Dozens of friends and family members of a young man who was shot and killed early this year by his girlfriend’s brother gathered in Portland Sunday night to keep his memory alive and to raise money to build a drinking-water well in Africa.

The Isahak Muse fundraiser dinner was held at Gateway Community Services on Forest Avenue. The event, which took place on the eve of the start of the murder trial of 25-year-old Mark Cardilli Jr., was organized by Muse’s sisters Awo and Asli Muse, as well as a close friend, Akram Abdullahi.

Abdullahi, who owns a media company, urged those at the gathering to use their memories of Muse to bring the Muslim community closer.

“One thing we can do is to come together. We can’t let hate divide us,” Abdullahi said. “If we do this, it will make the memories of Isahak last.”

During a brief slide show Sunday night, Abdullahi showed photographs from a May protest outside the Cumberland County Courthouse, where more than 250 people gathered to criticize a judge for allowing Cardilli to be released on cash bail.

Muse, who would have celebrated his 23rd birthday on Tuesday, was shot and killed during the early morning hours of March 16  at Cardilli’s family home in Riverton. Cardilli has not disputed that he shot Muse but said the shooting was in self-defense. Cardilli waived his right to a jury trial.


A photo of Isahak Muse on display Sunday night during a memorial in Portland to raise funds to build a drinking-water well in Africa. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Awo Muse said not having her brother around to celebrate his birthday is devastating not only to her but to her seven siblings. Her son Ramsey, who is 4, insisted on wearing a red bow tie to the fundraiser – the same color bow tie Muse had on in a photograph displayed at Sunday’s event.

But she is proud of her son for making the effort to honor his uncle.

“We’re going to attend the trial. It’s important to us that his memory be kept alive,” Awo Muse said.

Muse said her family is hopeful that Cardilli will be convicted.

“We are definitely placing our trust in God and the justice system,” she said.

“My brother was a free spirit, so helpful to everyone,” she said. “He was a beautiful kid. He always had a big, bright smile on his face. His heart was soft, warm and welcoming.”


Muse said her brother was the youngest of nine siblings in a tight-knit family. Though her family comes from Somalia, Asahak was born and raised in Portland, going on to excel at playing basketball for Deering High School. At more than 6 feet tall, he stood out on the court.

“He was very competitive and loved to win,” his sister said.

Muse said her brother met and fell in love with Cardilli’s younger sister, Chelsey Cardilli, who was 17 at the time of the shooting.

Longtime family friend Hubi Abdirahma said she had known Isahak since he was 4 years old, and she treated him like a younger brother.

“He was such a happy kid. He was always in a good mood,” she said. “His birthday would have been Tuesday and not having him here to celebrate with will be horrible.”

Abdirahma said in her culture everyone is welcome in a family’s home, regardless of the color of their skin. She said Isahak felt welcome at Cardilli’s home and had visited there on numerous occasions.


For him to die in a home where he thought he was safe doesn’t seem right, she said.

“It’s devastating knowing that we couldn’t be there to support him,” Abdirahma said.

In addition to keeping Muse’s memory alive, Sunday’s fundraiser was created to raise money to help build a well in rural Africa.

Awo Muse said all the funds raised will be donated to a nonprofit organization, Water Wells for Africa, which is currently building wells in Mkwanda Village in the southeast African nation of Malawi. Malawi is among the world’s least developed countries, with an economy largely based on agriculture. Muse said it costs about $8,000 to build a single well.  About 100 people attended Sunday’s fundraiser.

Awo Muse said she plans to be in attendance at the trial, along with other family members, for as long as it lasts. She said it’s important for her family to show the Portland community how much Isahak was loved.

“We just can’t explain how sad we are. Our family didn’t deserve this,” Awo said.

This story was updated on Monday, Dec. 9, to correct a misspelling of Awo Muse.


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