Woman allegedly drugged at club takes stand, faces 2 defendants
On the witness stand Monday, the victim of an alleged kidnapping and sexual assault told a judge what she remembered as she faded in and out of consciousness.
According to her testimony at an hours-long preliminary hearing, she remembered saying “stop.”
Someone held her arms down, she said. Strangers told her to “shut up” and they occasionally spoke in Arabic, she said.
Her next memory, she said, was waking up in a Springfield hospital bed.
The slight, light-haired woman remained calm while testifying that on June 1 she was abducted from a downtown Springfield nightclub where someone had slipped a drug in her drink before carrying her to an Elm Street apartment.
The two men accused in the case, Rayan Mohammed A Alqabbaa, 21, and Ahmed Ayed A Alanazi, 27, could potentially face life sentences if convicted on the charges.
But the pair’s attorneys, Dee Wampler and Joe Passanise, say surveillance footage from Zan nightclub contradicts details of the woman’s account.
Through cross-examination, Wampler stressed that the young, 100-pound woman acknowledged consuming more than six alcoholic beverages before she arrived at the nightclub, where she continued to drink. Wampler also repeatedly questioned witnesses about the specific length of her miniskirt.
The woman told police she had gone to the club with her fiancé, who was outside in the car. Details of the length of time he was outside or his whereabouts were not made clear during Monday’s hearing.
Ryan Warren, general manager of Zan, testified that the surveillance video shows no evidence the woman had been drugged in the bar and, in general, she did not appear in distress. The video was not played in the courtroom.
Wampler also called two witnesses — friends of the defendants. They testified that the woman had been offered a ride home from in front of Zan, but she chose to stay with Alqabbaa and Alanazi. One of the friends was a young woman who was underage and had been drinking water that night, according to her testimony.
But those friends, assistant prosecutor Stephanie Wan pointed out, had no knowledge of what happened inside the Elm Street apartment, where the sexual assault allegedly occurred.
Brian Newman, a Springfield cab driver, testified to driving the alleged victim and the two men to an Elm Street apartment.
He said something “didn’t feel right” during the five-minute cab ride. The men didn’t know the woman’s name and the woman was mostly “incoherent.”
When they got to the apartment, Newman said, the woman was dragged from the cab and carried into the apartment. Newman, concerned for the woman’s well-being, flagged down a nearby officer.
During cross-examination, Wampler suggested another reason the cabbie felt uneasy about the situation: two Arab men with a white woman might have been an additional factor to cause suspicion.
Newman disagreed. “It would’ve been the same if they were white, black, purple or green,” he said.
An officer responded to the apartment complex and could hear a woman moaning from outside the building, according to a probable cause statement used to justify charges in the case.
When the officers were allowed inside the apartment by a man identified as Alanazi, they described hearing a woman crying for help behind a locked bedroom door, court documents said.
After officers pounded on the door and shouted “police,” a man (later identified as Alqabbaa) opened it. The officers wrote in court documents that they observed a woman inside, partially clothed, crying, vomiting and asking for help.
“She repeatedly stated, ‘take me home’ and ‘get me out of here,’” the probable cause statement said.
The victim, in and out of consciousness, told the officers she did not know the men.
Greene County Associate Judge Mark Powell will consider the evidence — including the surveillance footage — to determine whether the case should continue toward trial. DNA evidence awaits laboratory testing, so Powell will not have it as he deliberates.
In the meantime, Alanazi and Alqabbaa will remain in the Greene County Jail on $1 million bond each. Each faces identical charges of forcible sodomy and kidnapping.
Prosecutors argued the bond should remain high in part because the men are citizens of Saudi Arabia and therefore a flight risk. The pair were in Springfield studying English at Missouri State University.