Her Name Was Dalia Sabae

On Thursday, we learned that a police officer responding to a domestic call in the suburban borough of Canonsburg had been fatally shot. Another officer was seriously injured in the exchange of gunfire. The gunman then murdered his pregnant wife and killed himself.

It is a terrible tragedy – two people murdered, but a tragedy further compounded by the media’s hyperfocus on the fallen police officer and almost total disregard for the only person in this scenario who was not carrying a gun and also ended up dead.

Her name was Dalia Elhefny Sabae. She was 28 years old. She was born in Egypt, spent some time living in Moscow and has lived in the United States. According to her Facebook and LinkedIN pages, Dalia was fluent in three languages – American English · Français ·Arabic and proficient in three others – Hebrew, Spanish and Russian. Arabic was her native language. She was also bisexual, interested in both men and women. 

Dalia was a dancer. She had been an instructor and worked various jobs as she pursued her education. She earned a pharmacy degree in 2011 and was working on a master’s program through Washington & Jefferson College near her home. Dalia was a pharmacy intern at the time of her death.

She was a college athlete – basketball and track  – in Egypt. She was involved in theater.

This is all information she shared publicly on Facebook and LinkedIN. None of it made it onto the news with the sole exception of her Eyptian nationality. Even so, she was depicted over and over as a dead pregnant white woman. Period. Her PFA’s were dug up and explored, but not a single news outlet reported specifically that she was a woman of color, bisexual or even 28 years old. No outlet reported that she was an accomplished graduate student with an impressive level of fluency in six languages and many, many interests.

I’m not suggesting we not grieve the murder of a police officer responding to a call, but I am insisting that we give the ultimate victim the same degree of respect and attention. Ultimate victim doesn’t mean she was a super-victim, but simply that she was the only person in the scenario who wasn’t armed with a gun, the one who had been terrorized for months (at least) by her husband,  and the one whose coworkers feared would end up badly hurt or dead. Which she did.

I wonder a bit if the hyper-focus on the police is a way to sidestep the truth that most of the folks in Canonsburg are more likely to know a woman living with an abusive partner than to know a police officer who will be killed in the line of duty. To avoid acknowledging that the crisis of intimate partner violence is rampant in our society. That Canonsburg was never safe from murderous, gun-owning white men who think they own and control the women in their lives and have such little regard for the justice system that they disregard court orders and police commands.

To make matters worse, the media has been circulating a photo of her murderer-husband and her in an intimate pose. Even in death, she’s basically reduced to her relationship to him. That’s one reason there are no links in this story.

So here are some photos of Dalia that I found on her public profiles, photos of herself that she chose to share.

Dalia Sabae


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  • This article isn’t completely accurate. I live in Canonsburg and read just about article I have come across, I knew she was Egyptian, I knew her age and that she was working the pharmacy and taking college classes. Also I have not seen a single picture of her & her husband/killer together. The only 2 pictures of him I’ve seen are both him alone, one is a mug shot. Also the first pictures of her to hit the media were 3 of the ones you have here…

    • I have seen pictures of her and her husband together, although having worked in this field for quite some time, it is horrifying to families and friends to see pictures of their loved one together with the person who killed them. I’m personally not sure why anyone would want to see pictures of them together. This man terrorised her and took her life, so to see pictures of them together, only reveals to me, the hell she kept inside. It is better she be remembered for HER beautiful soul. He does not deserve the same respect.

  • I agree, I live in Canonsburg as well and they even recognized her at the vigil. The town is aware of her and who she is. I’ve also never seen a picture of her and the husband

  • I agree that the media is extremely misguided and prejudice. This was a senseless act of violence. However in your article you only point out that white gun toting white men perpetrate this type of violence, not true. This type of crime and abuse is committed by men of every race and ethnicity. What the true crime is here is that Dalia had several P.F.A.S against this man and the justice system failed her. May she and her unborn child rest in peace.

  • She was an Arab …. we don’t talk about them unless they’re terrorists . The ultimate hypocrisy of the human race in this day and age . A victim doesn’t fit that profile alas ….

  • Thank you for this! The entire time the news was on, I kept saying and what about the innocent woman who tried so hard to get away from this violent man, what about her??? Thank you for not forgetting about the loss of this beautiful woman’s life! Thank you for sharing her story.

  • I appreciate you giving more information about the life of this dear woman. I am from the area and grew up with the fallen officers wife. I agree she has been side stepped in this tragedy. I have also been a victim of domestic violence. And know what it’s like to be in a controlling relationship.

