WARRENSBURG, Mo. — Thanks to a quirk in Missouri and federal immigration law, deportation could allow a Warrensburg murder suspect to escape justice.
Zayid Abid, 23, is one step closer to freedom after a Johnson County, Missouri, judge set a $2 million bond on Friday. Abid is accused of plotting the September 1st murder of 25-year-old Warrensburg bar owner Blaine Whitworth, who was gunned down in his driveway.
Prosecutors say Abid hired 27-year Reginald Singletary, a bouncer at one of Whitworth’s bars, to shoot Whitworth, but investigators haven’t revealed a possible motive.
The victim’s parents say that they now fear that Abid has a bond, he might be able to flee to his home country of Saudi Arabia. A federal immigration agent for the Department of Homeland Security testified at a recent court hearing that Abid can ask the U.S. Government to deport him now that his student visa has been revoked – even though the reason his visa was revoked was because he was charged with murder in Whitworth’s death.
Abid was attending the University of Central Missouri to obtain a pilot’s license at the time of the shooting.
In a cruel twist, prosecutors have told the victim’s parents, Diane and Barry Whitworth, that Abid could used his revoked visa to his advantage by asking the Department of Homeland Security to deport him once he’s posted bond.
“You have the justice system not in sync with the immigration system where someone could escape justice simply because they’re declared here illegally,” said Barry Whitworth.
The Whitworths wanted Judge Jacqueline Cook to continue holding Abid without bond because they think he’s a flight risk. But Abid’s attorney successfully argued that under Missouri law, only someone facing the death penalty can be held without bond.
“I may not like the law but it’s my job to enforce it,” said Cook, who imposed a number of restrictions as part of Abid’s bond. He’ll have to wear an electronic bracelet, forfeit his passport, pilot’s license and all travel documents – but Cook admitted that may not be enough if the Department of Homeland Security decides to deport Abid, despite his murder charge.
The Whitworth family says that they are working with lawmakers to change Missouri law so that anyone who is considered a serious flight risk can be held without bond.
“I think the legislature needs to look at this very soon, and change this before it affects someone else like us,” said Barry Whitworth.