By Neal Earley @neal_earley
UPDATE: Maryland’s highest court reinstates the murder conviction for Rony Galicia, 30, of Boyds, MD. The full opinion can be read here.
ROCKVILLE — After a month-long trial, a jury Monday convicted two men for the June 2017 murder of two Northwest High School students.
On Monday, the jury found Edgar Garcia-Gaona, 25, and Rony Alexander Galicia, 26, guilty for the murder of Shadi Adi Najjar, 17, and Artem S. Ziberov, 18.
The jury found both Garcia-Gaona and Galicia guilty of two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Najjar and Ziberov. In addition, the jury returned a guilty verdict for the charge of conspiracy to commit murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and armed robbery. Both men await sentencing in January.
Garcia-Gaona and Galicia are two of the four men charged in the June 5, 2017, murder of the teenagers. In July, a judge sentenced Jose Canales-Yanez to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder. The last defendant, Roger Garcia, is still awaiting trial after his attorney fell ill during his trial, and Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge David A. Boynton ordered a retrial.
According to McCarthy, the murder was a plot hatched by the four men to seek revenge for an earlier robbery. According to police, the four men believed that Najjar had committed a drug-related robbery against Canales-Yanez’s girlfriend, and the murder was a revenge killing.
On June 5, 2017, the night before Northwest High School’s graduation, Najjar had planned to meet Roger Garcia, the brother of Edgar Garcia-Gaona, on Gallery Court in Gaithersburg. According to police, Najjar had texted Garcia via Snapchat to arrange the meeting to sell a graduation ticket.
But instead of selling him the ticket, the four men pulled up on the blue Honda Civic where Najjar had been seated and fired at least 30 rounds, killing Najjar and Ziberov, who was a passenger in the car.
“They went there, lured by others, thinking that they were going to be selling a ticket to the graduation of Northwest High School, that was going to be taking place the next day,” said State’s Attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy. “In fact, what happened is was that they were being lured to their own execution.”
McCarthy said all four co-defendants participated in the murders, each one firing multiple shots that ended up killing Najjar and Ziberov.
“They all came armed, and they all participated, and they all shot,” McCarthy said.
A previous unrelated incident led police to the suspects.
On Feb. 10, 2017, Garcia-Gaona was shot during a botched drug deal in Montgomery Village. Police found that shell casings from that drug deal matched shell-casings found at the scene of Najjar’s and Ziberov’s murder.
On June 17, 2017, police arrested and charged Garcia, Garcia-Gaona and Canales-Yanez for the murders of the Northwest High School students. In October 2017, a witness alerted police of another suspect – Galicia.
According to police, the anonymous witness, who was at Garcia and Garcia-Gaona’s trailer the night of the murders, said Galicia was there discussing “Gallery Court,” with a map open.
After the witness identified Galicia, police obtained a DNA sample from him that matched a previously-unknown DNA sample from the scene of the murder, according to police.
After the conviction, Najjar’s father, Adi Najjar, thanked the police and the prosecution for their working in getting a conviction. He said that Shadi was his only child, making his murder even more tragic for his family.
‘Those killers, they planned to kill our only child,” Adi Najjar said.