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14-Year-Old Charged in Fatal Stabbing of Va. Store Clerk

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 7, 2004; Page B02

A 60-year-old convenience store clerk was stabbed to death early yesterday inside the Mount Vernon area store where he'd worked for more than a quarter century, and a 14-year-old boy was arrested and charged with murder.

The victim's name was not released because police could not immediately locate any family. Police believe the man's relatives may all live in Korea.

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The suspect's name also was not released because he is a juvenile. He was being held in the Fairfax juvenile jail last night without bond.

Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said that if a juvenile court judge finds probable cause that the boy committed the crime, the case would move to Circuit Court and Horan would seek to prosecute him as an adult. If convicted, the boy could then be sentenced under either juvenile or adult law.

A 14-year-old has been prosecuted as an adult before for murder in Fairfax, after a gang-related stabbing in the Culmore area in 2000. Jose Rodriguez, an admitted member of Mara Salvatrucha, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Police said yesterday's stabbing was not gang-related, but rather the result of a botched robbery. Horan said he understood that the suspect, who lives in Fort Belvoir, had been out all night and might have been reported as a runaway.

The victim and one other clerk were working in the 7-Eleven at 5638 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy., near Route 1, just east of Fort Belvoir. A young man dressed in camouflage "was in the store for some time," Officer Bud Walker said, before approaching the victim about 5:10 a.m. and demanding money.

Walker said he did not know whether the victim complied with the demand or resisted. Police said the victim was stabbed in the upper body, and the suspect ran from the store.

The victim was flown by helicopter to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he died a short time later.

A description of a camouflage-clad assailant was broadcast, and officers from the Mount Vernon station established a perimeter in the neighborhoods surrounding the 7-Eleven. About 90 minutes later, Officers Geoff Carrigan and Russ Lephart spotted a boy in camouflage standing near a strip mall on Route 1, less than two miles from the convenience store, police said.

Carrigan and Lephart stopped the youth, and homicide detectives headed over from the 7-Eleven to interview him. He was arrested, and was charged by early afternoon.

A surveillance camera was operating in the store, police said. Whether the camera captured the crime on tape was not revealed yesterday.

Capt. Larry Moser, commander of the Mount Vernon station, said some of his officers were particularly upset by the crime because they had known the victim as a friendly face on the late shift in one of Fairfax's busiest police districts.

"Those folks are out here. They don't get a lot of respect from the community," Moser said of the victim. "But they serve us. They give us a place to stop for a cup of coffee, which is nice when you work the night shift."

Sohail Massood, the store's manager, said the victim had worked there for almost 28 years. "A very good guy, very hard worker," Massood said. "He worked different shifts. Whenever I needed him, he'd work on that shift."

Massood did not think that the man, who lived in Mount Vernon, had family or friends locally. "All his friends are us, the people working here," he said.

"He's always liked to work night hours," said Chris Lambrou, owner of the Woodlawn Auto Center next door to the 7-Eleven. He said that he had known the victim since opening his shop 20 years ago and that the man kept an eye on Lambrou's shop overnight.

"He's a quiet man," Lambrou said. "He always talked about his retirement. His money would never go into his pocket, always for retirement. He wanted to get a nice car and buy a nice house."

Nadeem Jamil, manager of the Exxon station at Route 1 and Mount Vernon Highway, said the man had just recently told him "he was going to retire, probably next year."

Jamil said he could reliably watch the man walking past the Exxon station at 7:20 a.m. each day, on the way home to his apartment at the end of his shift.

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