BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Sitora Yusifiy thought her marriage to Omar Mateen was behind her, but a phone call Sunday morning quickly turned her quiet life upside down.
She woke up Sunday morning to news she couldn’t believe: her ex-husband, Omar Mateen, was identified as the mass shooter behind a deadly nightclub attack in Orlando.
“I was devastated and shocked, I started shaking and crying,” said Yusifiy.
Yusifiy, now happily engaged and living in Boulder, said her marriage to Mateen started out normal, but within four short months she started looking for a way out.
“He was not allowing me to speak to family, keeping me hostage from them, and I tried to see the good in him, even then,” said Yusifiy.
“He would get mad out of nowhere. That’s when I started worrying about my safety, and then after a few months, he started abusing me, physically,” she said.
Cut-off from her family and friends, Yusifiy’s family sensed something wasn’t right, and traveled to Florida to help her escape. But she says Mateen didn’t give her up without a fight.
“My family literally rescued me,” Yusifiy said. “The night they were there, they had to pull me from his arms. They bought an emergency flight, and I left all my belongings.”
During her brief marriage, Yusifiy says Mateen became increasingly unstable and disturbed, but never showed signs of being an Islamic extremist.
“He did follow religion, he did practice and have his faith,” Yusifiy said.
Even though she hadn’t spoken to Mateen in at least seven years, she said it’s hard to know she was once married to the man behind the worst mass shooting in America, a brutal attack on innocent souls.
“I pray for their healing and I pray for their peace,” Yusifiy said.