Pitt County triple homicide suspects appear in court
Posted April 5, 2012 4:59 p.m. EDT
Updated April 5, 2012 6:57 p.m. EDT
Greenville, N.C. — Three of four suspects charged in a fatal Pitt County triple shooting over the weekend made their first appearance before a District Court judge Thursday, where they learned they could receive a maximum sentence of death if convicted.
Antwan Andre Anthony, 29, Xavier Montel Shamble, 19, and Willie Whitehead, 23, as well as an unidentified juvenile, were arrested Wednesday and charged with first-degree murder in the Sunday night deaths of a Farmville convenience store owner's teenage son and two of his relatives during what authorities say was an armed robbery.
All four face numerous other charges, including first-degree kidnapping and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Anthony, Shamble and Whitehead were appointed defense attorneys and ordered held without bond. Their next court date is April 19.
The juvenile's case is being handled in the juvenile court system.
The suspects are accused of killing Mokbel Mohamed "Sam" Almujanhi, 16, as he mopped the floor at the Hustle Mart convenience store. The owner's nephew, Nabil Nasser Saeed Al'mogannahi, 26, and a cousin Gaber Alawi, 24, were also shot and killed.
A customer found the bodies after coming to the store just before closing time around 10 p.m.
Anthony's aunt, Wanda Foreman, told WNCT-TV in Greenville that he has struggled with mental issues his entire life, had been on medication and that the shootings should not have happened.
"The family lost three members, and that's not right. I feel the pain that they're going through," she said. "I'm sorry, from the bottom of my heart, that this happened. It shouldn't have happened."
The TV station reported that Anthony used foul language throughout the hearing and that some of it was directed toward the victims' families.
Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks said Wednesday that the arrests came as a relief after more than three days of an intense search following the shootings.
"This isn't the right word to say, but we rejoice that we got these guys in custody," Elks said at a news conference.
During the investigation, authorities made extensive use of social media and other tools, with the Pitt County Sheriff's Office posting surveillance photos from the store on its Facebook page within hours of the killings. Elks credited tips to the Crime Stoppers hotline with helping lead deputies to the four suspects.