Six gunshots jolted Carolina Lacerda out of her home office, forcing her to run to her front door to look through the peephole. But nothing could save beautiful Ana Abulaban, only 28-years-old or her friend, 29-year-old Rayburn Cardenas Barron. They were both dead. What had caused such madness? And who could have done this horrible act?
Ana and Ali Abulaban
Ana and Ali Abulaban were a stunning couple. In one photograph Ana is seen in a form fitting dress looking so staggeringly gorgeous that she could have graced the cover of any high fashion magazine. Ali stands next to her, appearing supremely confident, as his hand rests on Ana’s waist. Ali was soaring high as a TikTok star under the name of “JinnKid.” He had built up a following of nearly one million for his comedy skits and impersonations, particularly of the character Tony Montana from the famous 1983 film “Scarface.” From all accounts, he loved the limelight. Young, beautiful, successful, the world was at their feet, or so it seemed.
Although Ana was once smiling for the camera, on the afternoon of October 21, 2021, Ana was violently murdered, shot in the head execution style. And the person accused of this unthinkable act is none other than her husband, Ali Abulaban. Did Ali really murder Ana, extinguishing her bright life in seconds and depriving their 5-year-old daughter of her mother forever?
According to the prosecution, he did, shooting Ana after believing she was cheating on him. Yet the couple had already separated with Ana deciding she was leaving the marriage for good, seeking finally to be free from domestic violence and Ali’s cheating ways. But Ali did not want to let her go.
A Day of Murder and Charges Against Ali
After making a secret key to Ana’s home, Ali entered while she was away and installed a listening device on their daughter’s iPad. When Ali heard Ana giggling with another man, unable to bear it, it is alleged he drove to the East Village luxury high-rise known as Spire San Diego, and shot Ana and Rayburn to death.
Ali is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, a gun use allegation, and the special-circumstance allegation of committing multiple murders, meaning he could face the death penalty if the prosecution pursues capital punishment. Although Ali reportedly confessed to his mother and a detective, Ali has pled not guilty.
On January 7, 2022, Ali’s preliminary hearing began in the San Diego courtroom of Judge Aaron Katz, but after only one day of testimony, the matter was continued to January 24, 2022. Although a preliminary hearing is not a full trial, but merely meant to determine if there is probable cause to order the accused to stand trial, chilling details were revealed of the couple’s troubled marriage, Ali’s deadly obsession, and the horrific events of that final day. The prosecution was headed by San Diego Deputy District Attorney Taren Brast and the defense by San Diego Public Defender Jodi Green. But was anybody ready for the explosive hearing which unfolded?
A Marital Separation and Ali Makes the Secret Key
San Diego Police Detective and Sergeant Christopher Leahy was the first witness called to the stand. He testified Ana and Ali met in 2014 in Okinawa, Japan while Ali was in the military. Ana’s father was a high-ranking official in the navy, although Sergeant Leahy did not know if he was in the Philippine Navy or the United States Navy, and Ana grew up on the military base. After an incident in which Ali had a physical fight with Ana and others in a bar, Ali was “other than honorably discharged from the Air Force,” said Leahy. The couple lived in Virginia where they lived for approximately five years, but eventually moved to San Diego in February of 2021, as Ana wanted to be with the girls she had grown up with on the base in Okinawa and who were now part of the Filipino community in San Diego. Trouble in the marriage soon abounded.
Nine calls to police were made to the couple’s apartment between July of 2021 and the day of the killings. A recent domestic violence incident in which Ali pushed Ana down and she hit her head on a piece of furniture caused Ana to decide to leave the marriage for good. About five weeks before her murder, Ana and her daughter moved out of the apartment. Initially they stayed with Ali’s parents in Virginia, but only two weeks before the murders they flew back to San Diego. They stayed with Ana’s friend Claire.
On October 18, 2021, three days before the murders, Ali agreed to move out of the apartment so his wife and daughter could return there. He moved to a Holiday Inn Express in Mission Bay.
But Ali secretly made a copy of the apartment key.
Ali Installs a Secret Listening Device
Leahy testified a neighbor’s Nest Cam and elevator cameras captured the events of October 21, 2021. On that morning, the cameras showed Ana and her daughter leaving for school. Leahy believed it was around 8:30 a.m. or 8:45 a.m.
