Investigators seek potential witnesses in store owner's murder

Credit: Rowan County Sheriff's Office.

Victim Hecham Nauraldin Abualeinan.


by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

Posted on December 11, 2012 at 6:50 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 31 at 2:54 AM

SALISBURY, N.C. -- Investigators are working leads and offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect who shot and killed a Rowan County convenience store owner during a robbery.

Moments before the robbery, Rowan County Sheriff's Investigators say two black males entered the store, made a purchase and then left just as the robber was about to enter the store. Investigators are now looking to identify these two men, as they are potential witnesses to the crime.

Hecham Abualeinan, 59, was shot in the head around 9:45 p.m. Monday night, which is about 15 minutes before the store closed.

Longtime Z&H Mart customers are heartbroken and angry over the murder.

Jabbar Lawler is one of several regulars who left flowers and cards at a makeshift memorial in the parking lot.

"It's just not fair, just not fair.  He didn't bother nobody," Lawler said.  "We talk like we're family."

Especially since Abualeinan regularly gave Lawler's 3-year-old daughter free candy and gave him merchandise for free time to time as well.

Customers say it's what he did to keep them happy and help them in tough times.

"He was everybody's buddy, everybody's buddy--everybody loved him," Lawler said.

Lawler says he encouraged Abualeinan to carry a gun, knowing the dangers of working in a convenience store. He says Abualenian wouldn't bring it up.

It’s unclear if Abualeinan had one in the store to defend himself or not.

Now, Lawler's friend is gone and his daughter's favorite teddy bear is part of the memorial.

"For somebody to be that selfish, to go in that store and take something from him and then kill him, that's not fair, that's not fair.  They could have spared his life and took what they wanted to take out of the store and just left.  That wasn't fair," he said.

The store has security cameras. For now, investigators aren't saying what's on it or if it caught the face of the killer.

Abualeinan has a wife and children.  The family lives in the same building as the convenience store.

If you can help investigators identify the two potential witnesses, or you have information about this incident is asked to contact Lt. Chad Moose at 704-216-8687; or Rowan County Crimestoppers at 1-866-639-5245.