Warrant: Gunman admitted shooting

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 15, 2012

SALISBURY — Christopher Lee Watson admitted to investigators that he shot and killed store owner Hecham Abualeinan during a robbery Monday, according to a search warrant obtained by the Post.

Watson also told investigators at the Salisbury Police Department that Kevin Canzator and Maurice Robinson drove him to the Z&H Mart on Mooresville Road in a white 1993 Chevrolet Caprice.

Canzator and Robinson initially told officers they were customers inside the store before the gunman entered but later acknowledged their part in the fatal crime, according to the warrant returned Friday.

“At the end of the interviews, both Robinson and Canzator admitted they had been a part of a plan to rob the store and the suspect that shot the store clerk was Chris Watson,” the warrant said.

Surveillance footage showed two men buy candy and leave the store. Eleven seconds later, the gunman entered.

The man, masked and wearing a hood that hid his face, pointed a handgun at Abualeinan.

The 59-year-old store owner walked around the counter and confronted the armed man, investigators said in the warrant, which then describes what happened next.

“The suspect backed toward the store’s front door still pointing the gun at Mr. Abualeinan. The suspect then grips the handgun with both hands and appears to aim the weapon more carefully and then Mr. Abualeinan falls face first to the floor and blood is seen on the floor around Mr. Abualeinan’s head.”

The gunman walked around Abualeinan and emptied the register.

Abualeinan’s family lived with him behind the store. Family members told detectives they heard a yell and a loud noise. They found the Syrian immigrant on the floor.

After the robbery, the men drove to a home off Grace Church Road and paid the homeowner in marijuana to let them burn the clothes they were wearing, according to the warrant.

Watson told deputies the Caprice broke down after the murder, the document said. Investigators found it at Advance Auto Parts on Jake Alexander Boulevard.

Deputies executed the search warrant on the vehicle and towed it away.

During a first appearance in court on Thursday, Watson asked District Court Judge Beth Dixon if she would pass along a message to Abualeinan’s family.

“Will you just tell his family I’m sorry,” a choked up Watson said.

Canzator appeared stunned during Dixon’s instructions that the first-degree murder charge could warrant a death penalty sentence. Robinson, a convicted felon, told Dixon he was blind and couldn’t see her through the closed-circuit television each murder suspect appeared on in court.

Robinson did not seem affected by the hearing, leaning back in his chair with his arms crossed.

More charges could be coming for the group as early as Monday, investigators said.

Sultan Qasem, the owner of Neighborhood Market, a store on West Horah Street told the Post that officers confirmed to him they would charge at least two of the suspects with robbing his store twice in the last month.

Qasem said a gunman pointed a pistol at his head last Wednesday and he believes it was the same man who did it in November.

One of the murder suspects, Qasem said, pretended to be a customer in his store during a robbery. He recognized him after the trio’s arrest.