Ali then used the secret key to gain entrance to the apartment. He vandalized the unit and also installed an app on his daughter’s iPad to allow him to listen in on conversations inside the apartment.
A Timeline of Murder – What Did the Cameras Capture on October 21, 2021?
At 9:15 a.m. Ali arrived at Ana’s apartment. Sergeant Leahy testified Ali was seen on camera on his cell phone and could be heard saying, “Where are you?” Followed by “I know you’re lying” and “I know you’re cheating on me.” Although the detectives could not hear who was on the phone, it was confirmed Ana received a call from Ali telling her he had vandalized the apartment.
At 9:45 a.m. Ali left the apartment.
At 11:00 a.m. Ana Facetimed with her friend, Julia, and showed her the destruction. Ana said, “I’m at the apartment. You won’t believe what he did.” Julia later told detectives Ana was going to get a temporary restraining order that day.
At 1:47 p.m. Ana returned to the apartment with her friend Rayburn Barron. Ali was at his hotel when he heard Ana giggling with a man. He heard the male’s voice, but did not know who it was. Ali immediately left for the apartment, a drive of 20-40 minutes, listening on his cell phone the entire time.
At 2:50 p.m. Ali was inside the apartment’s parking garage where he tightened his belt as if he was readjusting for a firearm and ran back and forth on the parking ramp.
At 2:55 p.m. Ali was in the elevator.
At 2:58.31 p.m. Ali arrived on the 35th floor. The Nest camera showed him sprinting to the apartment. Sergeant Leahy said Ali told him when he entered the apartment, he saw his wife and Rayburn sitting on the couch, and Rayburn had his arm around her.
At 2:58.43 p.m. the first gunshot was heard. It was only 12 seconds after Ali exited the elevator.
At 2:58.48 p.m. a female was heard screaming after four gunshots. Two seconds later the final gunshots were heard.
At 2:59.16 p.m. Ali left the apartment. He then paced back and forth several times between the elevator and apartment. He finally walked back to the apartment and opened the door, yelling out, “Ana, Ana, Ana, Ana!”
At 3:00.41 p.m. Ali was frantic and pacing.
At 3:02.06 p.m. Ali called his mother in Las Vegas. Sergeant Leahy said he watched the Nest Cam and tried to understand what Ali was saying to his mother. Leahy said Ali said something to the effect of, “I just shot Ana. I shot her in the head and killed her.”
At 3:03.10 p.m. Ali continued pacing and his neighbor, Daniel, arrived in the elevator at 3:03.41. Ali entered the elevator and rode with Daniel to an upper floor. Daniel said Ali appeared upset and in a hurry. Daniel asked, “Is everything okay?” Ali responded, “No, everything is gone to shit.” As Daniel tried to ask more questions, Ali said, “Stop f—ing asking me questions!”
At 3:11 p.m. Ali called 911. Sergeant Leahy believed Ali was out of the building, perhaps driving by that time.
Leahy testified a divorce was pending. Ana had discovered Ali cheating with another girl in their apartment complex. He had other affairs, although Leahy did not know how many.
In discussing Ali’s demeanor, he said when Ali talked to his mother it was “very matter of fact,” and when Ali was interviewed “there were no tears.”
What Did Ali Say In His 911 Call?
Sergeant Leahy said Ali called 911 at 3:11 on the afternoon of the shooting. He told the dispatcher he arrived at the 35th floor apartment and found the couple dead in the living room. Although asked to remain at the scene or return to the scene, Ali terminated the call, and went instead to pick up his 5-year-old daughter from school.
He was arrested soon thereafter as he drove with his young daughter on Route 15 near the 805 freeway.
Ali’s Confession Details the Last Horrifying Moments of Ana and Rayburn
Around 8:00 that night, only 5 hours after the murders, Sergeant Christopher Leahy and Detective Ron Newquist interviewed Ali in the homicide office. Ali’s mood fluctuated between high and low. He would carry on a normal conversation, then have an emotional outburst, before returning to a normal conversation. Throughout the interview, Ali spoke of his love of Ana, but then descended into calling her names such as cunt, bitch, slut, and whore.
