The first of four people charged in connection with the murder of a Johnston County convenience store clerk has been found guilty.
On October 27, 2016, Esmail Alshami, a 29 year-old clerk at the Shop and Go at 13569 NC Highway 39 North was talking on his cell phone with his wife and in the process of closing the rural store near the Wake County line when two men wearing masks rushed in and during a robbery shot and killed Ashami. A second person in the store, Ricky Lynch, who was 51 at the time, was shot but survived.
Following a two week trial in a Smithfield courtroom, Julien Antonio Allen of Raleigh was convicted last Thursday of first degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. A judge sentenced Allen, 20, to life in prison without parole for the murder. He received an additional 83 to 112 months for the assault with a deadly weapon conviction and 29 to 47 months for conspiracy.
Prosecutors allege Ashami was behind the counter when two of the suspects, Omari Smith and Darius McCalston, came into the store and demanded money from Alshami while holding a gun to his face. During the robbery, Darius McCalston shot Alshami in the neck and he died as a result from his injuries. Julien Allen was the getaway driver and acted as the lookout for Smith and McCalston prior to them entering the store.
Initially, there were no suspects in the case due to the fact that both men who entered the store were completely masked and wearing gloves.
Smith, McCalston and Grecia Anegelica Montes have not yet gone to trial on their charges. Smith and McCalston are both facing murder charges. Montes is charged as an accessory.
McCalston’s trial will likely take place sometime in 2019. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against McCalston.
“The Johnston County District Attorney’s Office would like to thank the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office and the Raleigh Police Department for their tireless investigation of this case,” stated Assistant District Attorney Kelly L. Sandling. “The Sheriff’s Office collaborative effort with the Raleigh Police Department was instrumental in solving this case and taking violent criminals off the streets in Johnston County.”
“Defendant Allen and his co-defendants were members of the Crips, a criminal street gang. Defendant Allen and his co-defendants during a six week period including the period that our robbery and homicide were committed here in Johnston County, had committed other commercial store robberies in Wake County. These other robberies eventually led to the arrest of the individuals involved in this case. We appreciate the jury’s attention to this case during this two week trial and the verdict in this case.” 2016 scene photos by John Payne