Murder charge dismissed against Saudi resident - FOX Carolina 21

Murder charge dismissed against Saudi resident

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A murder charge against a Saudi man has been dropped, and he is now a free man.

The Johnson County Prosecutor's Office dismissed the case against Ziyad Abid, 24, who was accused of paying to have popular bar owner Blaine Whitworth killed.

The blockbuster announcement came Friday morning. There had been much dispute over bond for Abid with the Saudi government putting up a $2 million bond, but he wasn't freed. The Missouri Attorney General's Office had also become involved in the case.

"We are thrilled that this nightmare is behind us," Abid's defense attorney, Pat Peters, told KCTV5 News. "There isn't a case against our client because he's innocent."

The victim's mother said the prosecutor's decision makes their grieving process that much harder.

Abid was released Friday afternoon from a county detention facility. He was given into the custody of federal immigration authorities, who then allowed Abid to go free at 4 p.m. Friday on his own personal recognizance.

Earlier Friday morning, in a terse news release, Prosecuting Attorney Lynn M. Stoppy said evidence in the criminal investigation had changed.

"Very recently, our understanding of evidence previously obtained from a critical witness has changed. As a result, the state is currently left without sufficient evidence to support the prosecution at this time," Stoppy said.

Warrensburg Police Chief Bruce said he and his officers are disappointed by the dismissal.

"As a law enforcement agency, our job is to investigate crimes to the fullest, and then not intercede in the prosecution process, once the case has been turned over to them," Howey said. "We have full faith and the utmost respect in our prosecuting attorney, and the state attorney general's office and the difficult decisions they have to make."

Whitworth was found lying in the driveway of his home on Sept. 1. He had suffered gunshots.

Charges were filed late Wednesday afternoon against Reginald L. Singletary, 27, of Warrensburg. Both men were charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

Both suspects had been questioned. Singletary told police that Abid paid him to kill Whitworth, according to court documents. Abid and Singletary were roommates. A motive has never been fully explained.

Abid was studying aviation at the University of Central Missouri. His goal was to become a pilot like his father back home in Saudi Arabia.

Because of the pending case against Singletary, Howey said he could make no further comment.

Peters said questions about Singletary's credibility, his claims and his ever-changing stories led to the dismissal of the charges. He said he believes Warrensburg police had coached Singletary on the statements he made.

"From the beginning of this case, the reason the case was charged were the statements of Reginald Singletary. And the prosecutor has determined that he's unworthy of belief," Peters said. "Police told Reginald Singletary what to say."

Peters also thinks because his client is a Saudi national that the case was treated differently.

While Abid was being held in jail, his student visa expired. That put him in immigration violations, Peters explained.

Once the process of getting the paperwork associated with the criminal charges being dropped, Peters said Abid will have to deal with the immigration violations. He hopes that can be resolved quickly, and his client released from custody.

Abid may not leave the country immediately. Peters said he has rights violations to get vindicated, and declined to say whether he will pursue lawsuits against Missouri for the prosecution. He will also have to decide what to do about his aviation training, he said.

"He is a 24-year-old Saudi, who has been put through hell. I don't know what I would do. He has some decisions to be making," Peters said. "It just hit today ... We thought we were headed in this direction, but we didn't think it would occur this quickly."

The news of the dismissal upset many who live and work in the Warrensburg area. Some said Whitworth needs justice and wonder if the United States government got involved because of Saudi Arabia.

"This town, I think, is outraged because I think what's happened has been an injustice. It seems to me that from the start nobody's ever wanted to try this case," he said. "It seems like the fix has been in."

Mike Bodenhamer said Whitworth "was a great kid," and he is "extremely disappointed" in the dismissal.

"I think it makes it a little worse because allegedly the guy is still out there," he said.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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