A 25-year-old man was found guilty on Thursday for the murders of two teens who were shot to death on the night before their high school graduation.
Jose Ovilson Canales-Yanez was found guilty on all counts in the murders of 17-year-old Shadi Adi Najjar and 18-year-old Artem S. Ziberov.
Canales-Yanez was one of four men arrested in connection with the case. All four were charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
Adi Najjar and Artem Ziberov were seniors at Northwest High School in Montgomery County. The teens were found murdered in a car in Montgomery Village on on June 5, 2017.
Police say the two thought they were going to sell a graduation ticket as they sat in a blue Honda Civic. They were parked in a cul-de-sac near the 8200 block of Gallery Ct. in Gaithersburg, Md.
A neighbor’s home surveillance camera was able to catch the sound coming from the barrage of bullets fired towards the two teens.
Along with those sounds, the question that continued to plague the entire community was: Why would someone try to kill two teens trying to sell a graduation ticket?
Thursday in court, a Montgomery County Circuit Judge found, according to circumstantial evidence, this murder was a revenge shooting for an earlier incident. That earlier incident came in December of 2016. Police surveillance video captured a woman crying on the ground with Canales-Yanez in a crouched-position over her.
Investigators say the woman is Canales-Yanez’ then girlfriend. Montgomery County States Attorney John McCarthy says they’re now married.
In police body-cam video, you see the woman on the ground crying as she says, “I’m five months pregnant.”
“Did you get hit?” asks an officer.
By standards and Canales-Yanez tell police, yes.
However, there was even more to the story than the couple had revealed. The Judge says she was “run over” by Shadi in part of a drug-related robbery and that Canales-Yanez knew who Shadi was.
When police asked Canales-Yanez to give a description of the driver, the 25-year-old says “I have no idea.” He later gave a general description that included a male with a beard in a blue Civic.
The Judge found this withholding of information as evidence that the 25-year-old started planning his revenge right there and then.
None of this would’ve been discovered if it weren’t for two witnesses who came forward, according to McCarthy. Their identities are being withheld for their protection.
“Sometimes it takes bravery for people to step-up, cooperate, to hold people responsible when they commit crimes like this. So I want to, first of all, I want to salute them for their courage,” said States Attorney McCarthy.
The families of both victims joined him in this news conference but did not give an on-camera statement, due to the three other cases still going through court.
Police arrested four suspects in total, but investigators believe Canales-Yanez was essentially the “ring-leader” who fired 11-shots from his .45 caliber handgun. Prosecutors say he shot Najjar at point-blank range and that Ziberov was killed for being there.
In court, Canales-Yanez showed no remorse and had more of a smirk on his face as he blew a kiss to his family sitting in the front row.
Off camera, Ziberov’s father expressed his gratitude to all of the police and investigators involved. He also thanked the two witnesses who were “brave enough to come forward.”
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for March 28th at 1:30 p.m.