ST. GEORGE — A man recently charged with kidnapping and assault was released from jail during a hearing held Tuesday, just one day before an out-of-state case surfaced, in which the suspect was charged with an assault that left a newborn with multiple skull fractures.
Zeshawn Qamar Durrani, 37, appeared Tuesday in 5th District Court for a bail hearing held before District Judge Jeffery C. Wilcox. Durrani has been held without bail since his arrest Sept. 27 for allegedly holding a woman against her will and assaulting her. The hearing was to determine whether he should be released while his case moves toward trial or if he posed a threat to the community.
Nathan Reeve, Durrani’s defense attorney, told the court the defendant has strong ties to the local community, is employed in Washington County and has never failed to appear for any of his scheduled court appearances. With regard to community safety, Reeve said there was no evidence Durrani had ever acted aggressively toward the public at large and posed no risk to the community.
When addressed by Wilcox, the defendant said he has been a resident of Utah since 2018, after relocating from his home in Washington State. He also said he had a job but no family living in the area.
Prosecutor Rebekah-Ann Gebler also spoke during the hearing and went over the details of the case, which involves a woman who was assaulted at her residence in Diamond Valley on Sept. 25. The report alleges that the suspect beat the woman’s head against the ground, struck her with a broom and choked her to the point she blacked out.
The woman was also held against her will, Gebler added, and argued that Durrani had another case filed in 2020 involving aggravated burglary and assault charges. The defendant was on pre-trial release on that case when the recent offenses allegedly took place.
“These cases are very violent,” she added.
She also mentioned the defendant’s criminal history, which extended beyond Utah, and closed by arguing the defendant “does pose a risk to the community.”
The judge also mentioned the 2020 case, saying it was cause for concern, being that Durrani picked up the new charges while that case was still active in the courts. Reeve addressed this saying there was video evidence obtained that he said exonerated his client, adding the case should be dismissed as the charges were unfounded. According to court records, the case is still active.
Wilcox then ordered that Durrani be released under Level 3 conditions, which also includes a provision that prohibits the defendant from having any contact with the victim in the case.
Around the time of the September arrest, St. George News received a series of emails from a woman who requested that her identity and location be withheld due to concerns over her and her children’s safety. The emails outlined the defendant’s criminal history that spanned across Oregon and Washington State, and also summarized what she and her children went through “on a devastating scale” when Durrani entered their lives.
One case noted in the message involved an incident reported in Yakima, Washington, in December 2011, when officers were dispatched to a residence where Durrani had reportedly assaulted a young mother and her infant.
St. George News reached out to Detective Curtis Oja, with the Yakima Police Department’s Special Assault Unit, who said he was the lead detective on the case and even after nearly a decade, he remembers it well.
Oja summarized the events that led up to Durrani’s arrest that began with a verbal altercation at a residence in Yakima between the suspect and his girlfriend, who was holding the couple’s 3-day-old infant at the time.
The suspect told the mother to let the baby go, the detective said, but when the young mother continued cradling the baby against her chest, “the suspect began punching the mother’s hand that was cupping the baby’s head,” he said.
The detective said Durrani punched the mother’s hand over and over again, which left the newborn with multiple skull fractures. The newborn was later transported to Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital’s pediatric trauma unit.
The suspect was arrested on a second-degree felony assault of a child and was held on $200,000 bail.
Initially, the detective said, the baby’s prognosis by treating physicians was grave, but over time, he said, the child’s condition improved. Oja also said treating physicians said there was high probability the baby would be left with long-term brain damage – the extent of which, if any, was not expected to show up for several years; likely when the child started school.
Less than two weeks after the incident, Durrani was back in a Yakima courtroom facing a tampering with a witness charge after prosecutors learned the suspect had told a friend to tell the suspect’s girlfriend to recant the statements she made to authorities on the night the attack took place. If she refused, the suspect threatened to release embarrassing photos of her.
In August 2012, the assault of a child charge was later amended to second-degree felony assault, which avoided the three-strike provision as part of the plea deal, Oja said, and Durrani was sentenced to serve three years in prison. He was released early.
In 2015, the suspect was arrested on a fugitive warrant by the U.S. Marshals Service for a parole violation, and three years later he would end up in Utah.
Oja, who still works in the Special Assault Unit at the Yakima Police Department, said the suspect had a criminal history in the surrounding Tri-Cities area, which also included offenses he committed as a juvenile, including an assault arrest that led investigators to consider the suspect a “loose canon,” a description that stuck with detectives throughout the investigation.
The detective also said after nearly a decade, the 2011 case still stands out due to the level of violence that was perpetrated upon not only a young, petite, new mother, he said, but also upon the infant who was caught in the crossfire and sustained significant injuries in the process.
“This guy is a chronic, deviant abuser who is moving his way south,” Oja said, “And ultimately, if he’s not locked up, he’s going to end up killing a woman.”
The suspect’s first run-in with authorities in Utah took place in April 2018, when Durrani was cited for a pedestrian infraction. Two years later, the suspect was charged with aggravated burglary, robbery and other charges in connection with an incident involving an alleged break-in and assault of a woman in St. George.
That was the case mentioned during Tuesday’s hearing, which court records indicate is active and still slated for trial, amid the backlog of cases that resulted from the COVID-19 restrictions that were put in place.
This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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