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Murder Trial: Kevin Canzator tells jurors Maurice Robinson planned robberies

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

A man serving time in prison for his role in the 2012 robbery and subsequent murder of Z&H Mart store owner Hecham Abualeinan says Maurice Robinson planned the crime at the Mooresville Road store that day in December.

Kevin Canzator, now 23, testified Tuesday morning against Robinson, whom he believed to be his close cousin, saying that about three years ago, Robinson asked him to drive to the convenience store.

In fact, Canzator, who pleaded guilty in 2015 to second-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon, drove Robinson and co-defendant Christopher Watson to another store nearly a month before the murder.

The three went to Neighborhood Market on West Horah Street twice before the Z&H Mart robbery and murder — once in November and once in early December. In the first incident, Watson walked in wearing a Halloween mask and robbed owner Sultan Qasem at gunpoint.

The second time Watson robbed the Neighborhood Market, Canzator went inside first pretending to be a customer so that Watson could edge his way in the door. Since Qasem had been robbed just a few weeks earlier, he had started locking the door behind each customer who entered. The plan was that Watson would also rob Canzator.

Canzator told the court he didn’t go into the Neighborhood Market store with the intent to rob it. He also said Robinson didn’t go into the store, but when asked by Robinson’s attorney Jay Vannoy, he did say the only person who walked into the store to rob it was Christopher Watson.

After the robbery and murder, Canzator testified he saw himself on the news the next day, and his father, believing his son was a witness, convinced him to talk to authorities.

Canzator said he instead went to Robinson’s house to see what he should do. Robinson, along with his then-girlfriend, Ashley Bentley, and Canzator went to authorities to “tell them what they knew.”

Canzator said in court that Robinson told him to tell investigators, “We didn’t know nothing about it and we didn’t know Chris or nothing about the store.”

Initially Canzator did as Robinson instructed him. He then said he “knew it wasn’t the truth” and he “felt guilty.”

Canzator said he never saw Watson return a gun to Robinson, contrary to earlier testimony from Ashley Bentley that the gun used in the crimes was one that Robinson borrowed.

“You never told them it was Maurice Robinson’s idea to rob the Z&H Mart,” Vannoy asked Canzator.

Canzator said he did not initially tell authorities Robinson had anything to do with the crimes.

Check Wednesday’s Post for more details. The trial is expected to continue through the week.

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