  • Thank you for posting. My only question is would you have been as kind to post on behalf of this precious mother to be if she had been heterosexual and Caucasian? Just curious. Beautifully written.

    • Hi Paula,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I wanted to share some things with you. As a professional social worker (MSW Pitt, c/o 2000), I had the privilege of starting my career working for an anti-domestic violence agency in McKeesport. I spent two years there (while I was in school, actually) and had a lot of direct contact with amazing women who were surviving. One day, I met a new client and she turned out to be a former high school classmate of mine (I won’t use her name here but she was white and straight). A few years later, I learned that she had been murdered by her boyfriend and left partially buried in an abandoned house. She wasn’t found for awhile. Her life and death have been powerful voices in my heart ever since then.

      In 2007, I was the first blogger to “live blog” a City Council hearing. It was about domestic violence and the Department of Public Safety. I’ve organized several days of blogging events to help survivors and to help the children left behind. I did a little internal search using the phrase “Domestic Violence” and found a lot of the posts I have written over the past 11 years – please freel free to read and share whatever resonates with you. http://www.pghlesbian.com/page/3/?s=domestic+violence

      Finally, I want to share with you something that I’ve spoken about on this blog quite a bit – the history of interpersonal violence in my own family. I grew up in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and 80s – a lot of the white straight men in my blue collar neighborhood hit their white straight wives. We all knew. It happened in my home and it happened in other homes in my family. It happened to me in the early 1990s when my then-boyfriend hit me and raped me. It isn’t easy to talk about, but I do it because it is so important that women know that they can ask for help. I grew up in a very typical working class steelworker (five generations and counting in the industry) family. Most of us were white and straight.

      When I began blogging about Dalia Sabae, I didn’t know her sexual orientation or much about her ethnic identity. I was drawn to her story because it was lost in the media coverage around the circumstances of her death. I learned about her identity by asking, by reading her words and looking at her images and reaching out to her friends. The erasure of Dalia’s sexual orientation and ethnicity is part of the story of the erasure of Dalia’s experiences from the larger media coverage. As women, we have an obligation to ask if the places where Dalia sought help were resourced adequately to support her. Are they well-funded? Are they secure? Do they have enough volunteer lawyers with experience working with women who are not born as US citizens? What do they need from us to do their important work?

      I hope you will continue to ask questions. If you have any more for me, please freel free to reach out again.

      Take care,

  • I think these posts are headed in the wrong direction entirely. The system has its flaws and we need better options and solutions; advocate for them. However, a PFA is not to put a sheild around someone so they are not abused. It is a piece of paper that is meant to deter violence and to provide action in the event it is violated. I’m tired of reading the system failed, he/she was wrong because they went back… place the blame where it belongs. This guy chose to shoot and kill Dalia, he chose to shoot and kill Scott and he chose to shoot and injure Jimmy. Until we start placing the blame where it belongs, and standing up against it, people will continue to die from DV. Domestic Violence Services will be at Citizens Library on Thursday, let’s become informed, let’s become proactive, let’s finally start placing blame where it belongs and become a more supportive network for victims to get out.

    • Domestic abuse is still not taken seriously. Our
      Lawmakers need to wake up. How many women
      have to die before we realize what we are doing is
      not enough? RIP Dalia.

  • The police needed family connection for her b4 they could say anything …family has to b notified first…so it was hard to release her info

  • Thank you for your recognition of this beautiful young woman!! I too was a victim of domestic violence and my heart has been breaking for her and the many other women who have lost their lives to the hands of their abusers…I was fortunate enough to escape and survive my abuser, the “white, blue collered man” who appeared “normal” to the public eye, but his intentions were to kill me. There have got to be some laws put into place to protect people from others that make these very credible threats!!! Let’s make some laws change in memory of this sweet lady!!