Ali said he and Ana had been together for 7 years, but the relationship began to dissolve about three months before the murders when Ana told him she was no longer in love with him, he wasn’t satisfying her, and her feelings for him were no longer. Ali was devastated and tried to win her back, but Ana chose the party lifestyle. “He told us that she was the love of his life. But then, as he would describe his heartfelt feelings for her, he would then angrily change into referring to her as a cunt,” said Sergeant Leahy.
On October 18, 2021, three days before the killings, Ali and Ana made an agreement he would move out of the apartment. Ali moved to the Holiday Inn Express, but first he made a secret copy of the key.
From October 18th until October 21st, Ali was trying to contact Ana with the hope of getting back together, but she blocked him on all accounts. Ali was frustrated by this and suspected she was cheating on him.
On October 21st, Ali said he went to the apartment after Ana left. He vandalized the apartment, smashed a pumpkin on the floor, and then took all of Ana’s “slutty clothing” and threw them into the trash chute. He installed an app on his daughter’s iPad to allow him to listen in on conversations in the apartment so he could confirm Ana was cheating on him. He hid the iPad in the bedroom behind the bed headstand.
Ali returned to his hotel and took a nap, but woke up to the sounds of giggling and a man’s voice. He didn’t recognize the voice, but immediately left for the apartment. Ali said he had his gun safe in his jeep, but would not reveal when he actually armed himself. He did reveal though, when he entered the apartment, he had the gun concealed on his left hip in a gun holster.
After using the secret key to gain entrance to the apartment, Ali saw Rayburn with his arm around Ana on the couch. It was at this time that he recognized Rayburn as the man who had made an inappropriate comment about wanting to f—k his wife. On the first night after Ana and Ali had moved from Virginia, they went to a party as Ana had a group of friends in the Filipino community. According to Ali, Rayburn was the single guy in the group and had sexual encounters with the married girls in the group. At the party, Rayburn gawked at Ana, and made comments to Ali about how attractive she was and that he wanted to have sex with her. Ali thought it was “totally inappropriate” and didn’t like Rayburn after that.
Ali then revealed the most horrifying details of all. He walked over to Ana and Rayburn, pulled the gun out of the holster and shot Rayburn. Ana raised her hands towards her face and screamed. Then Ali shot her in the forehead.
Ali’s Shocking Courtroom Outbursts
Ali’s First Outburst
Sergeant Leahy was asked about the nature of Ana and Rayburn’s relationship. He said according to review of messages on their social media accounts it appeared their relationship had turned more romantic. Ana’s Instagram account showed she invited Rayburn to the hotel she was staying at. At this point, Ali shouted out, “Bitch!”
Judge Katz admonished Ali for his outburst, and Ali, upset about this revelation, said “This is news to me.” Judge Katz told him to remain quiet and stated the court could take a break if needed for him to talk with his attorney.
Later, when Sergeant Leahy said Rayburn was talking about plans to have sexual relations with Ana or already had, Ali, greatly agitated tried to get up from his seat, but was prevented when the bailiff moved in closer.
Leahy said Ana was found on the couch with her legs tucked under her thighs. Her legs were also coiled around Rayburn’s legs furthering Leahy’s belief the two were romantically involved. A bag of cocaine was also found in her right hand.
Ali’s Second Outburst and Rabid Tirade
When attorney Green cross-examined Sergeant Leahy about Ali’s demeanor, she said, “He had just experienced a very traumatic event is that fair to say?” Leahy responded, “He created one, yes.” This set Ali off and he yelled out, “How did I create one? Elaborate on that.” Getting more worked up, he said, “Don’t inject your own shit to this story!”
Then completely losing all control, lunging forward in fierce anger, he shouted out rabidly, “You think I wanted this for my 5 year old daughter? I wanted this? Where the f–k were you?” By this time, both bailiffs had their hands on Ali as he descended into tears shouting, “I’m f—ing hurt. My life was destroyed!” I was only about 10 feet away from Ali, and this explosive outburt was so loud and aggressive, my heart started beating fast and I felt my breath catch. As an attorney and true crime writer, I have been in hundreds of courtrooms, but I have never experienced a moment like this. It was a frightening scene. If Ali could explode like this in a courtroom, a court of law, what must Ana have faced?
