Murder trial comes to a close, jurors expect to deliberate Monday

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 27, 2016

By Shavonne Walker

A murder trial for Maurice Robinson, who faces first-degree murder charges, came to a close Friday with the final witnesses taking the stand. Jurors are expected to return to court Monday, hear closing statements and begin deliberations.

Authorities say Robinson, 37, was the one who planned a Dec. 10, 2012 robbery at Z&H Mart on Mooresville Road that led to the murder of owner Hecham Abualeinan.

Although Robinson didn’t pull the trigger, investigators said he manipulated a crack addicted Christopher Watson, 26, and a naive Kevin Canzator, 23, into committing the robbery that led to Abualeinan’s murder.

The three men were involved in two robberies prior to the December robbery at Z&H Mart. Canzator and Robinson “cased” the Neighborhood Market while Watson walked into the West Horah Street store wearing a Halloween mask and demanded money.

Watson pleaded guilty in 2015 and is currently serving life in prison. Canzator pleaded guiltly in 2015 and is expected to be released from prison in 2030. Both men agreed to testify against Robinson.

The gun Watson used in each robbery, investigators said was given to Watson by Robinson.

Sean “Ace” Roberts testified Friday and told the jurors he was not involved in the crimes. Earlier testimony revealed Robinson borrowed a gun from an acquaintance nicknamed Ace.
Roberts said he didn’t know either man involved and only knew of Canzator because he lived in the apartment next to his.

“I’m not here for you, or the defense. I’m here for myself,” Roberts told District Attorney Brandy Cook.
“It’s clear you don’t want to be here,” Cook asked Roberts.

Roberts admitted a criminal past, but denied providing a gun to Robinson in 2012 and denied he had access to a gun.

The following occurred during the three-week trial:

• Psychologist Ginger Calloway testified that Robinson had a number of mental and behavioral disorders including intellectual disability, formally called mental retardation, as well as schizophrenia, personality disorder, impulse control disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and alcohol and marijuana dependency.

• Mike Miller, former owner of Miller’s Tire, allowed Watson, Canzator and Robinson burn the clothes and shoes used in the Z&H Mart robbery in his burn barrel.

• Ashley Bentley, the girlfriend of Maurice Robinson, picked up Watson after one of the robberies.

• Watson was addicted to crack cocaine, which he received from Robinson, free of charge. Robinson demanded Watson pay back his debt through panhandling at the Webb Road Flea Market and later the three store robberies.

• Watson confessed to the murder and was interviewed by Rowan County Sheriff’s Office detectives.

• Robinson spent years in and out of mental facilities since the age of five. He also tried to kill himself multiple times, including a time where he was found lying in the middle of the roadway, hoping to get hit by a vehicle.

• Hecham Abualeinan’s daughter, Zina, saw her father lying on the ground, minutes after he was shot in the head. She called 911.

• Robinson told investigators he was willing to set Watson up to be picked up by authorities. He told detectives if they let him call Watson he’d get Watson to where ever they needed him. Watson was arrested by authorities the same day.

• Psychiatrist George Corvin told the court it was possible for a person with intellectual disabilities, formerly called mental retardation, to commit and be found guilty of crimes.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.