TikTok star pleads not guilty to double-murder shooting in San Diego high-rise

A man.
Ali Abulaban, 29, stands during his arraignment at the San Diego Central Courthouse in downtown San Diego on Monday. He is accused in the Oct. 21 fatal shootings of his wife and her friend.
(Jarrod Valliere / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Ali Abulaban, 29, is accused of killing his estranged wife and her friend


Hours before killing his newly estranged wife, a San Diego man surreptitiously installed a listening device on his 5-year-old daughter’s tablet device, and when he heard his wife and another man talking, he went to her home and shot them to death, a prosecutor said in court Monday.

Then Ali Abulaban, still armed, picked up his daughter from school, Deputy Dist. Atty. Taren Brast said.

Those details were among several revealed during the San Diego County Superior Court arraignment for Abulaban, who pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder as well as special circumstance allegations of multiple killings.


Brast said outside court that Abulaban, 29, is a TikTok star known as JinnKid, with more than 940,000 followers on the social media app. His account features comedy skits and impersonations of the character Tony Montana from the 1983 film “Scarface.”

The charges and special allegations allow prosecutors to pursue the death penalty if Abulaban is convicted. The district attorney’s office has not announced whether it plans to seek the death penalty or life in prison without parole if the defendant is found guilty. Such decisions are usually announced after a preliminary hearing has been held.

Abulaban’s attorney did not comment on the allegations during the hearing.

Police identified the victims Monday as Ana Abulaban, 28, of San Diego and Rayburn Cadenas Barron, 29, of National City.

About two dozen family members and friends of the two victims packed the courtroom. Several of them sobbed as Brast shared details about the killings.

The shooting happened just before 3 p.m. Thursday in Ana Abulaban’s apartment on the 35th floor of the Spire San Diego high-rise, on Island Avenue in East Village.

Brast said Ali Abulaban confessed to detectives and accused his wife of cheating, although the prosecutor said she believes Barron was a friend.


According to Brast, Ana Abulaban had asked her husband to move out Oct. 18. He checked into a hotel.

Three days later, Brast said, Ali Abulaban sneaked back into the apartment and trashed it while his wife was gone. He also installed the app on his daughter’s iPad, left it charging in a bedroom and took off.

Hours later, Abulaban was listening to the app when he heard his wife and a man talking and giggling, Brast said, and he raced back to the high-rise. Security camera video showed him running out of the elevator to the apartment.

Police in front of a high-rise.
San Diego police stand outside the entrance to the Spire San Diego high-rise in the East Village on Thursday afternoon, after two people were found dead in an apartment on the 35th floor.
(David Hernandez/ San Diego Union-Tribune)

Brast said Abulaban shot Barron three times before shooting his wife in her head. Abulaban then called his mother and confessed, Brast said.

After he picked up his daughter, he called police about 3:10 p.m. as he drove on State Route 94. They arrested him 45 minutes later on State Route 15 near Interstate 805. His daughter was in the vehicle.

Police said Monday that family was caring for the girl, who was not present during the shooting.

According to Brast, Abulaban has a history of domestic violence. His wife called police last month and reported that her husband had pushed her, causing minor injuries. She planned to file a restraining order.

Judge Kimberlee Lagotta ordered Abulaban jailed without bail. The judge also issued a protective order that requires Abulaban to stay away from his daughter.

According to a 2019 news release, the Virginia native was a singer — a career that began when he was 14 — before he turned to social media, on which he focused on celebrity voice impressions. He has also starred in short films inspired by “Scarface.” The news release described him as a rising star.