Sister feared slain woman’s husband

But ‘she loved him’ and wouldn’t leave

Nazish Noorani was killed Tuesday in Boonton, N.J. Her husband is accused of plotting her death. Nazish Noorani was killed Tuesday in Boonton, N.J. Her husband is accused of plotting her death.
By Akilah Johnson
Globe Staff / August 21, 2011

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BOONTON, N.J. - Lubna Choudhry begged her sister to leave her husband. He beat her, lied to her, and isolated her, Choudhry said. And eventually, police said, he conspired with a Massachusetts woman to kill her.

“I told her, but she loved him,’’ Choudhry said yesterday outside her father’s home moments after the family returned from praying over Nazish Noorani’s grave.

Noorani, 27, was gunned down Tuesday night in front of Choudhry’s home in this quiet town 30 miles outside of Manhattan while pushing her 2-year-old son in a stroller. She and her husband, Kashif Parvaiz, 26, had just left Choudhry’s house after breaking the Ramadan fast. He was shot in the shoulder and ankle.

At first, Parvaiz said the assailants were a white man, a black man, and another man who burst out of the darkness shouting “terrorists.’’ Then he said it was three black men.

Finally, he admitted to police that he had plotted with Antionette Stephen, 26, of Billerica, to kill Noorani. Parvaiz and Noorani, who had met Stephen, knew her as “Soni,’’ which means beautiful in a Pakistani language.

Originally from Brooklyn, Parvaiz moved to East Boston about a year ago, but his family did not follow, although Noorani visited him there occasionally. It was not clear yesterday why he moved.

“The last time she went to his house in Boston, my sister told me that [Stephen’s] name is on the mailbox,’’ Choudhry recalled yesterday outside their father’s home on Church Street, not far from her house.

When she asked her sister why, Noorani said: “No, it’s just my husband’s friend.’’

But the extent of their friendship took an awkwardly intimate twist when Noorani visited again. The couple went to the Best Buy where Stephen worked, Choudhry said. Before they entered, Parvaiz had a warning for his wife.

“He told her, ‘don’t tell anyone you’re my wife because here everyone knows I’m Soni’s fiance,’ ’’ Choudhry recalled.

Noorani asked him why he would say that, and Parvaiz told her it was “only for the discount.’’

“He’s a big liar,’’ said Choudhry, whose grief and shock have kept her from reentering her Cedar Street home, where her sister’s family shared a meal with her Tuesday night before she was killed just outside the house.

Noorani met the man who became her husband at a Brooklyn Pakistani festival more than six years ago, and they married soon after.

During their courtship, Noorani remained in Boonton, where she had graduated from high school and worked at the local A&P grocery store.

He would come and visit with her while she worked, according to her sister. Eventually, they fell in love, she said, and married at the local Knights of Columbus hall - just several hundred feet from the spot where she died from a bullet to the heart.

Noorani’s family is close and live near one another. Yesterday, Choudhry’s family was taking refuge inside the tan-and-brown multifamily house where their father lives. The sounds of children laughing inside could be heard through the open windows.

The memories of Noorani’s last moments and of her death are still too vivid inside of Choudhry’s home. The chicken wings, steaks, and gyro meat Noorani had bought specifically for her husband remain there.

“He told Nazish, ‘Let’s go for a walk. I ate too much,’ ’’ Choudhry recalled.

As they walked with their 2-year-old son, Noorani was fatally shot in the heart and Parvaiz was wounded.

The toddler was unharmed; their 5-year-old had remained in the house.

Noorani’s sons are now in the care of Parvaiz’s parents in Brooklyn.

A woman who answered the phone at the Brooklyn home of Parvaiz’s family said no one was available to comment.

After the shooting, authorities said Stephen sped away, down the hill toward Main Street, where traffic cameras recorded her blue Toyota Camry driving without its headlights on.

Within an hour of the shooting, investigators had pulled the tapes, spotted the car with Massachusetts license plates, and traced them to Stephen’s parents in Billerica, Mayor Cyril Wekilsky of Boonton said in an interview yesterday.

Wekilsky described the community he has called home for 50 years as a “stick-in-the-mud type of town.’’ The traffic cameras, he said, are to catch red-light runners, speeders, and the occasional hit-and-run driver - not suspects in slayings.’’

“We’re still trying to get our heads around it,’’ he said.

As details of Noorani and Parvaiz’s relationship emerged over the weekend, Stephen remained an enigma. Neighbors in Billerica described her parents as warm and generous but said they had rarely seen Antionette or her sister. Even the Stephens’ next-door neighbors had not known Antionette Stephen’s name until hearing news of her arrest.

The parents left the house yesterday morning to pick up the Camry, which investigators had towed away Friday, said a neighbor who only gave her name as Debbie. When the parents returned, they were crying, she said.

“I can’t believe it,’’ Debbie said she told Devarag Stephen, Antionette’s father.

“Neither can we,’’ he replied.

Yesterday afternoon, the family had gone to visit their daughter in the Framingham jail, where she is being held awaiting extradition to New Jersey, she said. The Stephens told neighbors they were temporarily leaving their home to avoid media attention.

In East Boston yesterday at the brick apartment building on Waldemar Avenue, where Parvaiz had been living, one resident said police came by in the morning.

Raul Santamaria, 55, who lives on the first floor, said he had opened the building’s door for about 10 detectives about 10:30 a.m. They entered Parvaiz’s apartment with the building manager’s key and searched for about 45 minutes but would not answer questions from residents, Santamaria said.

The last homicide in Boonton, a 2-square-mile town, was about 10 years ago, said the mayor, Wekilsky, and it also involved people who knew each other.

Boonton is the type of place where people grow up and stay to raise their families, he said. About 8,700 people live in the diverse, working-class community surrounded by some of New Jersey’s well-heeled communities.

About 5 to 7 percent of the population has Pakistani roots, he said, and residents get along peacefully.

Noorani’s funeral was held at the end of the first prayer service Friday, the Muslim day of observance and prayer.

Imran Ali, who recently opened a halal bakery on Main Street, attended the service at the Jama-e-Masjid Islamic Center, where he said the imam preached about forgiveness. The message was to combat trouble by staying focused on Allah and doing his will.

Ali, who did not know Noorani or Parvaiz, mourned the young mother’s death all the same.

The mosque was full. “I’ve never seen that many people,’’ he said.

The mayor, who attended the service, and Ali both called the turnout a testament to the bond in this close-knit community.

Globe correspondents Vivian Yee and Ben Wolford contributed to this report. Akilah Johnson can be reached at