Trial continues in Z&H Mart owner murder

Published 1:47 pm Thursday, February 11, 2016

By Shavonne Walker

Testimony continued Thursday in the murder trial of a Rowan County man who was involved in an armed robbery that resulted in the death of Z&H Mart owner Hecham Abualeinan.

Jurors heard very little testimony Thursday as to what prosecutors allege Maurice Robinson’s role in the crime was, but they did hear about the final minutes of Abualeinan’s life.

Prosecutors said Robinson, 37, planned the robbery and had Christopher Watson carry it out. Watson was sentenced to life in prison in 2015 after accepting a plea agreement.

Co-defendant Kevin Canzator is expected to be released from prison in 2030. Canzator, who is related to Robinson by marriage, also accepted a plea agreement. Both men will testify against Robinson, attorneys said.

Abualeinan’s wife, Maisa, told the court how the family rushed into the store fearing that Abualeinan had been struck on the head by a customer. The family didn’t immediately know he was dead until emergency personnel confirmed it.

Maisa said she pleaded with emergency responders to save her husband, but it was too late. After he was pronounced dead and the family had made their way out of the store, Maisa said she tried to go back into the store to see her husband one final time.

Authorities spent well into the next morning collecting evidence and interviewing family members, including Abualeinan’s daughter Zina and son Yousef.

Locke Fire Department Capt. Bradley McKnight was the first responder on the scene, he told the court. He said when he first arrived, it appeared Abualeinan had fallen and hit his head. The Syrian native was lying face down on the floor and a pool of blood had gathered around his head.

McKnight said Abualeinan was rolled over onto his back and he along with two other responders worked to find a pulse. The men would later confirm the store owner was already deceased.

Jurors heard from law enforcement officers and crime scene investigators about what they heard and saw. Ronald Mesimer, a crime scene investigator with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, said he obtained DNA swabs off the store door and other areas in the store in the hope that whoever had killed Abualeinan had left behind evidence.

The trial continues this afternoon. Check Friday’s Salisbury Post for more details.