A Germantown man convicted last month for his role in the 2017 killing of two Northwest High School students was sentenced on Friday to 100 years in prison.
Roger Garcia, 22, was convicted Dec. 16 of two counts of second-degree murder. Police say he and three others killed Shadi Ali Najjar, 17, and Artem Ziberov, 18, in June 2017, the night before their graduation.
Police say Najjar and Ziberov were lured to the 8200 block of Gallery Court in Montgomery Village by Garcia and three other people: his half-brother Edgar Garcia-Gaona, Rony A. Galicia, and Jose “O” Ovilson Canales-Yanez.
Police said Garcia lured Najjar to the location of the shooting on June 5, 2017, by telling the victim on Snapchat that he would buy an extra graduation ticket.
But when they arrived at the meeting place, Najjar and Ziberov were ambushed, shot and killed by the four men. Police said the attackers fired 30 or 31 rounds into Najjar’s blue Honda Civic.
Police said the killing was retaliation against Najjar for an incident six months earlier, in which he stole marijuana from Canales-Yanez’s wife.
Montgomery County Circuit Judge David Boynton, prior to handing down the sentence on Friday, said that it was clear that Garcia played a key role in orchestrating the plot to kill Najjar and Ziberov because of his communication with Najjar on Snapchat.
“He was the linchpin between their living and their dying,” he said.
Boynton noted that Garcia “benefited” from the jury’s acquittal of a first-degree murder charge last month, but said he still felt it was necessary to impose the 100-year-sentence, higher than the state’s sentencing guidelines of a 70-year-maximum.
“I look at the actions of the defendant, and its obvious why we’re always going to have prisons,” he said.
Before he was sentenced, Garcia told the court he “prayed for peace and closure” for the victims’ families.
“My heart goes out to you all. Peace be upon their souls. I’m sorry you suffered so much,” he said.
Garcia did not apologize for his role in the killing or admit guilt.
In an emotional victim impact statement, Adi Najjar, Shadi’s father, told the court that Garcia had “destroyed our life completely.”
“Our life has been gone since the day you killed my boy,” he said as he turned toward Garcia.
“You took from us his marriage. You took from us his children. … Our son was everything in our life.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Marybeth Ayres noted that Najjar and Ziberov were both only children in their respective families. Ziberov, she said, had been accepted to the University of Maryland and planned to pursue a career in international business. Najjar, she said, had dreams of becoming a brain surgeon.
“As a parent, losing a child is the worst nightmare,” she said.
“The [sentencing] guidelines don’t take into account it was their high school graduation the next day,” she said.
Garcia’s defense attorney, John Sharifi, argued that his client should receive a sentence less than the maximum because he was acquitted by the jury of more serious charges.
“The verdict expressly provides doubt that he premeditated murder or agreed to commit murder. There is no dispute about that,” he said.
Sharifi also said Garcia had a difficult childhood, including a struggle with epilepsy that resulted in frequent seizures, which he called “debilitating.” He said Garcia was molested by a teacher, which affected him mentally.
Following emotional testimony by Garcia’s mother in Spanish, Ayres walked toward the victims’ families and reminded the court of the victims in the case.
“These four people woke up to the reality that their only sons were murdered,” she said of the Najjars and the Tewelows — the stepparents of Ziberov.
Following the hearing, State’s Attorney John McCarthy told reporters that the outcome was correct, but no outcome will bring cloture to the victims’ families.
“I can tell you that this will never heal,” he said.
McCarthy repeated a statement he made in September, that every drug-related homicide in recent memory was connected to marijuana.
Garcia was the last of the four shooters to be convicted. Canales-Yanez was found guilty of first-degree murder in January 2018. Garcia-Gaona and Galicia were found guilty of murder charges in November of that year.
Canales-Yanez, Garcia-Gaona and Galicia all received terms of life in prison, State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Ramon Korionoff wrote in an email.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org