CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Cellphone information could be vital to an investigation into the December killing of a convenience store clerk in southwest Charlotte.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police investigators say Khaled Mohamad Elmerkabaoui was working alone when he was killed "in cold blood" in what appears to be a robbery attempt at a 7-Eleven in the 700 block of Westinghouse Boulevard on Dec. 9.
Geoffrey Ford and Treyvonte Luwanna Lockhart, 29, were charged in the clerk's killing.
"It just appears to be a robbery gone bad and for whatever reason the suspect killed the clerk for no apparent reason," said Captain Chris Dozier.
Lockhart was charged with murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and possessing a stolen firearm. Ford was charged with murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Investigators say Lockhart was the getaway driver in the vehicle outside the 7-Eleven while Ford was the alleged gunman inside the store.
According to police, a NC lottery scratch-off ticket display was stolen during the shooting. "During the investigation five subjects were captured on video surveillance at various locations that were attempting to validate winning tickets reported stolen during the robbery," the police report says.
Lockhart reportedly told police where they lottery display was, in the other suspect's garage on Poppy Hills lane. Police believe the suspects' cellphones will reveal details in the case, including what happened before the deadly shooting.
"The community can be relieved now that we have gotten such a dangerous person off the street because there was going to be nothing – considering what he did in this case - that would have stopped him from doing the same thing again if he did the same type of crime," said Capt Dozier.
Investigators say they don't know why El-Merkabaoui was killed.
"What's been so frustrating about this investigation is the why. It didn't have to happen like it did. If the motive is to get money, property – the victim was fully compliant...would have – in the past he has been the victim of a robbery, he's complied, given the suspects what they wanted," Capt Dozier said. "That's been the frustrating – we don't know why it ended up the way it did. It didn't have to be that way but again it just speaks to the cold-bloodedness of this suspect."
Police say they're still trying to determine the relationship between the two suspects, They say "there's nothing to indicate that there's any relationship (between victims and suspects) prior to that would have led to this." Cellphone data is expected to reveal more information.
Investigators say the case was solved because of police work along with help from the public.
"The community, the public – we were able to get information that was relevant and we were able to use in developing this case. I will say that" said Capt Dozier.
Officers haven't said if someone will receive the $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the suspects.