One of the four men charged with killing two Maryland teens the night before their high school graduation was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Tuesday.
"Maryland doesn't have the death penalty, and it's been many years since we've had the death penalty," Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said. "This was a case that had the death penalty still existed — because there were multiple deaths in a single incident — it would have qualified for death."
Jose Canales-Yanez was found guilty in January in the deaths of 17-year-old Shadi Adi Najjar and 18-year-old Artem Ziberov. Prosecutors said revenge was the motive for Najjar's execution, but Ziberov just happened to be there.
"We are happy for the judge's decision," said Najjar's father, Adi Najjar.
"I don't really have any comments," said Ziberov's father, William Tewelow. "I appreciate that you would want some, but I'll reserve them at this time."
Najjar and Ziberov were found shot to death on June 5, 2017, in a blue Honda Civic in Montgomery Village. Both teens were set to graduate from Northwest High School the next day.
Police 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.
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 that a passenger in a blue Honda Civic had grabbed her iPad and dragged her about 50 feet with the car. An informant told investigators Najjar was killed in revenge for that robbery, where prosecutors allege Najjar also stole drugs.
According to police, the informant identified Canales-Yanez, Roger Garcia and Edgar Garcia-Gaona as suspects.
All three men were arrested in June of 2017 and charged. Garcia and Garcia-Gaona are brothers, police said.
Rony Alexander Galicia, of Germantown, was also charged in the case after investigators determined his DNA was found at the crime scene.
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, Montgomery County police Chief J. Thomas Manger said.
Shortly before the murder, the men searched Google for a song called "I Kill for My Family," prosecutors said. The judge said Canales-Yanez was inspired by the song and it gave insight to his mindset before the shooting.
Manger 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.
Ziberov was an Eagle Scout who planned to attend the University of Maryland.
"I put a lot of hope in him for his future," Ziberov's father said. "In fact, I'd like to say I think Artem could've solved many of the world's problems when he grew up."
The trials for the other three defendants are scheduled to begin in the fall.