Ali Abulaban may be in jail facing murder charges, but his social media presence remains unshaken. On Monday, a judge ordered the TikTok personality to stand trial for the murder of his wife and another person. Abulaban faces two counts of first-degree murder for the October 2021 shooting deaths of Ana Abulaban, 28, and Rayburn Barron, 29 in a San Diego luxury apartment building. He has pleaded not guilty.
Three months after Abulaban’s arrest, however, his popular Tiktok account and Instagram page remain up, though he hasn’t posted. Several recent commenters have even lamented Abulaban’s choice to throw his own career away by allegedly killing his wife (whose life was, of course, far more impacted by her death than his own). Rolling Stone has reached out to both social media companies asking about their policies for allowing users facing murder charges to keep their accounts.
Abulaban, who is 29, used to post impressions recorded from bed or in the bathroom mirror on TikTok, where he still has more than 955,000 followers. He is a self-declared specialist on Al Pacino in Scarface — calling himself “the internet’s Tony Montana” — and he idolizes the cast of the movie, posting photos on Instagram from a time he met actor Steven Bauer. Sometimes, he’d post videos with his wife. More often, he’d appear on her TikTok account, including in one video from Apr. 2021 captioned, “When your partner is your best friend.” In it, they dance around their apartment; Ana looks at Abulaban, laughing, while he mugs for the camera.
Prosecutors said Ana was preparing to leave her husband, in part due to an alleged domestic violence incident in September where he’d pushed her, after which she’d called the police. On Oct. 18, they say Ana had asked Abulaban to move out. He’d left to stay in a hotel, but not before clandestinely making a copy of his key, they allege.
On Jan. 7 at a preliminary hearing, a San Diego Police Department officer testified that the police were called nine times to the couple’s apartment in the months leading up to the shooting. No arrests were made as a result of those calls. Also at the preliminary hearing, neighbors of the Abdulabans testified that a month before the shooting, Ana had knocked on the door asking to use their phone to call the police because Abulaban had hit her and had taken her phone.
Prosecutors have alleged that on Oct. 21, 2021, Abulaban had used his copied key to break in and install an app on their five-year-old daughter’s iPad that allowed him to listen live to conversations inside the apartment. Later that day, when he heard a man’s voice on the app, prosecutors claim he drove to the apartment complex, entered the unit, and shot both victims.
According to a police officer who testified at the preliminary hearing, Abulaban had called 911 after the shooting, and he’d said the victims had already been shot dead when he arrived. In a jailhouse interview, however, Abulaban told Fox5 he’d seen Barron and Ana “kissing” when he walked in. Asked whether he’d killed his wife, he said, “Don’t ask me that. Don’t ask me that.” Prosecutors said he confessed to police and his mother that he’d shot Ana and Barron. The public defender representing Abulaban did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Abulaban could face the death penalty if convicted.