The Parents of Slain Northwest Students Asked Judge for Justice for Their Boys
At the sentencing of Jose Canales-Yanez on Tuesday, the parents of Shadi Najjar and Artem Ziberov, the two boys that Canales-Yanez has been convicted of killing in cold blood on the eve of their graduation from Northwest High School demanded full justice for their sons.
In January, Canales-Yanez, 26, of Gaithersburg was found 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.
In courtroom 4G of the south tower of Montgomery County Circuit Court building in Rockville, Adi Najjar, Shadi’s father, and William Tewelow, Artem Ziberov’s step-father faced down the man who orchestrated what Judge David Boynton called an “ambush” and “slaughter” of their only sons.
Each man sat in the witness box and read letters from their wives, the boys’ mothers, and each man asked Judge Boynton to show no mercy in his sentencing of Canales-Yanez.
Shadi Najjar’s father began saying, “I thank God for blessing us with a beautiful boy for 17-years.” He recalled getting the phone call that fateful morning on Tuesday, June 6 the morning after his son and friend were executed by Canales-Yanez and three other men in Montgomery Village. Adi Najjar was at his mosque when his cell phone rang that morning. He hoped it was good news because he knew that his son did not return home the night before. It wasn’t. It was a police detective asking him to return home because police were at his house and his wife did not want to let them in.
He recalled getting home and the female detective asking him to to go inside. “She wanted me to go in the house so that she could give me the bad news. Our lives have not been the same since.”
“July 17 would have been Shadi’s birthday. My only son was robbed of his life,” said the victim’s father. He spoke of how the lives of his family members have been affected by this killing. He said that his wife was unable to cope with the death of Shadi. “Two months later, my wife woke up and started screaming, ‘They killed my boy! They killed my boy!’ She finally realized that he was dead.”
He spoke of his son, as a helpful and loving person. “Shadi would never let a friend down. He was always there for his friends,” said Najjar. “He was a kind person. He was the type of person that would always lift a person up, and never let a person down.”
“Our dreams of a grandson are gone now,” he told the packed courthouse. “He will not get to go university. Shadi will not get to meet a wife and get married. He has no future, only memories.”
“He took my son,” he said looking at Canales-Yanez. “He killed him at close range. He did not give my son a second chance. Why should he get one? Your honor, I ask for the harshest possible punishment,” concluded Adi Najjar.
When he finished, Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Hall called a few of Shadi and Artem’s friends to give impact statements. They spoke of the boys’ friendship and kindness, and how their lives had been forever altered by the killings.
When they finished, Hall asked William Tewelow, Artem Ziberov’s speak. He sat in the witness box and read a letter from his wife, Yulia Tewelow, who could not come to court because she was the caregiver to her father, whose illness has been extraordinarily exacerbated by the death of his grandson.
“Murder isn’t something that happens to one person,” Tewelow, “it affects a network of people. One of those people was my father-in-law.”
He spoke of Artem’s “soft-spoken leadership” which came about from being in the Boy Scouts. He said that Artem had earned the Eagle Scout honor, months before becoming an American citizen. He said that through scouting he and his step-son had become close and he watched as Artem became a leader in the scout troop. “He became the type of leader the other scouts wanted to be. I was very proud.”
“How unbearable it is to see other children grow,” told the court on behalf of his wife, who was listening via cell phone. “My son only lives in memories. One day I am ironing his graduation gown looking forward to the future, and one phone call later time has stopped and stayed in that moment forever. Instead of graduation. I went to the morgue.”
“I want the killer in a cell with life-size pictures of the two boys he killed on the walls of that cell,” said Tewelow. “I want him to suffer the memory of that day for the rest of his life.” He spoke of the night Artem was killed. He went into detail about what his step-son might have thought and felt that night — How it felt when bullet, after bullet, after bullet riddled his young body as he sat in that car. He spoke of how Artem was probably not killed instantly. “I know he did not quickly let go of life. He fought to stay alive and felt every shot. He experienced the terror of his death.”
Tewelow asked the court to “completely remove” Canales-Yanez from society. “I ask the court to see him as evil incarnate. Let him be trapped in the Hell in his own mind for the rest of his life.”
After the victim’s family and friends had concluded the impact statements, Judge Boynton sentenced Jose Canales-Yanez to Life in Prison Without the Possibility for Parole on the first count of the indictment, the killing of Shadi Najjar. On the second count, the murder of Artem Ziberov, he was sentenced to Life in Prison Without the Possibility for Parole to be served consecutively. On the third count – Conspiracy to Commit Murder, Canales-Yanez was sentenced to Life in Prison to be served concurrently. On the fourth and fifth counts, the Use of Firearm in Commission of a Felony, the judge sentenced Canales-Yanez to 20 years in prison for each, the maximum, to be served consecutively. Finally, on the Armed Robbery count, Judge Boynton sentenced him to 20 years in prison to be served concurrently. Canales-Yanez was sentenced to the maximum on each count.
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. Their trial is scheduled before Judge Boynton in October.
Top: State’s Attorney John McCarthy addresses the media after the sentencing hearing on Tuesday in Rockville, surrounded by the victims’ families. From left: Adi Najjar, father of victim Shadi Najjar; Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Hall, who tried the case; State’s Attorney John McCarthy; and William Tewelow, step-father of victim Artem Ziberov. Photo by Germantown Pulse.
Next: The victims: Shadi Najjar and Artem Ziberov.
Next: Jose Calales-Yanez, of Gaithersburg.
Photos courtesy MCPD.