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B.G.'s store owner unhappy with sentencing
Mohammad Yasar (left) and J.J. Bains stand Monday in the aisle of B.G.’s Express #2, where Nirmal Singh was killed in 2010. Bains, who owns the store, and Yasar, who owns a convenience store west of Martinsville, believe the men convicted in Singh’s death should have received lengthier prison sentences. (Bulletin photos by Paul Collins)
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -
The owner of B.G.’s Express #2 convenience store is unhappy with sentences given Sunday in connection with a 2010 slaying at the store.
“We are not satisfied. Fourteen and 18 years is nothing. You can sell a drug ... and do more time,” said Mohammad Yasar, interpreting for his friend J.J. Bains and expressing his own feelings as well. Bains owns B.G.’s Express #2 in Chatham Heights, and Yasar owns B.G. Express, west of Martinsville.
“I’ve been here 25 years, and I’ve never seen a sentence like this. Fourteen and 18 years is not enough,” Yasar said Monday.
On Sunday night, Dominique Qumain Hylton, 24, and his brother, Montreal Rashawn Kent, 21, entered Alford pleas in the case. With an Alford plea, a defendant doesn’t admit guilt but acknowledges that the commonwealth may have enough evidence to obtain a conviction.
Hylton, who was identified by a third man who entered a plea earlier in the case, as the man who fired the shot that killed store clerk Nirmal Singh, entered pleas to first-degree murder, aggravated malicious wounding and related charges. He was sentenced to a total of 71 years in prison, with all but 18 years and six months suspended on condition of 20 years’ probation and 40 years of good behavior upon his release.
Had he gone to trial and been convicted, Hylton would have faced a maximum sentence of life in prison on the first-degree murder charge alone.
Kent entered pleas to second-degree murder and aggravated malicious wounding, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, and related charges. Judge Martin Clark sentenced Kent to a total of 66 years in prison with all but 14 years suspended with the same conditions for probation and good behavior as Hylton.
Both will get credit for time served. They had been in custody since shortly after the incident.
On May 28, 2010, three men entered B.G.’s Express #2 in Chatham Heights with their faces covered. Singh, who was 57, was shot and killed, and William Thomas — who, according to some reports, did janitorial work there, and, according to Yasar, hung out there — was injured.
On Monday, Yasar also criticized the length of time from the slaying to the sentencing: more than four years. He called it “a long time.”
Attorneys involved in the case have said numerous things led to the lengthy wait, including the availability of witnesses and changes in attorneys.
Police did a good job in the case, Yasar said.
“We are satisfied with the police but not the (court) decision,” he added.
Henry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Nester said he too would have liked to see Kent and Hylton serve more time, but he had to weigh the nature of the evidence — there was no forensic evidence linking any of the three men to the scene and no eyewitnesses who could identify them — with the risk of going to trial.
“I would much rather have a guaranteed conviction and guarantee these men are in prison as opposed to running the risk” of a possible acquittal, he said Monday. “I would rather have a sure thing as opposed to playing a game of roulette with these folks.”
The Henry County Sheriff’s Office initially charged Hylton, Kent and the third man, Steven O’Neal Porter, with first-degree murder, aggravated malicious wounding, robbery and other charges in connection with the case.
The murder charge against Porter was dropped in December 2011 as part of a plea agreement. He was sentenced to eight years of active prison time and 57 years suspended for conspiracy to commit robbery and other charges.
The first-degree murder charge against Kent was reduced to second-degree murder on Sunday.
Yasar described Singh as “very nice ... a hard worker. Everybody loved him.”
Singh and Bains had been friends since childhood, growing up in India, and Singh would sometimes come to this area to visit Bains, Singh’s daughter, Sarabjit Kaur Grewal, said in 2010.
In addition to his daughter, who lives out of state, Singh had a son who lives in Canada, according to information from the Henry County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Singh’s widow lives in India.
Singh was helping to support his family at the time of his death, according to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.
Singh sometimes helped Bains out at B.G.’s Express #2 and sometimes stayed with him, according to Yasar and Bains.
Bains and Singh used to sit together, make tea, talk about their children and walk home together, Yasar said. They were best friends, like brothers, Yasar said.
“All the time, he (Bains) thinks about it,” Yasar said of the slaying. Sometimes Bains wakes up in the middle of the night, his heart beating fast, and he thinks of the incident, Yasar said.
Yasar said he himself avoids going to B.G.’s Express #2 now because of the gruesome memories of seeing Singh’s body on the floor.
Yasar said B.G.’s Express #2 has lost almost $100,000 as a result of the incident, from such things as equipment damaged, but mostly from lost business from people afraid to return to the store.
Customers were in and out of the store Monday at a fairly regular pace.
There’s no need for the public to fear coming back, Yasar feels.