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Law enforcement, forensic scientists testify in first day of 2019 Rochester murder trial

Ayub Abucar Hagi Iman, 25, is charged in Olmsted County District court with aid and abet second-degree murder. A jury was selected Monday, March 28, 2022.

Iman, Ayub 3.24.22.jpg
Ayub Iman.
Contributed / Olmsted County Sheriff's Office
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ROCHESTER — The defense attorney for a 25-year-old Rochester man charged with aiding and abetting the murder of a 28-year-old man in 2019 told a jury that the only thing prosecutors could prove was that the 28-year-man died and that he was shot to death.

The words, spoken by Ayub Abucar Hagi Iman’s attorney, James McGeeney, came as part of opening statements Tuesday morning March 29, 2022, as Iman’s trial began in Olmsted County District Court.

Whether the eight women and six men of the jury agree will likely not be known for at least a week as prosecutors are set to call likely more than a dozen witnesses to testify. Ultimately, only 12 jurors will participate in deliberations.

Iman, 25, is charged in Olmsted County District Court with aid and abet second-degree murder. A jury was selected Monday.

Iman declined a plea offer from prosecutors that would have seen him plead guilty to aiding an offender after the fact and be sentenced to 50 to 81 months in state prison.

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Garad Hassan Roble, 28, was found by a passing 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). Roble died as the result of multiple gunshot wounds, including at least one head wound and another in the abdomen, according to court documents.

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Assistant Olmsted County Attorney Andrew LeTourneau told the jury in his opening statements that the timeline of events on March 4 leading into March 5 would be important for them in reaching a verdict. Large amounts of cellphone data, including information taken from the phone itself as well as data pulled from cell towers, is expected to come in as evidence and show the movements of the men that night.

LeTourneau told jurors that the evidence would show that Iman was one of two men who drove Roble out to the rural gravel road where his body was found.

The second man, Muhidin Abukar, 33, is also charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

A jury trial was held in late November and early December 2021 but ended in a mistrial after a jury was unable to come to a unanimous verdict following approximately 18 hours of deliberation. He has been held on $10 million unconditional bail since August 2019. A second trial is tentatively scheduled for May.

Prosecutors have said in both Iman’s and Abukar’s trials that they did not know who pulled the trigger.

“We can’t tell you exactly what happened on 45th Street. We don’t know who pulled the trigger 11 times and killed Garad Roble,” LeTourneau said. “The evidence will show, at the very least, Ayub Iman aided and abetted the murder of Garad Roble by driving him to his death.””

The semiautomatic .40-caliber Glock handgun used to kill Roble was found on March 8 on top of the frozen Zumbro River near the Elton Hills Drive Northwest bridge. LeTourneau told jurors that the cell phone data would show that Iman was the person who threw it there.

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McGeeney, as well as Abukar’s attorneys, Paul Applebaum and Kenneth Udoibok, argue that while cell data presented by witnesses show that the phones were together, there was no evidence that Roble, Abukar and Iman were together on 45th Street Southeast that March morning.

None of the cell phone records obtained by investigators show that any of the phone numbers tracked belong to Iman. Prosecutors are expected to elicit witness testimony to connect Iman to a phone number that others had in their phone contacts under the name “YB.”

Attorneys had preliminary arguments outside of the presence of the jury Tuesday afternoon about whether prosecutors would be able to call a witness not previously listed on witness lists.

Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem told Judge Christina Stevens the intent was to explore the relationship between Iman and the registered subscriber of that phone number.

Attorneys also briefly argued over the amount of crime scene and autopsy photos that would be presented as evidence. A decision was ultimately reached without a ruling from the judge.

Through the course of testimony Tuesday, jurors heard from the motorist who called 911 after discovering Roble’s body early March 5, 2019, as well as four members of the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office and two forensic scientists with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Forensic scientist Mckenzie Anderson testified that 10 cartridge casings collected from around Roble’s body did not have sufficient DNA for testing. Two bullet fragments tested positive for Roble’s DNA.

Anderson also was responsible for swabbing the Glock handgun for DNA evidence. While DNA was found on the gun’s grips, slide, trigger guard and magazine, none of it was suitable for testing as it contained DNA from multiple people without a clear majority or larger contribution from one person.

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There was insufficient DNA on the trigger to do any further testing.

Three cigarette butts that were collected as evidence from the scene were not tested for DNA as Anderson said the BCA was not asked to test them by the sheriff’s office.

Forensic scientist Travis Melland, who works as a firearms and tool mark examiner for the BCA, testified that the cartridge casings were all fired from the same weapon and that weapon was the Glock found near the Elton Hills Bridge.

The two determinations were made about a week apart as the cartridge casings and handgun were not found at the same time.

The trial is expected to resume Wednesday morning as prosecutors are expected to call a number of civilian witnesses as well as members of law enforcement.

Emily Cutts is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. She joined the Post Bulletin in July 2018 after stints in Vermont and Western Massachusetts.
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