Man convicted in murder of store owner testifies against friend - | WBTV Charlotte

Man convicted in murder of store owner testifies against friend in new trial

Surveillance video of the robbery Surveillance video of the robbery
Robinson Robinson
Canzator Canzator

A man previously convicted in the shooting death of a convenience store owner in 2012 is testifying in court against another man charged in the same case.

Maurice Alexander Robinson is on trial for a shooting that took place in December of 2012 where store owner Hecham Abualenian, 59, was shot and killed during a robbery at the Z & H Mart on Mooresville Road.

Robinson was charged with murder in the case, along with Kevin Canzator and Christoper Lee Watson. They have both pleaded guilty in the past year in the incident and are serving life sentences.

Officials say Watson grabbed money from the cash register after shooting Abualenian in the robbery.

Tuesday morning, Canzator took the stand in the case against Robinson.

Canzator was ordered to testify in this case. Investigators say if he had refused, he would have lost his plea and would have stood trial on the original charge of first degree murder with the possibility of receiving the death penalty if convicted.

His responses in court Tuesday morning were very slow and he discussed how he knew Robinson.

Canzator's testimony did provide a timeline to the events of the robbery.  

In court, Canzator said that he, Robinson, and Watson went to the Z & H Mart, planning to rob the store.  Canzator and Robinson went inside and bought a pack of candy, then left.

As they left, Watson was going in.  Robinson shouted out a prearranged 'signal' to Watson to rob the store by saying 'chop it up.'

According to Canzator, when Watson came back to the car after shooting Abualenian, he was 'scared and confused,' and held his face in his hands. 

Watson then told Canzator and Robinson what had happened in the store.

Canzator and Robinson turned themselves in after seeing surveillance pictures from the robbery on the news.

Prosecutors are trying to establish that Robinson actually planned the robbery, but Robinson's lawyers are pointing out inconsistencies in Canzator's various statements to police.

During Canzator's testimony, Robinson reportedly sat slumped in his chair with his arms crossed, staring at the ground. He did not look at Canzator.

Later, Chris Watson took the stand and tearfully described the events that result in the death of the shop owner.

Watson said that he met Robinson in 2011 when Robinson supplied Watson's crack cocaine habit.  Watson said he got deeply in debt to Robinson.

That debt was to be paid through the armed robberies of a store on West Horah Street in Salisbury, and at the Z & H Mart.

In court on Tuesday, Watson said that once he went into the store, he demanded the money from the cash register.  He said that store owner Abualenian appeared to reach for something on the counter.  

Watson said he fired a warning shot, but that again, Abualenian appeared to reach for something that Watson thought may have been a phone.

Watson said that Abualenian started to come around the counter, and he said that's when he shot Abualenian.

At first, Watson thought Abualenian was faking being shot because he didn't notice any blood.  Minutes later, as Watson reached for the cash register, he realized that Abualenian had indeed been shot.

Watson testified that he then turned and ran from the store and jumped in the car driven by Canzator.

Watson, like Canzator, also said that it was Robinson who planned the robbery and Robinson who provided the gun used in all three armed robberies.

Robinson was charged with murder, three counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon, and being a habitual felon. He has been in jail since December 12, 2012.

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