Charges against a Saudi national accused of paying his roommate to kill a Warrensburg bar owner were dropped Friday after information from a critical witness changed, leaving the state with insufficient evidence to prosecute him.
Ziyad Abid, 24, has been jailed since Sept. 5 on first-degree murder and armed criminal action charges. His case gained national attention when Circuit Judge Michael Wagner refused to release him after the Saudi Arabian government posted $2 million bail.
Johnson County Prosecutor Lynn Stoppy announced Friday morning that she had dismissed the case because, "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."
It was not immediately clear what had changed, and a message seeking details from Stoppy left by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, whose office joined the case a month ago as special prosecutor, issued a statement confirming there wasn't enough evidence against Abid.
"First-degree murder is the most serious offense that the State can charge. We have an ethical obligation to dismiss a case once it becomes clear that the evidence presently available to the prosecution is not sufficient to proceed," Koster said.
Abid was arrested after his roommate, Reginald Singletary Jr., told investigators that he killed bar owner Blaine Whitworth in September, and that Abid had paid him to do it. Singletary remains in jail on $1 million bond and has pleaded not guilty.
Defense attorneys had said Singletary was fired as a bouncer at one of Whitworth's bars a week before the shooting, and that Abid had nothing to do with it. Prosecutors offered little evidence against Abid other than Singletary's statements.
"We're thrilled beyond belief," defense attorney Pat Peters said. "It's depressing that a pathological liar can keep an innocent person in jail 11 months, and a circuit judge won't follow the law."
Diane Whitworth, the victim's mother, was clearly upset by the dismissal when reached by phone Friday morning.
"We are disappointed, but other than that there isn't anything else to say," she said.
Circuit Judge Jacqueline Cook set bond for Abid at $2 million in November — along with a number of other conditions — but said she was concerned Abid was a flight risk. She also expressed concerns that Abid would be deported because his student visa had lapsed when he could not attend classes at the University of Central Missouri.
Cook retired and handed the case to Wagner, who also said he was deeply troubled by the possibility that Abid would be deported if released from jail.
Peters said in a motion filed with a state appeals court this week that Singletary had refused to answer questions during a deposition Tuesday.
When he was arrested Sept. 5, Abid was preparing to enter his senior year at Central Missouri, where he was studying aviation and had planned to become a pilot like his father.