Rony Galicia and Edgar Garcia-Gaiona were found guilty of first-degree murder charges stemming from the shooting deaths of 18-year-old Artem Ziberov and 17-year-old Shadi Najjar, both seniors at Northwest High School, in 2017.
In a month-long jury trial, prosecutors described how Galicia, Garcia-Gaiona, and two additional men conspired to murder the two teenagers in a Montgomery Village parking lot by luring them to their deaths, under the guise of soliciting tickets to the school’s upcoming graduation ceremony.
Shortly before 11 p.m. on June 5, 2017, Montgomery County Police officers found both students suffering from multiple gunshot wounds in a parked Honda Civic, with lights still on and engine running. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
Galicia and Garcia-Gaiona were two of four people arrested in connection with the double homicide. A third, Jose Canales-Yanez, was sentenced to life in prison without parole earlier this year.
Investigators believed Najjar was targeted in retaliation for stealing drugs from the girlfriend of one of the suspects. Multiple witnesses described Najjar as having dealt in marijuana, and a police report filed in late 2016 by Canales-Yanez’s girlfriend described a robbery involving a blue Honda Civic.
Last year, Najjar’s father, Adi, pushed back against allegations that his son had been involved in a drug-related robbery. “He is such a sweet person,” he previously told WTOP, “a loving, lovable person. He would never try to harm anybody.”
At a news conference on Monday afternoon, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy joined families of the two victims in thanking prosecutors and witnesses.
“We greatly appreciate the courage of the witnesses who came forward,” William Tewelow, Artem’s father, said. “The conviction of these two killers makes Montgomery County a little safer for the rest of us.”
“That day will be remembered for the rest of our lives,” Adi Najjar added. “We have to continue this life without our kids. Those criminals took their futures away from them.”
Galicia and Garcia-Gaiona are due to be sentenced this January. McCarthy confirmed that, as with Canales-Yanez, the state will seek life without possibility of parole for both men.
The fourth suspect, 19-year-old Roger Garcia, will stand trial at a later date.