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Little Known About Female Suspect in California Shooting

  • Molly McKitterick

A book is shown inside the home of suspects Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik in Redlands, Calif., Dec. 4, 2015, following Wednesday's attacks in San Bernardino.

A book is shown inside the home of suspects Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik in Redlands, Calif., Dec. 4, 2015, following Wednesday's attacks in San Bernardino.

Even her family by marriage has a hard time describing the female suspect in Wednesday’s shooting in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people.

“Caring” and “soft-spoken” are how her husband’s family recall 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik, but beyond that their attorneys say they have little to add to what is known about the woman who emigrated from Saudi Arabia to marry Syed Farook, 28, about a year and a half ago.

“The family just knew her as she was caring, she was soft spoken,” said Farook family lawyer Mohammad Abuershaid at a news conference Friday.

The family could not even produce a photograph of Malik. [A compilation of driver's license photos of Malik and Farook was released by the California Department of Motor Vehicles Dec. 5, 2015.]

An undated combination of California Department of Motor Vehicles photos shows Tashfeen Malik, left, and Syed Farook, the husband and wife who died in a gunbattle with authorities after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., Dec. 2, 2015.

An undated combination of California Department of Motor Vehicles photos shows Tashfeen Malik, left, and Syed Farook, the husband and wife who died in a gunbattle with authorities after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., Dec. 2, 2015.

Abuershaid says the family was very traditional. “When the family did go over to the house [of Malik and Farook] the women would sit with the women, and the men would sit with the men.”

As a result the men in the family hardly knew Malik, who wore a burka, fasted, and prayed five times a day.

The housewife suspected of carrying out a mass shooting chose not to drive.

WATCH: Video of reporters in Farook home

Farook’s mother lived in the rented townhouse with the couple, but even she did not claim to know Malik.

“The mother stayed to herself. She stayed upstairs,” said a second family attorney David Chesley.

'Complete shock'

Both attorneys said they had no idea what could have motivated the couple to go on a shooting rampage.

They described Farook as a “pretty private person,” but they shrugged off reports that he had reacted badly when people he worked with at the San Bernardino County Health Department teased him about his beard.

Farook spent much of his spare time in the garage where he went “to work on things,” Abuershaid said.

Reporters and photographers crowd into the living room of an apartment in Redlands, Calif., shared by San Bernardino shootings suspects Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, Dec. 4, 2015.

Reporters and photographers crowd into the living room of an apartment in Redlands, Calif., shared by San Bernardino shootings suspects Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, Dec. 4, 2015.

He built a shoe rack for one of his sisters. He had picked up his skills from “watching his father, reading books, mostly car books he was reading,” the lawyer added.

The attorneys said Farook’s family never saw the two assault rifles, thousands of ammunition rounds or 12 pipe bombs that authorities found in the house.

They knew that Farook had two handguns, according to the attorneys, but they never saw these either as they were said to be kept under lock and key.

“The family is in complete shock,” Abuershaid said. “They’re very sad for all the victims. They have two losses of their own as well.”

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