Hurricane Katrina Hero Wanted Ex-Wife, 2 Others Dead, Police Say

Abdulrahman Zeitoun allegedly wanted wife, two others dead.

ByABC News
August 10, 2012, 10:36 AM

August 10, 2012— -- A New Orleans man whose heroics and mistaken arrest after Hurricane Katrina were chronicled in a critically acclaimed book is facing charges he solicited an inmate to kill his ex-wife, her son and another man.

Abdulrahman Zeitoun, 54, was booked on three counts of solicitation of murder on Thursday.

The Syrian-born Zeitoun spent the days after Hurricane Katrina rescuing neighbors from his secondhand tin canoe and handing out water, until he was wrongfully arrested for looting.

Zeitoun spent 23 days locked up without a hearing or the chance to let his wife, who had been evacuated, know he was safe. The Zeitoun family's story was chronicled in the 2009 nonfiction book "Zeitoun," written by Dave Eggers.

The book details the loving, rock-solid marriage between the couple, who share a belief in Islam, and the panic Kathy Zeitoun spent after the storm, worrying about whether her husband had survived.

However, in the years since it was published, the seemingly perfect marriage has unraveled.

Abdulrahman Zeitoun was placed on probation for a March 2011 attack on his wife. The assault prompted Kathy Zeitoun to file for divorce, which was finalized last year.

Zeitoun was arrested again last month after he attacked his ex-wife, violating a protection order. According to police, he tried to strangle Kathy Zeitoun on a New Orleans street on July 25.

Zeitoun, who has been in jail since the incident, is accused of soliciting an Orleans Parish inmate to kill Kathy Zeitoun, her son from a previous marriage and another man who frequently accompanied her on outings, said New Orleans police spokesperson Remi Braden.

Inmate Donald Pugh told police that Zeitoun provided him with Kathy Zeitoun's cellphone number and a detailed plan of how he was to pose as a prospective tenant for one of her rental properties. He was then told to kill her and the two other men once inside the vacant home, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

In order to collect the $20,000 bounty, the murders had to occur while Zeitoun was locked up on his probation violation to ensure he would not be a suspect, the newspaper reported.

Dave Eggers, author of the bestselling novel, and Jonathan Demme, a filmmaker who has expressed interest in making the book into an animated film, issued a joint statement and said they have been in daily contact with Kathy Zeitoun since the July 25 attack.

"Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of Kathy and the children. As the investigation proceeds, we hope that you will join us in respecting the Zeitoun family's privacy at this difficult time," they wrote.

Zeitoun is being held on $999,000 bond for the solicitation to murder charges and $150,000 for the domestic abuse charge.