ROCKVILLE, Md. - A man accused of murdering two Montgomery County high school students on the eve of their graduation was found guilty Thursday afternoon.
Jose Canales-Yanez was found guilty of killing Shadi Najjar and Artem Ziberov. He is the first of four suspects to go on trial in connection with the deaths of the students who attended Northwest High School in Germantown, Maryland.
Authorities said Jose Canales-Yanez plotted to take out Najjar after the 17-year-old robbed drugs and an iPad from Kara Yanez, Jose Canales-Yanez's wife, and ran her over with a car in December of 2016.
Judge David Boynton said Jose Canales-Yanez knew Najjar was at the wheel of the car that hit his wife, but claimed not to know that when questioned by police at the scene. The judge said the evidence showed Jose Canales-Yanez knew Najjar's phone number and called it several times after his wife was ripped off of the marijuana she was attempting to sell Najjar and then was hit by his car.
On the night of June 5, the eve of the Najjar and Ziberov's high school graduation, they agreed to meet another teenager on a quiet street in Montgomery Village to sell an extra ticket to the ceremony. However, police said it was nothing more than a set-up and an ambush. Ziberov was apparently not a target, according to officials.
Investigators said Najjar and Ziberov were shot multiple times by three gunmen using three different caliber handguns. In all, authorities said 30 shell casings were found at the scene.
Court documents didn't mention Ziberov having any connection with the theft or drugs. The 18-year-old was an Eagle Scout planning to attend college.
In rendering his verdict, the judge said the case against Jose Canales-Yanez was largely circumstantial, however, he said the two key witnesses in the case had no reason to lie.
In fact, Boynton said it would have made more sense for the two women, who received money for their cooperation and were placed in witness protection, to remain silent.
Jose Canales-Yanez was scheduled to be sentenced in March.