GAITHERSBURG, Md. – Three people have been charged with killing two Maryland teens who were found dead the night before their high school graduation, and police said they believe the slayings were revenge for a robbery that one of the teens was rumored to have committed.
The three are charged in the deaths of 17-year-old Shadi Adi Najjar and 18-year-old Artem Ziberov, Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said at a news conference late Saturday.
The suspects were identified as 25-year-old Jose Canales-Yanez, 19-year-old Roger Garcia and 24-year-old Edgar Garcia-Gaona. Manger said each is being charged with two counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. He said Garcia and Garcia-Gaona are brothers.
Manger said investigators learned from friends of Najjar that he was rumored to have robbed Canales-Yanez's girlfriend last December, and was killed in retaliation. He added that, "we're unsure right now if there was a motive to kill Ziberov as well, or if he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Najjar and Ziberov were found shot to death late Monday in a blue Honda Civic in Montgomery Village, the night before they were supposed to graduate from Northwest High School. Manger said Najjar had been shot four times and Ziberov 10 times. Amid the shattered window glass police found numerous shell casings, including some Glaser .40-caliber shells.
"We believe there were 30 rounds fired," he said.
Manger said investigators learned that Najjar was rumored to have committed a robbery in late 2016. They linked the rumor to a report filed by Canales-Yanez's then-girlfriend who told police on Dec. 14 that the passenger in a blue Honda Civic had grabbed her iPad and dragged her about 50 feet with the car. He said an informant told investigators Najjar was killed in revenge for that robbery.
He said an informant identified the three suspects to investigators.
He also said that just before Najjar died, he texted someone saying he was going to sell a graduation ticket to Roger Garcia, who was identified as a Northwest High School student.
"We're certainly working on the strong possibility that this was a ruse to get the two victims to that location," Manger said.
He said a partial box of Glaser .40-caliber ammunition was found at Garcia-Gaona's house. He also said the suspects took Najjar's cellphone.
He said the investigation is ongoing, and said he hoped the release of the suspects' names would spur others with knowledge of the case to come forward.
"We think there's more information that folks out in the community have that can move us even further along with this case," he said.