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Ex-girlfriend provides conflicting statements during murder trial

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

Court testimony this morning in the murder trial of Maurice Robinson centered mostly on the conflicting statements of Ashley Bentley, his ex-girlfriend.

Robinson, 37, is said to have been the one who planned and executed a robbery at Z&H Mart in 2012 where the owner Hecham Abualeinan was shot and killed.

Christopher Watson pleaded guilty in 2015 to killing Abualeinan. Prosecutors have said Watson, along with Kevin Canzator, who also pleaded guilty last year, were under the influence of Robinson.

A crack cocaine addicted-Watson owed Robinson money for all the times Robinson gave him the drugs for free. Canzator is believed to be related to Robinson by marriage. Attorneys said he felt indebted to Robinson because he believed they were closely related.

The night of Dec. 10, Robinson and Canzator went into Z&H Mart, on Mooresville Road, pretended to be customers and just seconds after the two walked out, Watson walked in wearing a Halloween mask and carrying a handgun.

Watson fired a warning shot into the air, but shot Abualeinan after the man reached for the telephone. Earlier court testimony revealed Abualeinan begged Watson to leave because his family was in the back.

Prior to the Z&H Mart robbery, the three went to Neighborhood Market on West Horah Street, where Watson donned a Halloween mask and gun. He walked into the store and came out with cash. In the second robbery there, Canzator pretended to be a customer.

Bentley testified Thursday about the tumultuous relationship between her and Maurice. She said he was physically and verbally abusive toward her.

Wilkes County Attorney Jay Vannoy, who is representing Robinson, asked Bentley why she told the court about Robinson’s violent behavior but never told detectives. Vannoy asked if it had anything to do with her plea bargain with the state.

She told the court this morning she didn’t tell police her boyfriend was abusive because she was scared and he was sitting right beside her.

Bentley was initially charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, which was reduced to accessory after the fact of robbery. She drove Watson to and from one of the robberies and she was aware of the Z&H Mart robbery. She was given 18 months of probation. She agreed to testify against Robinson.

She also told detectives she was scared of Watson, but said in court this morning she was scared of both Watson and Robinson.

She said in statement to law enforcement the three intended to rob the Z&H Mart because Canzator needed money. In court Bentley said they all needed money.

The testimony resumes this afternoon. The trial is expected to continue through next week.

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