A grieving family mourning the loss of their daughter apparently to drug use is still upset over what they consider to be a law enforcement lapse in failing to prosecute the individual they blame for her drug habit.
But the police agency says that, while they empathize with the family, no evidence was found linking the suspected drug purveyor to the young woman’s death.
The unfortunate outcome is all the more tragic since, according to her ethnic Algerian parents, Fadila and Michael Menour Bacha, their daughter, Latifa, was a model citizen before her exposure to narcotics, leading to her premature death at age 27 in Jersey City in late June 2021.
Practicing Muslims, Fadilla and Michael Menour are members of Al-Tawheed Islamic Center in Jersey City. Kamel Haddouche, who manages the center, said the parents are “suffering day to day” and that they visit their daughter’s grave twice a week.
“They are looking for some justice,” Haddouche said. “They feel they didn’t get the truth about the case.”
Michael Menour Bacha, a retired elevator technician, described his daughter as a quiet person who was too trusting of casual acquaintances and not strong enough to resist unscrupulous people who took advantage of her.
Her vulnerability to these outside influences ultimately overtook a serious approach to academia and the workplace, he said. After the family settled in Kearny, Latifa attended Washington Elementary School and graduated with honors from Kearny High School.
Later, Latifa enrolled at Hudson County Community College in hopes of getting a degree in criminal justice while working part-time as an assistant for a private therapist in Harrison, her father recalled.
But all that began to fall apart, he said, in September 2019 “when she met one guy from Jersey City who showed her how to use some bad substances which destroyed her health, morals, and (led to) her death.”
At the same time, he said, “she stopped going to the college and cashed out her tuition money to pay for her bad (drug) habit.”
Meanwhile, he added, that same Jersey City man persuaded her to shoplift or “(have) sex to pay for drugs … until her energy was drained and (she was ) feeling always ill.” Bacha also suspected his daughter was being beaten. “She would sometimes come back home with bruises on (her) arms, feet, even on (her) neck…,” he said.
Latifa entered a drug rehabilitation program, but it didn’t work, said Bacha.
The disturbing chain of events continued, her father said, until June 30, 2021, when Kearny police came to his home to tell him and his wife that Latifa had been found dead in a Jersey City hotel.
Michael Menour Bacha remains convinced that the Jersey City man was with his daughter at the hotel and that, even though Latifa “wasn’t feeling good and (was) vomiting,” he left her and “never called (for) medical assistance….”
He says he and his wife cannot understand why the man was never criminally charged in connection with Latifa’s death. He says they will “persist to find out the cause of our daughter’s death….”
An autopsy determined that Latifa’s death was partly caused by drugs but was accidental in manner, according to a source familiar with the situation who requested anonymity.
The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, when asked about the incident, released the following statement: “We again wish to express our condolences to the family impacted by this tragic and untimely death. The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office and the Jersey City Police Department fully investigated this matter and found insufficient evidence that would support any criminal charges.”
Haddouche said Fadila Bacha has talked to several of the other mothers at the Islamic center about the family’s experience in the hope they can be spared the anguish the Bachas have lived through.
The center is actively lending comfort and support to the family, Haddouche said. “As Muslims, we’re doing our best to help people.”