The second of four defendants in the brutal 2016 murder of a Johnston County convenience store clerk has avoided a possible death penalty sentence by pleading guilty.
Darius McCalston pled guilty on July 10th in Johnston County Superior Court to first degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. He was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Jeffrey B. Foster to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was also sentenced to an additional 13 to 17 year prison term to run at the expiration of his life sentence.
On October 27, 2016, Esmail Alshami, a 29 year-old clerk at the Shop and Go at 13569 NC Highway 39 North was 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 him. A second person in the business, Ricky Lynch, was shot but survived.
“This case involved the senseless murder of Esmail Alshami, a loved and well respected member of the community,” stated Assistant District Attorney Paul Jackson. “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We hope they will have a measure of justice and closure knowing that this defendant will never again pose a threat to our community and will spend the rest of his life in prison. We thank the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office for their extreme efforts and professionalism in investigating and solving this case.”
Four people were arrested in the weeks that followed the 2016 homicide.
Julien Antonio Allen was convicted in March 2018 of first degree murder, robbery, assault and conspiracy. He has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder plus an additional 83 to 112 months for the assault and 29 to 47 months for conspiracy.
McCalston was the second to have been sentenced following his plea. Prosecutors had announced earlier they were planning to try McCalston in 2019 and would be seeking the death penalty.
Two others are awaiting trial: Omari Smith and Grecia Angelica Montes.
Prosecutors said Ashami, the store clerk, was behind the counter when 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, according to prosecutors.
Allen, Smith and McCalston were members of the Crips, a criminal street gang. The convenience store murder was one of several crimes the defendants reportedly committed during a six week period in 2016 in Johnston and Wake counties including other commercial store robberies. 2016 scene photos by John Payne