateen to Fort Pierce, where his parents lived. They had one child together, a boy, who was born around the same time Salman told The New York Times that Mateen became abusive.
Right after her arrest, her uncle Al Salman spoke of the abuse.
"He's physically abusing her, but she said, 'He's going to take my son if I leave,'" Al Salman said.
Salman told the Times that she moved around after the June 12 massacre to avoid the media. After the shooting, she changed her son's last name. She was arrested in the California Bay Area, where she had been staying with family.
Soon, a jury will decide if Salman was just an unwitting accomplice who stayed with Mateen for the sake of their son or if she was a key player in his plot.
"We believe in her," Al Salman said. "When she said, 'I'm innocent. I have no idea what that crazy guy doing,' we know that."
Salman's trial begins March 1 in Orlando. For updates on the proceedings, visit ClickOrlando.com/NoorSalmanTrial.
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