'The next Ted Bundy': Florida woman said she warned authorities about stabbing suspect

The murder of a woman in a New York hotel and the stabbing attacks of two women in Arizona could have been prevented, according to a former co-worker of the suspect.

The Florida woman said she narrowly escaped from Almansoori herself.

Raad Almansoori, 26, was arrested and booked into a Maricopa County jail on Sunday after Surprise police said he stabbed and tried to rape a female McDonald's employee. He also told police that he had stabbed another woman in Phoenix and bragged about murdering a woman in a New York hotel earlier this month in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.

In a Maricopa County Superior Court hearing on Monday, a detective said Almansoori had told authorities he got into an argument with a woman in Florida whom he described as a girlfriend and choked her after she didn't listen to him before stealing her car.

Leah Palian, the suspect's former co-worker, told The Arizona Republic she wished Florida prosecutors had listened to her after she was attacked by Almansoori less than a year ago.

She said in April 2023, Almansoori strangled her, forced her to have sex and kept her inside her Orlando area apartment against her will. But sexual battery and assault charges weren't pursued, according to prosecutors and court documents.

How did Palian and Almansoori meet?

Palian described what she said happened to her almost a year ago.

She first met Almansoori at an Orlando restaurant where they both worked. Almansoori had started about a month before Palian and trained her. The two worked together most days and got to know each other. Palian said Almansoori was always socially awkward, but she never imagined he could commit the types of crimes he now is accused of.

"He had told me a lot about his childhood trauma and current struggles and started opening up to me," Palian said. "I kind of thought that that was what contributed to how awkward and reserved he was. I didn't at first know he was capable of doing these horrendous things."

Raad Almansoori listens during his hearing on Feb. 26, 2024, in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix.
Raad Almansoori listens during his hearing on Feb. 26, 2024, in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix.

Palian noticed that Almansoori would always bike to and from work, even though his home was about a two-hour bike ride away, so she started driving him home when they worked together.

After a late-night shift, Almansoori asked Palian to drive him home and to drive him to the auto shop early the next morning so he could pick up his car. Palian said she offered to let Almansoori stay at her apartment that night so she wouldn't have to drive to and from his home, to which Almansoori agreed.

The two arrived at her place, and Palian said she offered him a glass of wine. After drinking half of a glass, she said his awkward and reserved demeanor completely shifted, turning belligerent and hateful.

"It was like he was blackout drunk," Palian said. "He was just berating me and calling me a whore, telling me that my father doesn't love me, and all of these really weird things you wouldn't say to someone you known for a couple of weeks that's doing you a favor."

Palian said she thought Almansoori was too incoherent to kick out then and there, so she decided to go to bed and wait until the morning to talk with him, hoping that he would be more reasonable then. The next morning, she woke up with Almansoori in her bed, with his arms wrapped around her.

She told him that his behavior was inappropriate and "horrendous."

"Friends don't treat friends that way, and I will not be taking you to get your car. Please leave my apartment,'" Palian said she told him.

Almansoori refused to leave, instead trying for an hour to convince Palian to take him to his car. He frantically shook her while begging her to take him to the shop before changing his tactic, saying that he was in love with her, which was why he was acting the way he was.

Palian said he eventually forced her to unlock her phone, where he found a message she'd sent her friend making fun of his behavior the night before.

"That really set him off," Palian said.

After that, she said Almansoori turned silent and started closing the window blinds and locking the front door.

She said he told her, "Scream and I'll kill you" before getting on top of her and strangling her to the point her vision became blurry.

"Then while he was on top of me, strangling me, he's saying, 'I hate that I have to do this. I hate that I have to kill you,' and it was the most terrifying thing ever," Palian said.

When he stopped choking her, Palian said he told her that she'd "made the devil come out of his body." He then forced her to perform oral sex on him, she said.

"It was just like such a thrill for him, everything that was happening," Palian said. "And so, when he was finished, he had some clarity and was like, 'You're going to tell people.'"

