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Robinson found guilty of murder in 2012 shooting and robbery

On trial

Robinson

Robinson

UPDATE: Jurors have found Maurice Robinson guilty of first-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of Z&H Mart owner Hecham Abualeinan.

Christopher Watson admitted to shooting Abualeinan, but prosecutors argued — and Watson testified — that Robinson planned the robbery.

 

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

A split second decision forever changed the life of the family of Hecham Abualeinan, who was shot and killed in 2012 following a robbery at Z&H Mart, the store he owned with his family.

The family, which consists of his wife, Maisa, and daughter Zina, along with an unknown woman, sat in court Monday, at times tearful as they listened to District Attorney Brandy Cook recount the final moments of Abualeinan’s life. Son, Yousef, was not in court.

The 59-year-old father of two was in the store on Dec. 10, 2012, when Christopher Watson walked in with a handgun and wearing a Halloween mask. He demanded money from the store owner and fired a warning shot into the air.

Abualeinan told the gunman he was not alone and that his family was in the back. Watson shot the man after he later told investigators the store owner threw a plastic bag holder at him.

Watson told investigators if it wasn’t for his “friend” Maurice Robinson, he’d never have committed such a crime. Robinson, 37, is on trial for murder and armed robbery.

Watson, 26, pleaded guilty in 2015 for killing the store owner and the robbery. Co-defendant Kevin Canzator, 23, also pleaded guilty for his involvement.

Since Feb. 8, jurors have listened to witnesses testify about the robbery and subsequent murder. Prosecutors have said Robinson was the one who created the planned robberies and executed the robberies by providing a handgun and instructions to Watson and Canzator, and helped cover it up.

Robinson’s attorneys, Darrin Jordan and Jay Vannoy of Wilkes County, have said Robinson has a less than average IQ and a number of developmental disabilities that would have prevented him from carrying out such a crime.

Law enforcement investigators have said the men robbed Neighborhood Market on West Horah Street on Nov. 22, 2012, and again Dec. 5, 2012. In the second robbery of the store, Canzator pretended to be a customer in order to get Watson inside the locked door.

The men were going to rob Z&H Mart the same Dec. 5 night, but Robinson’s girlfriend, Ashley Bentley, refused to drive them to the store out of fear. Bentley testified she was scared of Robinson, whom she’d dated on and off for years.

Robinson came up with another plan, prosecutors said, to rob the Mooresville Road store a few days later. Watson robbed the store Dec. 10, 2012, as he’d done in the other robberies, wearing a Halloween mask and carrying a gun that Robinson borrowed.

Vannoy told jurors during closing statements that there were four things true about the crime — Christoper Watson took the gun into the West Horah Street store on Nov. 22, he went back to the store Dec. 5, he took a gun into Z&H Mart Dec. 10 and murdered Hecham Abualeinan.

“Maurice Robinson did not shoot Mr. Abualeinan,” Vannoy said.

He recounted the events that led up to the murder.

Vannoy said Watson, Canzator, Bentley and Mike Miller, a friend who allowed them to burn clothes used in the robbery, all had something to gain.

Vannoy said they all testified against his client in order to keep themselves from going to prison. Watson and Canzator accepted plea agreements. Bentley and Miller received probation for their involvement. Both Bentley and Miller testified against Robinson.

District Attorney Brandy Cook said contrary to what psychologist Ginger Calloway said on the stand that Robinson had a number of behavioral and mental disorders, he was completely capable of manipulating the others into doing what he wanted.

Calloway said Robinson suffered from schizophrenia, bipolar, intellectual disability, formally called mental retardation, as well as  personality disorder, impulse control disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and alcohol and marijuana dependency.

See more in Tuesday’s Post.

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