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Detective: 18-year-old fatally shot Chesterfield store owner as he crouched down

Posted at 3:30 PM, Apr 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-14 15:33:42-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- An 18-year-old charged in connection to the murder of a beloved Chesterfield convenience store owner appeared in court for a preliminary hearing Thursday.

Thomas Jennings III, 18 of Able Road in Chesterfield, is charged with second-degree murder, attempted robbery conspiracy to commit robbery and the use of a firearm in commission of a felony in the January murder of Harshad Patel.

Judge Keith Hurley certified Jennings charges to the grand jury after testimony from a detective.

Patel was shot multiple times at his Marketplace convenience store at 6811 Walmsley Boulevard on Jan. 11, according to police. He died at the hospital from a gunshot wound through the arm and chest, an autopsy revealed.

Thomas Jennings III

Thomas Jennings III

Trayvon M. Wilhite, 19, of Cedardale Lane, and his brother, Tyqise Wilhite, 14, were also charged in connection to the murder. The younger Wilhite brother will be tried as an adult.

Detective M.S. Bowser testified surveillance video showed Jennings walk into the store first and have a conversation with Patel. Trayvon Wilhite, who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, followed behind with a 25-caliber gun. Wilhite then leaned over the counter and shot Patel as he crouched down, the video showed.

A fourth suspect, also inside the store during the crime, remains on the run.

Jenning’s defense noted their client was the only one of four suspects not wearing a mask and was standing to the side of the counter at the time of the shooting. Jennings told detectives their intentions were only to rob the store.

Harshad Patel

Harshad Patel

Patel recently became a naturalized citizen and moved his wife and young twin girls to the United States. His wife was inside the courtroom Thursday. A family friend said she wanted to see her husband’s alleged killers in person.

"[Killed for] no reason, man,” friend Louis Galaviz said. “He has a family. I've got pain in my heart."

Anyone with information on the fourth suspect should contact the Chesterfield County Police Department at 804-748-1251 or Crime Solvers at 804-748-0660.