A Capitol Heights man was sentenced yesterday to 44 years in prison for fatally shooting a Pizza Hut driver, a father of eight holding three jobs, and then robbing a woman changing a light bulb not far away outside her Old Town Alexandria home.
Metkal Alana, 26, entered an Alford plea in March to the first-degree murder of Musharaf Shah, 47, on Sept. 16 after a pizza delivery in Old Town. By doing so, Alana did not admit his guilt but conceded that the state had enough evidence to convict him on felony murder and other weapon and robbery charges. In all, Alana entered the plea to five offenses.
Standing in a crowded Alexandria courtroom yesterday, Alana turned toward the Shahs and relatives of the 35-year-old woman he robbed at gunpoint and tearfully apologized. His thin body shaking, tears rolling off his bearded face, Alana said he was "deeply distressed" that such tragedies had befallen their families.
"I hope you never see mankind at its worst like that again," Alana said, adding that he lost his mother at a young age and knows how it feels to lose a loved one. "I mostly regret being involved in this case . . . due to my influences and reckless decision-making."
Alana had faced up to two life terms for killing Shah, who was shot moments after he delivered an $18 pizza to employees of the Firehook Bakery in the 200 block of North Fayette Street. Prosecutors said Alana orchestrated the crimes and was the triggerman, although Alana has maintained he was not the shooter.
A few minutes after Shah was killed, a woman who stepped outside her house in the 800 block of South Lee Street to change a light bulb was accosted by an armed man, whom authorities said she later identified as Alana. With her two young children inside sleeping, she was forced back into the house, robbed of a diamond ring, a necklace and her wallet, which contained $20.
Soon after the slaying and robbery, officers in Fairfax County spotted the assailants' vehicle, which had been described in a police lookout. The officers chased it back into Alexandria, where it was abandoned in the 900 block of South Alfred Street.
Alana and his co-conspirator, Antowaun Lynch, who is scheduled to be sentenced next month, were apprehended after a short foot chase. Alana was clutching the woman's stolen ring and necklace, prosecutors said, and a .38-caliber gun was found inside his backpack. Tests later determined that was the weapon used to kill Shah.
Several of Shah's relatives sat yesterday with an interpreter in the first three rows of the courtroom. They filed out silently afterward and did not comment on the sentence.
Members of Alana's family sat in a different section of the courtroom and sobbed loudly as the prison term was delivered. Outside, they declined to comment, saying they would wait until all appeals had been filed.
John Zwerling, Alana's court-appointed attorney, said he will appeal within 30 days, but he declined to comment further. He and his co-counsel had asked Circuit Judge John E. Kloch to sentence Alana to no more than 30 years because Alana had no prior convictions.
But Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel said in his closing arguments that anything less than life in prison was not enough punishment. He said Alana was both dangerous and unrepentant.
After the sentencing, Sengel said,"I clearly think he deserved a life sentence, but that was the court's call."
Shah's family moved to Alexandria from Pakistan about four years ago. Shah was a diplomat with the Embassy of Pakistan who was living with his family in Syria and Iran before being transferred to the United States. When the posting ended unexpectedly and the government wanted to move him to another country, he said no.
Shah worked a series of part-time jobs to support his wife and children, who at the time were ages 6 to 20. Three months after his slaying, his wife gave birth to twins.
Before announcing the sentence, the judge admonished Alana. Although some details of the brutal and calculated night of violence will forever remain unknown, Kloch said, the outcomes are "something you will live with."