Palian, who was desperate to get away, attempted to soothe him so he would allow her to leave, she said. She convinced him to allow her to take him to his car, but he insisted on driving.

While driving, Palian asked Almansoori to pull over to use the restroom. She said she convinced him to let her enter a convenience store restroom alone.

She entered the gas station restroom and texted her parents to call 911 because her cellphone signal wasn't strong enough for her to do it herself, she said. Almansoori came banging on the door soon after, asking her to come out.

Moments later, Palian said she heard keys jingling at the door. Almansoori had convinced the gas station manager to unlock the door, saying that his friend was unresponsive and he needed to check on her.

"When that happened, I started screaming 'No, don't let him in, this man just tried to kill me, I'm on the phone with 911,'" Palian said.

When Almansoori heard she had called 911, he immediately fled in her car. He was caught a day later by the Florida Highway Patrol, still in Palian's car.

How was Almansoori's prosecution handled in Florida?

Palian said the officers and detectives, who were all women, were very helpful in assisting her. Almansoori was arrested and accused of multiple crimes, including sexual battery, aggravated assault and grand theft auto. They helped Palian retrieve her bike, which was in her car before Almansoori sold it to a pawn shop.

"It was great," Palian said. "I thought it was going to be an open-and-closed case."

But no action was taken on any charge except grand theft auto, and Almansoori was granted release on a $2,500 bond. He has not yet gone to trial.

The Office of the State Attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit in Florida told The Arizona Republic in a statement that it "concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove the sexual battery and aggravated assault charges beyond a reasonable doubt."

"We are disheartened to hear about the tragic events in New York and Arizona and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones and all the communities impacted," said Jason Gunn, spokesperson for the attorney's office. "We acknowledge the hurt and pain that is felt when we are legally unable to move forward with prosecuting a case."

Palian said she felt there was ample evidence to prosecute Almansoori on sexual battery and aggravated assault charges.

"When I went in for the interview, they weren't really addressing any of my concerns," Palian said. "They were brushing off a lot of things, and when I felt that energy and I felt that I was not being taken seriously, I told them verbatim, 'If you let this man walk with a slap on the wrist, he's going to become the next Ted Bundy.'"

The detective who was questioned in Almansoori's Monday hearing in Phoenix said Almansoori believed the Florida assault and sexual assault charges against him had been dropped and he was on release for only the stolen vehicle charge.

Suspect called Florida victim night of New York slaying

Palian described a chilling moment when she said Almansoori violated the no-contact order placed on him.

She had been receiving phone calls with no caller IDs for months, which she speculated were from Almansoori, but she did not pick them up. On the evening of Feb. 7, the same night Almansoori was accused of killing the woman in SoHo hotel, Palian received a FaceTime call from an unknown number that she assumed to be one of her friends.

She answered, and Almansoori was on the line.

"My heart just sank completely, and I was shaking," Palian said. "I was kind of in a trauma response. And the only thing I could think to say was, 'Why are you calling me?' And he was like, 'I just wanted to see how you felt about everything between us.'"

Palian told him not to contact her and hung up the phone before emailing the state attorney's office about what had happened. She said she didn't receive a solution from the office until eight days later.

The state attorney's office motioned in court to revoke the $2,500 bond that Almansoori used to be released, but Palian said it was too little, too late.

"It's just terrifying (to see) the lack of concern, the lack of urgency and the lack of communication," Palian said. "With them handling this so poorly, it allowed these horrific events to transpire and other women to be harmed in the process."

The state attorney's office did not respond specifically to Palian's comments, instead referring The Republic back to its original statement.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office announced Tuesday Almansoori had been indicted on two counts of attempt to commit first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of attempted sexual assault, one count of attempted armed robbery and one count of theft of means of transportation.

In Florida, Almansoori's scheduled March trial on the grand theft auto charge has been canceled, court records show.

Arizona Republic reporter Perry Vandell contributed to this article.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Fla. woman warned prosecutors about stabbing suspect Raad Almansoori