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Judge Finds First of Four Accused Killers Guilty in Northwest Killings

A Montgomery County Judge had found one of the four men charged in the horrific June murders of two Northwest High School students guilty.

Circuit Court Judge Boynton found Jose Canales-Yanez, 26, of Gaithersburg guilty on all eight counts held in the indictment, including the top two counts of Murder in the First Degree for the killing of Northwest High School seniors Shadi Najjar and Artem Ziberov as they sat in Najjar’s blue Honda Civic on Monday, June 5, 2017 on Gallery Court in Montgomery Village.

Canales-Yanez was also found guilty on two counts of Conspiracy to Commit Murder and four counts of the Use of Handgun in the Commission of a Felony, and Armed Robbery for the theft of Najjar’s cell phone and a graduation ticket. According to State’s Attorney John McCarthy Canales-Yanez will face a sentence of life without the possibility of parole at his March 28 sentencing hearing.

The victims Najjar and Ziberov were to join their classmates for graduation ceremonies the morning after their murders. Judge Boyton found that Canales-Yanez and three other men who are charged in this killing — but will be tried separately — conspired to kill Najjar and Ziberov by luring them with the intention of purchasing a ticket to the next morning’s graduation. The ticket, according to McCarthy was stolen at the time of the murders.

“These young men were lured to the East Village,” said McCarthy, “to a place called Gallery Court were they were supposed to be selling an extra ticket to the high school graduation which was scheduled to take place the next day. They did in fact take that ticket. Judge Boynton found that there were in-fact four shooters. Judge Boyton found, based on the ballistics in this case, that there were four different handguns. Judge Boyton found that Jose Canales-Yanez was the shooter who approached Mr. Najjar and shot Mr. Najjar at extremely close range leaving stippling marks on his face indicating the close range at which that killing took place.”

Stippling marks are made by particles of burning or unburned gunpowder which can become embedded in the skin or bounce off leaving an abrasion. The marks are called stippling marks.

The three other men charged with these murders are; Edgar Garcia-Gaona, 24, of the 100 block of Lamont Lane in Gaithersburg; Roger Garcia, 19, of the 19500 block of Frederick Road in Germantown; and Rony Alexander Galicia, 25, of the 19500 block of Frederick Road in Germantown.

The tragic tale of how two honor students end up shot dead as they sat in a car hours before they were to graduate high school in early June 2017 begins way back in December 2016. Montgomery County Police and prosecutors contend that the shooting of Najjar and Ziberov was retribution for a December 2016 theft of drugs in Germantown by Najjar.

Judge Boynton found that Najjar had stolen drugs from Canales’ girlfriend, Kara Yanez, during that incident in December 14, 2016 on Crystal Rock Drive in Germantown.

According to charging documents, “An interview with Najjar’s girlfriend revealed he committed a drug-related robbery in December 2016, or January 2017, where it is rumored that he stole drugs from a female during a drug deal. It would be noted that multiple witnesses interviewed during the course of the investigation stated Najjar both sold and used marijuana.”

Charging documents indicate that Najjar sent a message to his girlfriend on the evening of June 5 stating that he was planning to sell a graduation ticket to Roger Garcia. “This was the last communication Najjar had prior to his death,” said court documents.

Investigators found and interviewed Roger Garcia at his residence. Roger Garcia claimed he did not know Najjar or Ziberov and did not purchase a graduation ticket from them.

Detectives developed that Roger Garcia’s brother, Edgar Garcia-Gaona, was shot on February 10, 2017, during a botched drug deal, also in Montgomery Village. Garcia-Gaona was reported to have been carrying a weapon and did exchange gunshots with his assailants.

That shooting took place in the 8500 block of Hawk Run Terrace at about 2:02 pm on Feb. 10, 2017 and left one man dead. In a press release at the time, MCPD said “Officers from the 6th District and Fire and Rescue personnel responded and located a male victim in the parking lot area of the neighborhood suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. The victim succumbed to his injuries at the scene. The homicide victim is being identified as Wassi Harron Raheem Young, age 20, of Vermont Avenue in Hyattsville.”

A Montgomery County Police press release about the shooting of said, “During the investigation, detectives learned that a 23-year-old male had arrived at a local hospital with gunshot wounds. Investigators spoke with this male and determined that he was shot during the same incident in which the homicide victim, Young, was shot.” Edgar Garcia-Gaona turned 24 on April 1, 2017.

The investigation into the February shooting on Hawk Run Terrace which involved Garcia-Gaona led detectives to Jose Canales-Yanez and his girlfriend/spouse Kara Yanez. According to police, Canales-Yanez identified himself to investigators as a friend of Garcia-Gaona.

Police do not have any connection between the Hawk Run Terrance shootings and Najjar and Ziberov. However, that incident connected Roger Garcia (to whom Najjar told his girlfriend that he was going to sell a graduation ticket) and his Edgar Garcia-Gaona (one of the Hawk Run Terrace shooters). It also allowed police to connect Garcia-Gaona to Jose Canales-Yanez.

On December 14, 2016, Kara Yanez, filed a police report stating that she was the victim of a robbery. Charging documents for Roger Garcia state that, “The report indicated a blue Honda Civic approached Kara Yanez while she was walking and the front passenger grabbed her Apple iPad and dragged her body for approximately 50 feet.”

According to police records obtained by Germantown Pulse, the December 14, 2016, robbery was originally dispatched as a “Struck Pedestrian”, in which a 20-year old female had been the victim of a hit-and-run and was then changed to a First-Degree Assault and Robbery call, and a lookout was given for a blue Honda Civic where an iPad was taken.

Detectives believed that the blue Honda Civic which dragged Kara Yanez and stole an iPad and drugs, was the same blue Honda Civic Najjar and Ziberov were found shot to death in on Gallery Court.

Judge Boynton found that there were four killers and each had a handgun, two 9-millemter pistols, as well as, a .40-caliber and a .45-caliber handgun.

The trials for brothers Edgar Garcia-Gaona and Roger Garcia are scheduled for April 24. Rony Galicia, was the last indicted defended in this case back in early December. His trial is scheduled for May 2018. McCarthy told reporters that he believes there will be three separate trials for the remaining three defendants.


Top: Jose Calales-Yanez, of Gaithersburg, has been found guilty in the murder of two Northwest High School students on the eve of their graduation.

Next: The victims: Shadi Najjar and Artem Ziberov.

Next: Police believe the murders were retaliation for a robbery in which Najjar allegedly stole drugs in December 2016. Germantown Pulse believes this crime took place on Crystal Rock Drive in Germantown. Photo by Germantown Pulse.

Next: Gallery Court in Montgomery Village the street where the teens were shot.

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