The followers of TikTok personality Ana Abulaban are looking at her old videos in a new light following her death and the arrest of her husband for her murder.
Husband and murder suspect Ali Abulaban has almost a million followers across social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
The 29-year-old pleaded not guilty on Monday to two counts of first-degree murder in the San Diego Central Courthouse in southern California. He stands accused of killing his wife, 28-year-old Ana Abulaban, and Rayburn Cadenas Barron, 29, from National City, just south of San Diego.
Prosecutors said during the Monday hearing that Ali Abulaban had secretly installed a listening device on his five-year-old daughter’s tablet, and when he heard his wife and another man talking, he went to her apartment and shot them to death, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
After the shootings on 21 October, Mr Abulaban, still armed, picked up his daughter from school, Deputy District Attorney Taren Brast said.
The details were revealed during the San Diego County Superior Court arraignment for Mr Abulaban, who pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder as well as special-circumstance allegations of multiple killings.
Ms Brast said outside court that Mr Abulaban, 29, is a TikTok star known as JinnKid, with more than 940,000 followers on the social media app.
Mr Abulaban’s attorney did not comment on the allegations during the hearing. Ms Brast said Ali Abulaban confessed to detectives and accused his wife of cheating, although the prosecutor said she believes Mr Barron was a friend.
Followers of the late Ms Abulaban, who has almost 19,000 followers on TikTok, returned to view her old videos to scour them for clues that could have revealed the horrifying events to come.
Many former fans focused on one video posted by Ms Abulaban on 7 April showing the couple dancing alongside the caption: “When your relationship is drama free.”
The description adds: “When your partner is your best friend.”
Many TikTok users noted that social media is often used to show a false narrative to gain praise from strangers and acquaintances alike. Some questioned the couple’s supposed happiness from just a few months ago.
“Absolutely nothing on social media is what it seems,” one TikTok user noted. “You never know what goes on behind closed doors.”
Others argued that the couple could indeed have been as happy as they portrayed themselves to be this spring, but that “things can get bad fast”. But most viewers appeared to hold the opinion that the social media appearance of the couple was a facade.
Louis Marinari, the cousin of Mr Abulaban, told NBC San Diego that the suspect loved his wife “so much that he became obsessed with her, and then he wanted to control her. He couldn’t grasp control over her because she had a really big social life, and he couldn’t control her anymore and it drove him mad. I think this is what led up to him killing her”.
“I was very proud of him you know, and I loved him to death. He loved me to death. We were very close, but like I said, because he did this, the whole way I thought about him is gone. I hate him. I just want to see him be punished to the fullest end of the law. He killed two innocent people,” the 23-year-old added.
Mr Marinari said he thought Mr Abulaban’s social media fame “empowered him. I do think it made him feel like he was better than other people and that nobody could touch him”.
“I think Ali was a very, very insecure person, and he still is very insecure. But I think social media, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, whatever, I think it created a fake reality for him to escape his insecurities, to escape his depression, to escape whatever it was that was going on in his head,” Mr Marinari added. “I think fame created a monster.”
“I honestly think he was acting it all out,” he said about Mr Abulaban’s tears during Monday’s court hearing. “I really don’t think he was crying. I think he was emotionless. I think he looks like the devil. I really just saw an evil, evil, evil person.”
Mr Abulaban’s preliminary hearing is set for 5 January. He faces 25 years to life in prison if he’s convicted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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