Half-dozen witnesses take stand in murder trial Wednesday
The testimony gave jurors some of their first glimpses into the last hours of Garad Roble's life.
ROCHESTER — Nearly a dozen witnesses took the stand Wednesday, March 30, 2022, in the case of a 25-year-old Rochester man charged with playing a role in the murder of a 28-year-old man more than three years ago.
The testimony, which came from members of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, employees of the now-closed The Loop restaurant, and a woman who said she used to buy drugs from 28-year-old Garad Roble, the murder victim, gave jurors some of their first glimpses into the last hours of Roble’s life.
Ayub Abucar Hagi Iman, 25, is charged in Olmsted County District Court with aid and abet second-degree murder for his alleged role in the death of Roble, whose body 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.
A jury of eight women and six men was selected Monday. Opening statements as well as testimony from four members of the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office and two forensic scientists with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was heard by the jury Tuesday.
In his opening remarks, Assistant Olmsted County Attorney Andrew LeTourneau told the jury that the timeline of events on March 4 leading into March 5 would be important for them to reach 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 be presented as evidence and show the movements of the men that night.
Iman’s attorney, James McGeeney, told the jury in his opening remarks that while there were “literally reams of evidence in the case,” the only thing prosecutors could definitively prove was that Roble was shot to death.
Two former employees of The Loop, manager Charles Morris and server Rebecca Rose, took the stand Wednesday morning, giving jurors the first opportunity to see Roble alive through surveillance footage taken from the restaurant on March 4, 2019. Both Morris and Rose testified that Iman was not in the group that Roble joined that March night.
Iman’s codefendant, Muhidin Abukar, was present at the bar along with his brother and two women.
Abukar, 33, is also charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. A second trial is scheduled for May 2022 after a jury trial late last year ended in a mistrial.
Last to take the stand Wednesday morning was Rocheter resident LaTonya McNeal. McNeal told jurors that she had known Roble, whom she called “Nike,” for years and occasionally bought drugs from him.
McNeal said she last spoke with Roble around 2 a.m. on March 5, 2019.
“He asked me if I needed anything,” McNeal said, referring to drugs. “I told him I was good. I’d call him if I needed him.”
McNeal also said that while in the past Roble has been “feisty,” she noticed a change in him when she saw him on March 4.
“That day he seemed a lot different to me,” she said.
Following the lunch recess, jurors heard from two civil engineers who found a semiautomatic .40-caliber Glock handgun on top of the frozen Zumbro River near the Elton Hills Drive Northwest bridge on March 8. The gun was later determined to have been the weapon used to kill Roble. Both men testified that they did not touch the gun and that they called police when they found it.
Through Rochester police officer Trevor Wahlen's testimony, the Glock handgun and the magazine that was inside of it when it was found were introduced into evidence. The handgun had stampings or engravings that said “MSHP” and “Missouri State High Patrol.” The magazine found in the gun also had a marking in silver marker that read “746.”
On Tuesday, BCA forensic scientist Mckenzie Anderson testified that while DNA was found on the firearm, there was either DNA from too many people without a clear major contributor or too little to test. Forensic scientist Travis Melland testified that 10 cartridges found at the scene with Roble's body bore the markings of having been fired from the Glock handgun found on the river.
Last to take the stand Wednesday was Rochester police investigator Brock Neumann.
Neumann was involved in an unrelated investigation in the weeks before Roble's death that resulted in the collection of trash at a residence in Northwest Rochester. That trash pull led to investigators executing a warrant at that same residence on March 6 and a secondary trash collection on March 7. As a result of that investigation, law enforcement located a second magazine marked with "746" and a holster.
Neumann also testified that he had previous "incidental" contact with Iman and knew him to have a nickname of "YB." The nickname will likely prove an important piece of evidence in the prosecutors case as they work to prove to the jury that Iman was connected to a phone that was tracked with Roble's in the hours leading up to Roble's death.
Attorneys argued, and a judge ruled that an additional witness will be allowed to testify. That witness is the registered subscriber of the phone number that other individuals had in their phone as "YB." Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem said in court Tuesday that his intent was to explore the relationship between Iman and the registered subscriber of that phone number.
Trial is scheduled to resume Thursday morning.