The cousin of the TikTok star accused of killing his wife and her friend inside an East Village downtown high rise said an obsession and inability to control his wife led to the slayings.
“He loved her so much that he became obsessed with her, and then he wanted to control her,” Abulaban’s 23-year-old first cousin Louis Marinari. told NBC 7. “He couldn’t grasp control over her because she had a really big social life, and he couldn’t control her anymore and it drove him mad. I think this is what led up to him killing her.”
Abulaban, 29, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his wife Ana Abulaban, 28, and her friend Rayburn Barron, 29.
Ali Abulaban has a strong presence on several social media platforms where he’s known as JinnKid. He has more than 1 million followers. Marinari believes social media helped empower Abulaban.
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“I definitely think it empowered him. I do think it made him feel like he was better than other people and that nobody could touch him,” said Marinari.
Marinari says Abulaban likely used social media as a form of escape from deep personal problems.
“I think Ali was a very, very insecure person, and he still is very insecure. But I think social media, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, whatever, I think it created a fake reality for him to escape his insecurities, to escape his depression, to escape whatever it was that was going on in his head,” said Marinari. “I think fame created a monster.”
Marinari and Abulaban had dinner together last Monday, just days before the shootings on the 35th floor of the Spire San Diego high-rise apartment building in the East Village neighborhood of San Diego.
“I was very proud of him you know, and I loved him to death. He loved me to death. We were very close, but like I said, because he did this, the whole way I thought about him is gone. I hate him. I just want to see him be punished to the fullest end of the law. He killed two innocent people,” said Marinari.
Prosecutors say Ali Abulaban recently moved out of the couple’s apartment but returned Thursday morning with a key he secretly kept. Prosecutors say he trashed the apartment and planted a spying app on the couple’s 5-year old daughter’s iPad.
Marinari, who called Ana Abulaban “sweet and welcoming,” is confused as to why she didn’t immediately report the break-in.
“Why didn’t they call the cops, right? That’s what’s so confusing. That was like the big warning sign. ‘This person is coming after me, he destroyed my home. What’s next? he’s going to destroy me,’ ” said Marinari.
Prosecutors say Abulaban returned hours later after hearing the two giggling together and shot the pair, both in the head.
Prosecutors also say there was a prior case of domestic violence in September when Abulaban allegedly pushed his wife causing injury. The incident happened in front of the couple’s daughter.
During Monday’s arraignment, Abulaban was seen appearing to break down and cry as the prosecutor presented details of the case. Molinari isn’t buying into the emotions.
“I honestly think he was acting it all out. I really don’t think he was crying. I think he was emotionless. I think he looks like the devil. I really just saw an evil, evil, evil person,” said Marinari.
The Abulaban’s young daughter was at school at the time of the shooting. When Abulaban was detained on Interstate 805 after the shooting, his daughter was in his vehicle.
“I’m really hurting for that girl because I know her life will never be the same ever again. Somebody’s going to have to explain this to her someday and it’s going to be one of the hardest things somebody’s ever going to have to do and it’s tough. It’s really tough,” said Marinari.
Ali Abulaban is facing 25 years to life in prison if convicted on two counts of first-degree murder. The District Attorney can also consider special circumstance allegations. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 5.