Man found guilty in double homicide of Montgomery County HS students

18-year-old Artem S. Ziberov (Left) 17-year-old Shadi Adi Najjar (Right) (Photos, courtesy of the families.)

ROCKVILLE, Md. (ABC7) — A 26-year-old man was found guilty Thursday for killing two Montgomery County high school students the night before their graduation last June.

Jose Canales-Yanez was found guilty on eight different charges by a judge in Montgomery County. The most serious were two counts of first-degree murder.

The two teens who were murdered, 17-year-old Shadi Najjar, and 18-year-old Artem Ziberov, were found shot to death inside a vehicle in Montgomery Village the night of June 5.

They were scheduled to graduate from Northwest High School in Germantown the next day. Prosecutors say the teens thought they were meeting someone to sell a graduation ticket when instead they were ambushed by multiple shooters.

The brutality of the crime shocked many in Montgomery County. The attackers fired at least 30 shots, some at close range.

Both teens were honor roll students, with Najjar preparing to enroll in classes at Montgomery College to study computer science or medicine and Ziberov planning to attend the University of Maryland to study International Business.

The judge said the motive in the case was a drug deal gone bad involving Najjar the previous December. Najjar allegedly stole marijuana from Canales-Yanez’s pregnant wife and injured her with his car.

Prosecutors say instead of telling police what Najjar had done to his wife, Canales-Yanez plotted for months to take personal revenge.

Among the evidence – Snapchat conversations and an Internet search.

"In the time surrounding the time of the murder, the defendant googled the song called ‘I kill for my family,’" said Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

There’s no evidence Ziburov was involved in the drug deal. The judge said he was killed because if left alive he’d have been a witness.

Attorneys of Canales-Yanez said there was simply not enough evidence to convict their client, saying “where there is smoke there is fire, but sometimes where there is smoke there is a smoke machine."

Guns were never recovered, according to authorities.

On Thursday the judge said he believed based on ballistics evidence that there were four shooters in the ambush that killed Najjar and Ziburov.

Three other men charged with murder in the case are scheduled for trial in the spring. Brothers Roger Garcia, 20, and Edgar Garcia-Gaona, 24, are scheduled to start their trials on April 25. Twenty-five-year-old Rony Alexander Galicia’s trial is scheduled for May 7.

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