When Fatoumatta Jallow was buried after her murder in December 2016, and when the man who killed her went to trial this week, one important person was missing from her family at both events — her mother.
When Jallow came to Madison from the West African nation of Gambia less than a year before her death, she left behind the woman who raised her, her mother, Fatoumata Binta Jallow, said Sankulay Jallow, father of Fatoumatta Jallow and ex-husband of Fatoumata Binta Jallow.
But since his daughter died, he said, the U.S. government has denied Fatoumata Binta Jallow a visa to travel to the U.S. to mourn her only child, who was killed on Dec. 21, 2016, in a shooting at a group home for people with brain injuries on Madison’s East Side. Fatoumatta Jallow was one of two people working at the REM Wisconsin group home on Kevins Way that night, helping care for three residents, when Ali Hassan, 26, who also worked for REM, came to the group home and shot her, along with her co-worker, Julie Connors.
Jallow, 23, was shot to death in the basement of the group home, while Connors, who was shot when she went to investigate the sound of gunfire in the basement, survived.
Hassan testified at his trial on Thursday that he doesn’t remember the shootings, but admitted that he committed them.
Fatoumata Binta Jallow hasn’t been able to come to Wisconsin to see her daughter laid to rest, said Samba Baldeh, a Madison City Council member and the cousin of Fatoumatta Jallow.
“She didn’t get to come here to pay her respects to her daughter,” Baldeh said.
The reason that was given, Baldeh said, was that Fatoumata Binta Jallow, who lives in the city of Serekunda, Gambia, where she works as a cleaner at a hospital, hadn’t provided enough proof that she would return to Gambia after her visit to the U.S. was supposed to end.
Sankulay Jallow, who has lived in Madison for about 20 years and became a citizen about 13 years ago, said his former wife told him that she has no intention to come to the U.S. to stay.
“It’s really devastating to her,” Sankulay Jallow said. “She doesn’t sleep at night. I talk to her almost every day.”
The family is Muslim, Baldeh said, and according to tradition, for Fatoumatta Jallow’s mother to have peace she needs to see where her daughter is laid to rest.
Fatoumata Binta Jallow also would have liked to have attended the trial, and she wants to be able to provide testimony when it’s time to sentence Hassan.
“It’s important that she be able to say what (her daughter) wanted to be in life and what her daughter was in life,” Sankulay Jallow said. “But also, for justice to be really done.”
He said it hurts the family that Fatoumata Binta Jallow can’t be here with them.
“When I think about it, it’s hurting me a lot,” he said. “Plus, my daughter is gone.”
The family has tried to appeal to the office of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin for help and has hired a lawyer.
But despite letters to the embassy from the family’s lawyer and the Dane County District Attorney’s Office, the embassy said “no” again last month after interviewing Fatoumata Binta Jallow at the embassy in Banjul, Gambia.
“They didn’t tell us a reason,” Sankulay Jallow said, frustrated.