During this shocking time, Judge Katz kept saying, “Mr. Abulaban. Mr. Abulaban, I need you to stop.” When Ali was at last silent, though still crying, Judge Katz told the bailiffs to remove him. They first placed him with his face and body up against the wall, before finally taking him to the holding room.
A stunned courtroom sat in absolute silence. Judge Katz called a 10-minute recess and told attorney Green she needed to talk to her client, stating there could be no further outbursts or new accommodations would have to be made. Ali would then have to watch the proceedings in an adjacent room. After the break, Ali was able to control himself, at least for a time.
Neighbors Testify to a Domestic Violence Incident
Daniel and his wife, Carolina, lived directly across from the Abulaban’s apartment and they testified to a day when Ana knocked on their door for help. Although Daniel could not recall the exact date, he knew it was before September 17th as the 17th was his birthday, and he knew the event happened before that date.
Ana knocked on their door and when Daniel opened it, he found Ana there naked from the waist up and hysterical. She was crying, scared, and nervous. She said Ali had hit her and stolen her cell phone. She asked to use their phone so she could call 911. Carolina said she had heard Ana screaming, things being thrown, and smacks as the fighting occurred in the hallway. She saw that Ana and the young daughter were both crying. Ana said, “My husband is beating me up.”
Daniel twice offered to give Ana his shirt, but Ana was so hysterical, his offer did not seem to register, nor did she seem to even notice she was unclothed. Ana just kept saying she was worried he would come back. On cross-examination, Daniel and Carolina both denied Ana ever saying when offered a shirt, “I’m already wearing a shirt.” Daniel gave Ana his cell phone.
Ana took the phone back to the apartment, but she called her family instead of 911. Neither Daniel nor Carolina called the police, leaving it up to Ana to decide. The next day, Ali came over to apologize for having to have met that way. During the conversation, Ali said he was suspicious Ana was with other men and asked Daniel to let him know if he saw other men. Both Carolina and Daniel testified security and the police came to the apartment several times.
Daniel addressed the time of his birthday when he had friends over and Ali asked if he could come over too. Daniel agreed. Ali told him he had concerns Ana was cheating on him and said she wanted to leave him. Ali wanted to work on the marriage, but Ana “just wants to party.” Ali told him that he was living alone.
When Daniel further testified Ali said his wife was trying to leave him and that he was trying to not allow it to happen, attorney Green pounced, asking Daniel if he told the police this when they interviewed him after the murders. From the way Green asked the question, it appeared he did not. Daniel answered, “Maybe,” but he could not recall everything he told the police. It was a very intense day for him. Attorney Green seemed to let it go, noting the interview was recorded anyway.
Prosecutor Brast was not going to let it go so easily, and made sure to confirm Ali knew at the time of Daniel’s birthday party (September 17th) his marriage was ending. She concluded her examination with Ana wanted to leave, but Ali didn’t want it.
Neighbors Describe the Events of October 21, 2021
On October 21, 2021, Carolina was working in her office in her apartment when she heard gunshots. She heard four shots, then a pause of about three seconds, then two more shots. She did not hear any screaming. She ran to look through the peephole and she saw Ali shouting, “Ana, Ana, Ana, Ana!” She also saw him check under the doormat and take something. He went inside the apartment and was inside for 20 seconds or so.
Daniel was coming home from a work meeting and around 3:00 he was in the elevator. When the door opened on the 35th floor Ali was standing there. Ali got on the elevator and Daniel stayed inside to talk to him as Ali had called him that past Sunday, but Daniel had not had time to get back to him. Daniel told Ali he had time to talk and could follow him to the lobby. But the elevator went up instead. Ali seemed upset and in a hurry. Daniel asked, “Is everything okay?” Ali responded, “No, everything is gone to shit.” As Daniel tried to ask further questions, Ali said, “Stop f—ing asking me questions!”
When Daniel arrived at his apartment, Carolina was at the door, and she told him about the gunshots and that she was worried about Ana. She wanted to call the police, but Daniel decided to first go down to the lobby to see if Ali was there. But once he arrived in the lobby, the police were already there, and they asked him about the gunshots. He rode in the elevator with them and then they placed him and Caroline in the stairwell as they breached the Abulaban’s apartment.
