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Montgomery County man convicted of first-degree murder in beating of his girlfriend

Nicholas Forman, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Sabrina Harooni.

Closing arguments in the murder trial of Nicholas Forman concluded Thursday in Montgomery County Court. Forman, 24, is accused of beating his girlfriend to death in February 2020.
Closing arguments in the murder trial of Nicholas Forman concluded Thursday in Montgomery County Court. Forman, 24, is accused of beating his girlfriend to death in February 2020.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

A Montgomery County man who investigators say fatally beat and strangled his girlfriend and then filmed a video taunting her as he stood over her body was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday.

Nicholas Forman had no reaction as the jury’s verdict was read before Common Pleas Court Judge William Carpenter. He was sentenced shortly after to life in prison, the mandatory sentence for a first-degree murder conviction.

As the four-day trial in the death of Sabrina Harooni, 22, drew to a close, Forman’s lawyer Michael John said that while his client killed Harooni, he did so in the heat of a jealous rage over a text she received from another person.

“He was selfish and criminal, and it is homicide,” John told the jury in his closing arguments. “But it was not his plan. He didn’t intend to kill her. He failed, and he failed miserably.”

Forman, 24, was charged with first- and third-degree murder in the February 2020 slaying of Harooni, whom prosecutors say he killed after an outing at PJ Whelihan’s, a local bar, to watch the Super Bowl. The next morning — after Harooni had died — Forman loaded her body into an Uber and took her to Pottstown Hospital, authorities said. There he lied, telling nurses and later police that she had been attacked by a group of girls that had followed them home from the bar, according to law enforcement officials.

» READ MORE: Murder trial begins for Montgomery County man accused of beating girlfriend to death

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele told the jurors Forman had a specific intent to kill Harooni and urged them to convict him of first-degree murder.

“You know it by his words, his actions, and his inactions,” Steele said. “What did he do? He hid her away, and he made it so that nobody could help her.”

Steele said Forman had at least seven opportunities to get help for Harooni after the beating, including from his other girlfriend, whom he met up with and posed for smiling pictures with as Harooni lay unconscious in his bedroom.

“There is no other verdict in this case that should be rendered, other than first-degree murder,” Steele said.

The waitstaff at PJ Whelihan’s who served the couple on the night of Harooni’s death testified that they seemed happy, like “a normal couple.” They chatted over wings and beer, without any signs of conflict.

And the women Forman would later tell investigators antagonized Harooni at the bar? Nowhere to be found, according to the staff members.

» READ MORE: A Montgomery County man beat his girlfriend to death in a jealous rage, police say. Then he hailed an Uber to take her to the hospital.

The couple’s mood changed dramatically on the ride home, according to Uber driver Daniel Persing. He testified Tuesday that when Harooni received a text message, Forman demanded to know whom it was from, asking multiple times to see her phone.

She refused, Persing said, at one point telling Forman he was scaring her. Forman, in response, threatened to not let her back into his home unless she showed him the message.

“Each time he asked about that message, I knew he wouldn’t let it go,” Persing said.

Forman was so persistent that Persing lingered in the neighborhood after dropping the couple off. He heard screaming, and the sound of something breaking on the ground, he said.

Around that time, Brady Reese pulled into his parents’ driveway a few houses down. He told jurors he saw Harooni stumbling, seemingly dazed, and heard her say what sounded like “help.”

» READ MORE: Montgomery County woman’s death was ‘tragic, horrible, disturbing’ domestic homicide, DA says

When he went to investigate, Forman walked over to Harooni. He told Reese that Harooni was drunk, and “seemed annoyed and agitated.” Harooni flashed a “thumbs up” sign, seemingly confirming what Forman said.

Reese watched as the couple walked away, toward Forman’s house. He was the last person to see Harooni alive, prosecutors said.

Forensic scientists who examined Harooni’s body testified that her injuries were severe, including bruising and bleeding in her brain.

A video Forman recorded after the attack and recovered by police from his cellphone shows him standing over her, saying, “This is what a cheating liar gets.”

That video — which prosecutors touted to jurors as the strongest piece of evidence supporting their case — caused a brief period of chaos in the courtroom late Tuesday.

Harooni’s mother, Rabia, burst into tears as soon as the video was played, wailing, “I miss you, Sabrina,” and screaming to Forman, “How could you do that to my baby?”

After Forman’s sentencing, Steele said the case presented unique challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This case from the beginning has been very emotional,” he said, “a young woman who was brutally murdered, and we had the opportunity to be the first murder trial in Montgomery County [since the pandemic started], so there were some challenges to work through in a courtroom that was spread out, but we managed to do it.”

John, Forman’s attorney, said the case — and the sheer amount of evidence presented during the proceedings — was difficult for both sides.

“It’s a sad case,” he said. “Sad for the young lady, and sad for the 24-year-old young man who will spend the rest of his life in prison.”