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Police ID Lincoln woman fatally stabbed

January 3, 2019

Prosecutors have charged a 21-year-old Lincoln man with first-degree murder in the death of the mother of his two children, who was found in a Belmont neighborhood driveway on New Year’s Eve.

Neland T. Gray Jr. will make his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon since his arrest in Dijah Ybarra’s slaying. He has also been charged with use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony.

Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said Ybarra died of multiple stab wounds stemming from the alleged assault beginning in Ybarra’s car minutes before police were called.

On Monday, a passer-by in the 1900 block of Montclair Drive found Ybarra unconscious and lying in a driveway with stab wounds at 7:09 p.m., according to police.

She was transported by Lincoln Fire and Rescue to Bryan West Campus, where she died a half hour later.

On Tuesday morning they arrested Gray at police headquarters and jailed him on suspicion of first-degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony.

Investigators believe Gray stabbed Ybarra during an argument in her car moments before she was found, Bliemiester told reporters at a news conference Wednesday morning.

Police are still determining the timeline of events prior to the stabbing, but Bliemeister said investigators do not believe anyone else was involved.

Ybarra’s Chevy Impala was found at an undisclosed location, and police were searching it Wednesday, the chief said.

Gray was released from jail Oct. 2 after serving 119 days in a case in which he was charged with attempted terroristic threats, resisting arrest, domestic assault and disturbing the peace, according to court records.

Lincoln police said he hit Ybarra Dec. 2, 2017, hit a woman trying to help and then threatened another man with a knife in the 3400 block of Portia Street.

Initially charged with two felonies and several misdemeanor charges, Gray pleaded no contest to the reduced charges, and Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret sentenced him to a year in jail.

Maret gave him credit for 80 days he already had served in jail in the case.

In August, Maret ordered Gray not to contact Ybarra while he was on post-release supervision and instructed him to complete a domestic violence intervention program, according to court filings.

He was scheduled to be on post-release supervision until October 2019.

Gray will appear in Lancaster County Court Wednesday afternoon.

He faces life imprisonment if convicted on the first-degree murder charge.

Ybarra graduated from Lincoln Southeast High School in 2015. She gave birth to the couple’s second child July 24, according to newspaper records.

An online fundraiser set up for Ybarra’s family had raised about $4,000 by Wednesday morning.

“On December 31, 2018 our sweet friend, daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, and most importantly mother of 2 was tragically taken from us way too soon,” Farah Kort Wilkason said in the online fundraiser for Ybarra.

“Anyone who knew Dijah, knows she had a huge heart! She was a beautiful person inside and out.”

Her killing was the fourth recorded homicide in 2018.

The scene was just a block from the house where Jessica Brandon, 36, was fatally shot during a home invasion in July.

In addition, Brandon, Edgar Union Jr., 22, was shot and killed March 26. Stacy Talbot, 42, was shoved out of a car while dying of gunshot wounds on Oct. 18. Charges have been filed in all three previous cases.

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