Cell phone tower data introduced in trial for Rochester man charged in 2019 murder
Prosecutors argue that the data places Ayub Abucar Hagi Iman, 25, at the scene where 28-year-old Garad Hassan Roble was killed.
ROCHESTER — For the first time in the trial of a 25-year-old man charged with aiding and abetting murder, jurors heard that cell phone tower data placed two phones associated with the defendant at the scene of the crime.
The testimony came Monday morning, April 4, 2022, as Olmsted County detective Chad Winters took the stand in the trial of Ayub Abucar Hagi Iman.
Iman, 25, is charged in Olmsted County District Court with aid and abet second-degree murder in the death of 28-year-old Garad Hassan Roble.
Roble's body was found by a motorist in the pre-dawn hours of March 5, 2019, on 45th Street Southeast, between St. Bridget Road Southeast (County Road 20) and Simpson Road (County Road 1). He had been shot 11 times.
Using cell tower evidence obtained from the cell phone provider, Winters testified that a number associated with Iman showed his phone in the area of 45th Street Southeast around 2:16 a.m. on March 5, 2019.
Testimony from FBI Special Daniel Harris also placed a phone belonging to Iman at the scene of Roble’s body during that same time frame.
Olmsted County Sheriff’s detectives were unable to obtain so-called significant location data from numbers associated with Iman. One phone, a flip phone collected by law enforcement, did not have the capability to store such information as WiFi and bluetooth connections. A second phone, a smartphone, associated with Iman was never found by law enforcement.
Winters also testified that law enforcement did not have evidence placing Iman in the area of the Elton Hills Drive Northwest bridge, where the gun was located on top of the frozen Zumbro River. The last ping from Iman’s phone came from around 2:44 a.m. on March 5, 2019.
A phone associated with a second man, Muhidin Abukar, 33, was at that location, according to Winters. Abukar is also charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. His jury trial last year ended in a mistrial. A second trial is scheduled for May 2022.
FBI Special Harris, a member of the FBI’s cellular analysis survey team, testified that a phone associated with Abukar was in the area of the Elton Hills Drive Northwest bridge between 2:47 and 2:50 a.m. on March 5, 2019.
Jurors were also shown a series of videos taken from Minnesota Department of Transportation traffic cameras on a portion of U.S. Highway 52 between U.S. Highway 63 and 19th Street Northwest. Winters testified that the video, overlaid with cell phone data, showed the dark colored suspect vehicle and Abukar’s phone moving in the same direction.
Last to take the stand for the state’s case was Murayad Hasan, Roble’s mother. She told the jury that Roble was a “happy child” who helped with everything she needed.
Hasan also said her son was friendly with everyone and trusted everyone -- something she said she believed led to his death.
Iman’s attorney James McGeeney called two members of the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office as witnesses -- Sgt. Brady Wolhart and Detective Zachari Wagner.
Wolhart was tasked with collecting surveillance video from a gas station in the area of where Iman’s phone had pinged around 10:30 p.m. March 4, 2019. Wolhart testified that he could not tell who either of the two people were who exited the vehicle at the gas station nor could he tell if anyone else was inside the dark colored vehicle.
A witness who testified on Friday, Aaliyah Lamb, said she saw Iman during the early morning hours of March 5, 2019, in a dark colored car. Lamb was the only person to testify that she saw Iman, Abukar and Roble together on March 5.
Through Wagner’s testimony, McGeeney highlighted inconsistencies in Lamb’s testimony as well as a reluctance to be immediately truthful with law enforcement. Lamb had been out at the now-closed downtown restaurant The Loop with Roble, Abukar and two other people on March 4, 2019.
“Is is true that Ms. Lamb told you she did not feel obligated to tell you the things she didn’t want to?” McGeeney asked Wagner of his March 7, 2019, interview with Lamb.
“That sounds consistent,” Wagner said.
Iman declined to testify on his own behalf and the defense rested after calling Wagner.
Iman’s trial is expected to be sent to the jury for deliberations Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Fourteen jurors — eight women and six men — were chosen to hear the case but ultimately only 12 of them will participate in deliberations.