18-year old with violent past killed Uber driver, then shot himself as he fled the scene, prosecutors say

CHICAGO — Mohammed Al Hijoj came to America from Jordan 15 years ago and got to work. He was working toward his doctorate and owned part of a small limo company. It was while working in his limo, a Cadillac Escalade, that Al Hijoj was murdered in Chicago on December 3.

Yesterday, prosecutors charged 18-year-old Zayin Kelly, who’s on juvenile probation for robbery and served time in the juvenile justice center for carjacking in 2021, with killing Al Hojoj after ordering a ride with him via Uber.

Al Hijoj picked Kelly and three others up near Kelly’s home and pulled over to drop them off in the 1700 block of North Lotus around 5:36 p.m., Assistant State’s Attorney Anne McCord said Tuesday, according to a transcript of Kelly’s detention hearing.

“There’s a level of trust [with Uber] that who you are picking up is not going to rob you and murder you. This is precisely what this defendant did,” McCord claimed.

Seated in a parked car nearby, a witness saw someone climb from the back seat to the front seat of Al Hijoj’s SUV as he raised his hands, and another occupant of the car patted him down. As the witness ran into his home, he heard a gunshot and told his wife to call 911.

The 39-year-old limo driver, shot in the right arm and right chest, died.

Zayin Kelly and Mohammed Al Hijoj (Chicago Police Department, @CPD1617Scanner)

As Kelly and his accomplices bailed out of the Cadillac, Kelly accidentally shot himself in the right thigh and dropped the murder weapon outside the limo, McCord said.

This story is made possible by contributions to the Cook County Courtroom Transparency Fund.

“Call 911! I shot my leg,” he screamed, according to audio captured by a nearby surveillance camera.

Kelly went home, threw his hoodie away, put on a different hoodie, and asked a neighbor to take him to the hospital, McCord said. He didn’t have an explanation when the police asked what happened to him.

Back at the crime scene, Chicago police recovered the murder weapon and followed a blood trail from the Cadillac to Kelly’s home, McCord alleged.

DNA testing on the blood trail and Kelly’s bloody hospital gown allegedly matched with a certainty of one in 13 octillion. That’s 13, followed by 27 zeroes.

McCord pointed to other evidence: the shooting was caught on video, a casing jammed in the gun found outside the limo matched the two casings found inside the car, and the fateful Uber ride was ordered by an account associated with Kelly.

Serving as Kelly’s attorney on Tuesday, Assistant Public Defender Joseph Crawford argued that the DNA suggests Kelly was at the scene but does not necessarily mean he is the person who killed Al Hijoj. He pointed out that McCord provided no evidence that Kelly’s DNA or fingerprints were found on the gun.

Unswayed by those arguments, Judge David Kelly granted the state’s detention petition on charges of first-degree murder, murder during the commission of a forcible felony, and armed robbery with a firearm.

Original reporting you’ll see nowhere else, paid for by our readers. Click here to support our work.

About Tim Hecke 252 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com