- Sania Khan was found dead in her Chicago apartment on July 18.
- Police say her ex-husband killed her in a murder-suicide.
- Her friends told Insider Khan was a “champion” of everyone and empowering to all.
In retrospect, Raheel Ahmed, the man police say killed beloved photographer Sania Khan, seemed aggressive and scary, friends of the murdered 29-year-old photographer Sania Khan told Insider.
Last week, police found Khan and Ahmed both dead in her Chicago apartment. Police ruled that Ahmed had shot her dead and then shot himself.
She and Khan had married last June, two of her closest friends — Jessica Henderson-Eubanks and Grant Moore — told Insider. Their marriage lasted until December when Khan filed for divorce.
Over the course of the next several months, Khan began documenting her divorce journey on TikTok.
“Going through a divorce as a South Asian Woman feels like you failed at life sometimes,” she wrote in one video. “The way the community labels you, the lack of emotional support you receive, and the pressure to stay with someone because ‘what will people say’ is isolating. It makes it harder for women to leave marriages that they shouldn’t have been in to begin with.”
But throughout their six-month marriage, apparent red flags popped up that made her friends worry about the nature of the relationship between Ahmed and Khan, Moore and Henderson-Eubanks said.
Her personality, at times in the marriage, became mutated, for example. Usually she was bright, energetic, and enthusiastic.
‘Sania was a champion of everyone’
Friends who spoke with Insider remember her fondly. They described her as a warm person with infectiously positive energy.
She made people believe in themselves.
Jessica Henderson-Eubanks, a makeup artist based in Khan’s Tennessee hometown Chattanooga, told Insider she was apprehensive about quitting her day job last year. She wanted to pursue makeup full-time as a freelance artist, but she worried about failure and the ability to support herself.
“I struggled a lot with feeling like I wasn’t gonna be good enough,” she said. “And she would always just basically tell me I was being stupid. Ella She’s like, ‘You’re being stupid. You’re the best.”
“She always like believed in me so much so that she saw me definitely in like the most positive light, more so than I did myself,” she continued.
Henderson-Eubanks took the leap because of Khan pushing her. And — with her friend’s continued support and encouragement — Henderson-Eubanks has had a successful freelance career since.
In March of this year, Henderson-Eubanks got married to her now-husband. Henderson-Eubanks recalled the stress of the wedding, which Khan attended as one of her bridesmaids.
“She basically just was watching my every move to see when my face would not look happy,” she told Insider. “And then she she would just do for me what she thought I needed at that moment. Ella She took so much stress for me. Ella She absorbed it like a Shamwow.”
For Grant Moore, she did something similar. Moore, who had been friends with Khan since they were both 14 and in high school, said she was his prime “hype guy” in the months leading up to his own wedding. She helped him pick out the ring and plan the event.
She was so loved that Moore and a group of other friends got tattooed with a Roman numeral 28 on their forearm alongside her, in commemoration of her 28th year of life.
Childhood friends even started a scholarship in her honor. The scholarship, started by Cora-Leigh O’Neal and James Cummins, will be reserved for female students scheduled to graduate from Khan’s alma mater, the Chattanooga School for Arts & Sciences. Eligible students must have a 3.5 GPA and intend to pursue a fine arts degree through a University of Tennessee school, O’Neal told Insider.
“Sania was a champion of everyone — with a special passion for uplifting other women and girls,” O’Neal said. “We felt that this scholarship would allow Sania to champion and support the next generation of strong, smart, artistic girls.”
In college, Khan double-majored in women’s studies and psychology, her friends said.
“She was a role model to everyone she met,” Cummins told Insider. “She shattered social norms in many ways. Sania empowered women by not being afraid to be who she was.”
Henderson-Eubanks and Moore were rattled when they learned of Khan’s death. Henderson-Eubanks told Insider she first knew something was wrong when her text messages from her to Khan would n’t send and she would n’t pick up the phone.
In interviews with Insider, the two friends detailed what they now perceive as warning signs of Ahmed’s aggression.
The ‘doting wife’
Ahmed had allegedly lied to Khan about his age, Henderson-Eubanks said. He told her he was 30. But in reality, he was actually 36.
“That alone for me, I was like, ‘Absolutely not. Yeah. You need to go,'” she recalled thinking during the conversation with Khan.
He admitted he lied about his age during a stress breakdown, Henderson-Eubanks said. Ahmed had been in medical school, according to Moore and Henderson-Eubanks, and the couple moved up to Chicago to support his medical career.
During a FaceTime call with Moore one day before filing for divorce, Khan told him she felt like he could “take her life,” he said.
In the short time that they were married, she had become the “doting wife,” Moore told Insider. She cooked for him and brought him food while he studied.
That was strange for her, Henderson-Eubanks said. Normally, she was vibrant and did n’t shy away from expressing herself, her de ella online persona de ella suggests and her friends de ella say.
Khan, for example, asked Henderson-Eubanks to do her makeup for her engagement photos, which she posted to social media for her followers to admire. But in the marriage, she transformed and was trying to “make herself into a homemaker,” Henderson-Eubanks said, cooking all her meals de ella and dressing modestly. Her personality seemed diminished while she was married to him, her friends said.
And during his breakdowns, “he got a little bit ugly,” Moore said. He started screaming at her and threatening to kill himself, Moore said Khan told her over FaceTime after she filed for divorce.
At first, Khan tried to “diminish” his mental breakdowns, Henderson-Eubanks said. But she and her husband kept trying to convince her that his behavior did not seem normal.
“It’s like we had to talk her into being afraid almost,” said Henderson-Eubanks. “Like she’s so strong, but I’m like, ‘Yeah girl, don’t be ignoring that.”
Henderson-Eubanks described Ahmed as “controlling” at times. “He didn’t like for her to wear revealing clothing at all,” she said.
Khan then questioned whether it was right to marry him, Henderson-Eubanks recalled.
She called Henderson-Eubanks and said she was second-guessing the marriage. “I think she pretty much talked herself out” of not getting married, she said.
After the divorce, she revitalized
After she filed for divorce, “she was a new person,” Henderson-Eubanks said.
“She had the most beautiful, curvy, perfect body. And she finally started posting pictures of herself, like showing a little bit of cleavage of showing a little bit of tummy, being able to just like act free.”
“It’s like that switch went [off] in her head,” Henderson-Eubanks continued.
Her friends said they couldn’t stop thinking about her. They keep replaying memories in their heads, remembering random strolls through Chattanooga or moments during which they just goofed off together.
Henderson-Eubanks, her husband, and Khan used to blow up an air mattress when she visited Chattanooga. “We would all lay there together and just laugh about stupid stuff,” she said. “And she would wrap herself up in a blanket, even when it wasn’t cold. And it was just so fun and so chill. Like, we never felt like we had to actually physically do anything when we were together. Because we were just so comfortable with each other.”
Khan had a gluten allergy, but she’d frequently choose snacks with gluten in them and encourage her friend to drop money on random things, just to experience living without restrictions, Henderson-Eubanks said.
Khan was supposed to move back to Chattanooga. But on the day of the move, one best friend who had planned to pick her up and drive her down from Chicago to Tennessee learned she had died.
Learning of her death was “devastating,” Moore said.
“I’m going to treasure her for the rest of my life,” he added.