Family says man arrested in connection with robbery, murder was duped by friends

by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:

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SALISBURY, N.C. - The family of a man arrested in connection with the robbery and murder of a Rowan County store owner said he was duped into the crime by his friends.

Kevin Canzator, 20, appeared in court Thursday afternoon in Salisbury for his initial appearance, along with Maurice Robinson and Christopher Watson.

All three men are being held without bond and could face the death penalty for the charges of first degree murder and robbery.

Canzator's father and brother-in-law were in court to support him and said he was somewhat of a loner who fell into the wrong crowd.

"Kevin was the kinda guy who wanted a friend, and he didn't have a whole lotta friends," said Anthony Hill, Canzator's brother-in-law.

Canzator's father, Timothy Alexander, said Canzator called him Monday night moments before the shooting, telling Alexander he was giving some friends a ride, and was stopping a convenient store, the Z & H Mart, on Mooresville Road.

"He just said he wanted to go in and get something to eat at first," Alexander said.
Surveillance cameras caught Canzator and Robinson walking in to buy a snack.

Detectives said seconds later Watson burst through the door with a gun and shot the store owner, Hecham Abualeinan, in the head.

Authorities said Watson emptied the cash register and all three men left the scene.

"He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time," Hill said, adding that he believed Canzator had no idea about the purpose of the "ride" he was providing to Robinson and Watson.

Alexander said he had no idea of his son's involvement until he recognized him in surveillance pictures on the news.

"I called my son and told him go head uptown now, turn yourself in, because you shouldn't be in a mess like this," Alexander recalled.

Canzator and Robinson turned themselves in at the Rowan County Magistrate's Office Tuesday night, and detectives arrested Watson hours later during a traffic stop.

Alexander and Hill believe Watson, who has an extensive criminal past, planned the robbery with Robinson and used Canzator as their unsuspecting accomplice.

Canzator has never been arrested for a crime and family members told Eyewitness News he was working full-time at a local Wendy's with plans to enlist in the military in the next few months.

His family apologized to Abualeinan's family, telling Channel 9, "I'm sorry, I mean ... I wouldn't wish that on no one,"

Canzator, Robinson and Watson will next appear before a judge for a probable cause hearing on Jan. 9.