Trial begins in murder of UW-Stout student from Saudi Arabia

Jury selection started Tuesday in trial of a man accused of fatally punching a 24-year-old college student from Saudi Arabia during a night out in Menomonie, Wisconsin. 

Cullen Osburn, 29, of Minneapolis is accused of punching Hussain Alnahdi in downtown Menomonie in October 2016. During the fight, investigators say Alnahdi hit his head on a wall and died the next day from a traumatic brain injury. 

Alnahdi was a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Stout studying business administration. Following his death, more than 1,000 students and community members attended a memorial service for the international student, who touched many lives during his short time at the university. 

Police started talking to Osburn days after Alnahdi's death. Osburn told police he would come in for an interview, but he disappeared. He was eventually extradited back to Wisconsin, where he was charged with murder and battery

The trial started Tuesday afternoon following jury selection. During opening statements, prosecutors told jurors that Osburn was angry. They said he came to Menomonie that Halloween weekend looking to party and looking to fight. 

“He came face to face with the defendant,” Dunn County District Attorney Andrea Nodolf said. “And within a matter of moments, the defendant punches Hussein. He falls back, never to get off the ground again.”

But, the defense painted a much different picture, arguing that Alnahdi was "hammered." His blood alcohol level was .284 at the hospital after his skull was fractured.

Osburn’s attorney, Christopher Zipko, said Alnahdi had fallen earlier in the evening. He said his client was just trying to protect himself outside a late night pizza joint when Alnahdi and one of his friends confronted him. 

“It’s truly a tragedy, but not a crime,” Zipko said. “My client didn’t assault him. He didn’t do anything other than try to defend himself by getting away.”

The trial’s first witnesses included local police officers who responded to the scene. The jurors watched squad dash camera video showing paramedics tending to gravely injured Alnahdi. 

Prosecutors pointed out during opening statements that Osborn fled after the encounter, never rendering aid and then evading law enforcement for months before his arrest. 

“The defendant’s weapon of choice is violence. He uses violence to get people to do what he wants,” Nodolf said.