  • I have transcribed a laminated letter that someone wrote to Dalia yesterday and left in front of her house. I think I know who the man is who wrote it, but he clearly wrote this anonymously, so I wont say.
    Dear Dalia,
    How have you been obscured in the story of your murder? I understand that the death of a community’s policy officer is rightly a big story and having seen some of it myself, and perhaps had my life saved by it, I have incredible respect and appreciation for their heroism and sadness for the fallen officer’s family. Further, I understand that their is human interest in the perpetrators of terrible crimes. But, in this case – often – you are mentioned almost as an afterthought by the media: “Canonsburg officer killed in ambush,” “shooter had troubled past,” and – oh yeah – “he also killed his pregnant wife.”
    I thought maybe you would want someone to talk about some of the wonderful things you did and said and stood for as a human being. I hope this very small gesture pleases you. I hope you are happy and safe wherever the tides of this mysterious reality we live in take the consciousness, once separated from the body. I hope someone will somehow find this and be touched by your life and what you stood for, maybe even taking inspiration from it.
    I know you were alone in this country, with no family and few whom you could turn to for help. I know you were frightened but resolved to own that and you tried not to burden others. I know you love Michael and I saw what was in him that you loved, even though a demon of evil that had possessed him led him to terrible, deplorable things. I know you lived a belief that being happy and positive and responsible to others was the point of life and I know you worked hard to fulfill that, sometimes even while you were dealing with horribly complex and frightening situations.
    Thank you for the kindnesses and happiness you showed me, even though you were suffering.
    I will always be sorry for not crashing your boundaries and pushing past your refusals when I told you I was worried about your situation. I wish I had grabbed you by the shoulders and shook you until you relented and let me and others help you to just move out immediately.
    I think about how you might want to be remembered, even though I did not know you well. And this what I conclude:
    I think you would want people to know that despite all the complexities in your life, you worked hard at being happy and that you were a kind, sensitive, artistic and deep thinker. So I thought I would share some things that you said or that others said which you took to heart, which capture this beautiful aspect of who you are.
    “L’automne au coin du bois” was a childish French poem we used to study back in school when I was little… I am as old as I am now and when I see falling leaves, that poem is the only thing in my head … and I fully remember every word of it clearly, like it was just yesterday… even though I hardly remember what I ate for breakfast this morning. On my way to work this morning, I found this little girl playing wit the falling leaves and screaming out of happiness. I couldn’t help deciding to stop and take this picture, even though I was kinda late for work.
    I usually try to excuse people to furthest limit I could. I always feel what they go through is not their fault, and that they’re a victim of something else or someone else … a behavior they were taught, someone who hurt them in the past and made them that way, or circumstances that changed them into what they are… I don’t believe in the existence of a bad person, it’s more of different levels of human weakness to me that I try to understand.
    The best way to predict the future is to create it.
    Don’t wait until you have reached a goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of yourself every step of the way.
    Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures.
    Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?
    Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.
    Spending today worrying about yesterday won’t make tomorrow any better.
    I am not usually a politics person and discussing wars in general is disgusting to me but this is really amusing … while people keep having every year the same endless pointless argument about the Yom Kippur war (6th of October war) … just like it says two different results on Wikipedia according to what language you choose to read it in. People in the USA here yesterday name it to me “The war that someone won… like it matters” … that was the best I’ve heard.
    And the one time I decide to listen to an Arab radio station, the station decides to hit me with Dalida’s Salma Ya Salamo followed by Carole Samaha’s Washani Beladi, till I burst up crying in public.
    Focus on you and nobody else. Focus on getting healthier .. more successful at work … better looking … take care of yourself in every way… grab a paper and pen and write down how you want to see yourself in the future and work towards what is on that paper daily. Listen… guys … friends … your parents … etc. … nobody should be a major issue in your life… they will only drag you down.
    I hope that my grief over the terrible and terrifying ordeal that concluded your life is in some way a comfort to you as the essence of you departs us.
    Love, a neighbor

    • @John Blue
      Thank you for taking the time to transcribe and provide the loving letter left on Dalia’s steps. What a wonderful tribute to a beautiful soul.

  • I live in the area and see the same local news. I have only seen the local news, but it has not pictured her and the man together. His mug shot, and one of the photos above of Dalida. The mayor of Canonsburg spoke very well of her and reminded everyone that she was a victim of this evil man. And the community grieves. I wouldn’t expect people to know her private life with him, her neighbors. My neighbors don’t know what goes on behind my doors. Or my sexual preferences. I think that is irrelevant in knowing about her. Knowing about her life, birthplace, languages, family, work, education is what this woman is. Why does it need to be about her sexuality. This tragic situation should have never happened. The article is flawed and sensationalized.

  • I understand this woman is a victim. Very sad. However, I am quite alarmed that you feel that because a white police officer carries a gun to protect citizens (you, me, everyone) you are implying that he is less of a victim. Outrageous! Terrible view and terrible blog post.

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