Interview of Ana and Ali’s Young Daughter
Ali had his young daughter with him when he was arrested on the freeway. She was taken from the car to Chadwick Center and a forensic interview with a social worker. On the witness stand, Detective Carlos Munoz described the interview, saying she told the social worker her dad said the reason the police cars were there was because, “Dad hurt mommy, and that’s why he’s going to jail.”
When asked why dad hurts mommy, she answered, “Because he’s crazy.” She said she had seen her dad hit her mom, and that “Only dad hurts mom.” He hurts her every time he sees her, with his hands.
On cross-examination, attorney Green questioned who called Ali crazy, and showed it was Ana who called him crazy. She also showed the daughter described name calling between both parents and said one time her mom was about to hit her dad with a wine bottle raised above his head.
In response, the prosecutor said they don’t know if Ana was defending herself when she held the wine bottle. But they do know Ali was smiling and laughing when he picked up his daughter from school.
The Crime Scene Photos and More Courtroom Outbursts
Homicide Detective Ricardo Escalante took the witness stand and described what he saw when he entered the apartment on October 21, 2021. Ana and Rayburn were both sitting on the couch. Rayburn’s head was tilted back, and he had trauma to his face. Ana’s head was on Rayburn’s lap, and she had trauma to her head. As the prosecutor began showing the graphic photographs of Ana and Rayburn to Escalante, Ali turned his head away. When a close-up of Ana was shown, Ali visibly flinched and gasped before abruptly turning his body away, unable to view the destruction.
When the prosecutor began detailing the gunshot wounds and brought out more graphic photographs, Ali let out a loud cry and laid his upper body on the table sobbing. This was apparently too much for family members of Rayburn to bear, and one man yelled out, “Shut the f–k up,” to Ali. At this breach of courtroom protocol, the bailiff ordered the man out of the courtroom, along with another woman. But instead of leaving, they began arguing with the bailiff, who got more upset by the minute that they were disobeying his order. The man questioned why Ali got to “talk out of hand all the time,” but he couldn’t. Back and forth it went, a virtual standoff. At last, the man angrily left, yelling out, “F–k you!” to the bailiff as he departed.
The woman remained, but the bailiff was determined to have her leave as well. She would not. She had done nothing wrong she kept stating. Again, back and forth it went, another standoff, until finally she too left. The bailiff called for backup, and soon another deputy appeared, standing guard at the back of the courtroom.
Testimony resumed, but the man who had been kicked out, suddenly returned. At his unexpected appearance, Judge Katz yelled from the bench, demanding he leave. The man responded, “Why? I’m calm now.” Judge Katz had had enough, and ordered him out, shouting, “Do not return to my courtroom!” The man got up and once again yelled out “F–k You!” as he left. This time the obscenity was for Judge Katz himself. Later, the yelling continued in the court hallway between the bailiff, the exiled woman, and others.
It was a mess to say the least. Emotions were running high in this most tragic of cases, and the bottom line was crystal clear: hearts were forever broken and feelings remained brutally raw.
The Autopsies and Search of Ali’s Car
Detective Escalante attended the autopsies on October 22, 2021, and prosecutor Brast walked him through the findings. Rayburn sustained three gunshots: one to his right-side cheek, one to the right side neck, and one to the back of his head. Ana had one gunshot to the front of her head, which penetrated her brain. The cause of death for both was listed as gunshot wounds to the head.
Inside Ali’s black Jeep Wrangler, which Ali was driving when he was arrested, the detectives found a 9-millimeter Glock 19 inside a gun safe. The safe was in the back of the jeep and also contained over 100 rounds of ammunition and three magazines, one of which was empty. All the ammunition had the head stamp of 9-millimeter RP Luger, which was consistent with the shell casings and ammunition found at the apartment crime scene. The Glock 19 had no rounds in the chamber.
Detective Escalante also said there was a pill bottle that he believes was for Adderall with the name of Ali Abulaban.
Ali’s Cousin Describes Ali’s Personality
Ali’s cousin, Louis Marinari, picked up Ali’s vehicle after he was arrested. Detective Escalante said Marinari gave an interview stating Ali was controlling, obsessed with Ana, and jealous of Ana’s social life in San Diego. Marinari saw markings on Ana, and she kept images of them. He said men in Ali’s family were violent in nature.
