TikTok star accused in double murder expected to testify

Posted at 3:45 PM, May 16, 2024

SAN DIEGO (Court TV) – A once-rising TikTok star accused of gunning down his estranged wife and her friend is expected to take the stand in his own defense next week.

Ali Abulaban is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Ana Abulaban and Rayburn Barron, who were killed on Oct. 21, 2021, at the San Diego high-rise apartment Ali and Ana had shared. Ali had moved into a hotel shortly before the murders.

Ali Abulaban is pictured in court, seated next to his attorney, on May 6, 2024. (Court TV)

According to prosecutors, Ali had a history of domestic violence, and Ana had been making plans to take out a restraining order shortly before her death.

On the morning of the shootings, Ali entered the high-rise using a key that he had secretly copied. He allegedly smashed breakables, shoved Ana’s clothing down a trash chute, and installed a listening app on their 5-year-old daughter’s iPad.

The app allowed Ali to eavesdrop remotely. While listening to live audio from the apartment later that day, Ali allegedly became enraged upon hearing Ana, 28, and Barron, 29, laugh. Police say he drove to the high-rise and shot the victims in the face at close range as they were seated on a couch.

Nest camera footage from a neighboring unit was played in court. In it, Ali could be seen entering the apartment from the hall, followed by the sound of six gunshots. Ali could then be heard screaming Ana’s name. Soon after, he could be seen (and heard) on the phone with his mother, admitting what he had done.

Abulaban appears in court

FILE – Ali Abulaban (KGTV)

According to detective testimony, Ali dialed 911 after the shooting, telling a dispatcher that the victims were already dead when he arrived and that he was reporting the killings. When he was instructed to remain on the scene, Ali abruptly ended the call.

According to investigators, Ali then left to pick his daughter up from school. During the car ride, prosecutors say he told the little girl that he had “hurt Mommy.” Ali was apprehended on the freeway soon after, where he was arrested.

Ali, now 31, has pled not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder.

HEAT OF PASSION OR PREMEDITATION?

Ali’s defense team does not deny that he killed Ana and Barron. Still, they say he was experiencing a mental health crisis due to his marriage falling apart, was upset that his wife was seeing someone else, and was not thinking rationally.

The testimony of Sergeant Christopher Leahy, who interviewed Ali after his arrest, contradicts the mental health defense. Leahy said that Ali’s demeanor indicated that rage was the motivator.

‘I WANTED TO BE AN ACTOR – AND IT WAS RIGHT THERE!’

In the days leading up to the killings, Ali left Ana a series of disturbing voicemails. In the messages, he bragged about being a “god,” an “internet celebrity,” and boasted how “sexy” he was.

He could also be heard saying, “I can’t wait to divorce you so I can start my new life,” and “You’re going to watch Netflix and think, oh, isn’t that my husband?”

The Netflix comments stem from the fact that Ali had a huge social media following. Under the handle @JinnKid on TikTok, Instagram and other platforms, he performed comedy bits and often impersonated Al Pacino’s character from the movie “Scarface.” At the time of his arrest, Ali had amassed over a million followers.

According to prosecutors, the couple had moved to San Diego from Virginia because Ali was trying to connect with talent agents on the West Coast.

Ali granted KSWB a jailhouse interview in Dec. 2021, during which he arguably appeared more upset about not being able to post as @Jinnkid, a hobby he referred to as “my baby,” than the loss of his wife. He said:

“I wanted to be an actor – and it was right there! I was right there! The weekend before all this happened, I was in LA at The Comedy Store. I was talking to producers. I was about to have a talent agent. It was right there!”

‘MY WHOLE LIFE IS DESTROYED!’

At a preliminary hearing for Ali back in 2022, the defendant had a shocking outburst during which he wailed as autopsy photos were displayed. He loudly interrupted proceedings, shouting things like, “Do you think I wanted this?” and “My whole life is destroyed,” as two bailiffs struggled to hold him down.

If convicted, Ali faces life in prison without parole.