Crime and Courts

TikToker takes the stand in own defense in East Village high-rise double-murder case

Ali Abulaban testified he was using cocaine to cope with emotional struggles, and said drugs made him violent and aggressive

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A social media personality charged with murdering his wife and another man at an East Village high-rise apartment building testified Tuesday that his marriage crumbled shortly after the couple moved to San Diego.

Ali Abulaban, 32, took the stand Tuesday in the trial where he faces first-degree murder charges for the shooting deaths of 28-year-old Ana Abulaban and Rayburn Cardenas Barron, 29.

Tuesday's testimony, which lasted throughout the day, did not touch on the events of the Oct. 21, 2021, shootings, nor have prosecutors begun their cross-examination of Abulaban, who will continue testifying Wednesday.

Prosecutors allege Abulaban, who went by the handle JinnKid on social media, had been kicked out of the couple's apartment at the Spire San Diego luxury apartment complex but entered the unit with a secretly copied room key on the afternoon of Oct. 21 and gunned down his wife and Barron as they sat on a couch.

Abulaban admitted Tuesday to punching and pushing his wife on various occasions, something he said had never occurred before the family's move to San Diego in early 2021.

The move from Virginia to San Diego was made at his wife's insistence, according to Abulaban, who testified that Ana had friends in San Diego and had been smitten with the city after a trip there.

Though Abulaban said he was interested in moving to San Diego as well, he testified that Ana's desire to move was so strong that she became angry if anything interfered with those plans.

When Abulaban's brother suffered a mental health episode and Abulaban wanted to delay the move to remain in Virginia and support his family, Abulaban said Ana insulted him for seemingly needing his parents' permission to move, told him to "be a man," and said, "Take me to San Diego or I'm divorcing you."

Abulaban said he caved in to his wife's demands and they drove cross-country to San Diego, where they began indulging in drugs and partying.

Abulaban's mental health struggles, which his defense attorney contends played a role in his mindset leading up to the shooting, were also detailed during his testimony.

Abulaban said his father was physically and verbally abusive during his childhood and that he struggled to live up to his father's expectations. Those experiences left him with lasting feelings of social anxiety, insecurity, and inadequacy towards other men, he said.

Abulaban said he also frequently felt like an outcast, including during his time in San Diego, when he struggled to fit in with his wife's friend group.

Though the couple's time in San Diego began well, things began changing as a drug-fueled lifestyle brought on by Ana's friends set in, he said.

"We were a close-knit unit and then we brought in these friends into our life," Abulaban testified.

By mid-2021, the marriage had devolved into a continuous series of arguments and accusations of infidelity on both sides. Abulaban said these problems were exacerbated by his cocaine use, which had escalated into a full- blown addiction. He testified that he was using cocaine to cope with his emotional struggles, but said the drugs were also making him violent and aggressive.

Abulaban said that during one argument in July, Ana claimed she had slept with one of his friends.

While high on cocaine, Abulaban said the remark "shook me and I snapped" and he punched her three times in the face.

Abulaban said he later apologized to his wife over what he called "an act of impulsiveness [while] under the influence" and something that was not "in accordance to who I am or to my character." He also admitted to pushing her a couple months later during an argument in which Ana fell and struck her head against a bed.

A few days after that, another argument erupted over a party that Abulaban was seemingly not invited to because it was a "girls only" party, which Abulaban contended was a lie and part of ongoing efforts by Ana and her friends to ostracize him.

Abulaban also testified that Ana had mentioned taking their young daughter to the party, which he said wouldn't be appropriate because he suspected drugs would be present. He testified that he tried to block Ana from leaving through the front door and in his effort to keep her out, pushed her and she struck her head against their refrigerator.

Though police were sometimes called regarding these incidents, Abulaban was not arrested prior to Oct 21.

Abulaban's defense attorney, Jodi Green, told jurors in her opening statement that Ana frequently would take Abulaban back amid these fights. Green said the back-and-forth of acceptance and rejection was part of what drove Abulaban "to the brink."

Green argued that on the day of the shooting, a psychologically vulnerable Abulaban heard Ana and Barron inside the apartment via an app he had installed on his daughter's iPad.

When he went to the apartment to confront the pair, "all judgment and reason fly out the window," Green said, and the shooting occurred with Abulaban acting "as though he was in the passenger seat of his body. Not in control, not in his right mind, but overcome with so much intense emotion. Simply out of his mind."

Abulaban faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of all counts and allegations.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberating toward the end of the week.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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