Marinari also described Ali as a chronic cheater. He said Ali believed it was okay for him to cheat but not Ana.
On cross-examination, attorney Green said Marinari had given multiple interviews to news outlets with differing accounts. She told Detective Escalante to watch them. She also raised Marinari did not mention Ana’s cheating. Neither did Marinari show the detective the marks on Ana’s face.
Prosecutor Brast then brought out Ali tried to hit on Marinari’s best friend Danielle. In response, attorney Green said Marinari refused to provide Danielle’s contact information to police.
Final Arguments and Judge Katz’ Decision
Attorney Green asked Judge Katz to dismiss the case, arguing it was a heat of passion case, not murder. If it was heat of passion, the special circumstance allegation could not attach.
Prosecutor Brast argued this was a murder case as express and implied malice were present. (In order for a murder conviction, there must be malice aforethought, which is the mental state of the intent to kill or harm. Malice is either express for first-degree or implied for second-degree).
Brast said it was express malice as Ali intended to kill his wife and Rayburn. He used a firearm, shot in the head, and shot multiple times. She also went through all the elements of implied malice. She then argued it was first-degree murder for both Ana and Rayburn as it was willful, deliberate, and premeditated.
She said there was evidence Ali was violent. There was the September 8, 2021, 911 call where Ana said he pushed her down. There were also nine calls to police from July 2021 until the time of the murders.
Brast continued: The parties had separated and Ana was moving on, but Ali continued to call and stalk her. When he realized it was not happening, on October 21st he planted the listening app. When he heard Ana giggling with another man, he drove to the apartment, went up in the elevator, and twelve seconds later, shot both of them in the head.
This was not a voluntary manslaughter continued Brast, which requires a provocation, such as a sudden quarrel or heat of passion. Carolina testified she did not hear any argument. Neither was it self-defense. Ana was moving on with her life and Ali would not let her.
Judge Katz denied the defense’s motion to dismiss. He said for both murders the evidence was significant and the evidence was substantial. He found the prosecution had met their burden and ordered Ali Abulaban to stand trial for both murders, the gun use allegation, and the special-circumstance allegation of committing multiple murders.
The next court hearing will be on February 7, 2022, where Ali will be arraigned on all charges.
To See Ali Abulaban’s Jailhouse Interview, Please Go to the Following Link:
About Aleida K. Wahn, Esq.
I am an attorney, award-winning true crime writer, and legal analyst of criminal cases. I cover criminal trials and write stories and books about compelling, gripping, and unforgettable cases that impact our world. I take you into the courtroom in high-profile murder trials, rape cases, crimes of passion, cases involving mental illness, deviant behavior, and more. I have a deep passion for true crime, criminal law, and all aspects of the criminal justice system. I have appeared as an expert on true crime shows, including “48 Hours,” “Snapped,” and “The Dead Files,” and provided legal analysis on high-profile criminal trials on Court TV, the Law & Crime Trial Network, Fox 5 News, ABC 10 News, and KUSI News. I also create and host shows with the Del Mar Television Producers Group, addressing criminal justice and social issues in recent criminal trials.
I provided my insight and legal analysis on Court TV and the Law & Crime Trial Network of the high-profile trial of former NFL star Kellen Winslow Jr. It was a trial that captured the nation as the heralded ex-football star with fame, fortune, and a famous name stood accused of multiple rapes and other sex crimes involving five women. As the trial delved into shocking facts, complicated legal issues, and unexpected twists and turns, I was there for every minute. After the trial, I wrote a book on the case, going behind the headlines to share the extraordinary details of what happened inside the courtroom. Judging Winslow Jr.: From NFL Star to Serial Rapist? Inside the Shocking Rape Trial of Kellen Boswell Winslow II is now available on Amazon.
I am passionate about telling true crime stories, as these penetrating stories have the power to move us all, while highlighting societal issues which need to be addressed. I have personally seen the human devastation which is present in each trial and believe there is a lesson to be learned in every single case. It is through awareness and examining critical issues society can effect change and even make new laws. To learn more, please visit: https://www.aleidalaw.com.
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