2 men charged in Christmas slaying at gas station
Authorities on Monday filed capital murder charges against two men in the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old student from India, who was gunned down during an aggressive 20-second robbery at a Pasadena convenience store early Christmas morning.
Daniel Jacob Stiner, 22, and Michael Ray Morris, 29, both of Pasadena, were charged in the death of clerk Jayachandra Elaprolu.
Elaprolu was a native of India living in the Seabrook area, working on a master's degree in computer engineering at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, a relative said. His remains will be sent home, with the help of the Indian Consulate in Houston.
On Monday afternoon, police said Stiner surrendered and took investigators to the Conroe area, where he said he would recover the mask he used in the violent "blitz" robbery, so-called for its lightning-fast execution. He also promised to get the $400 he stole from the register.
Police said Stiner claimed that fear drove his aggression.
Morris has maintained he was strictly a customer in the store during the 2:30 a.m. shooting, in the wrong place at the wrong time, police said. He further complained to police and a local TV station that he had been wrongly implicated in the incident, much of which was captured on surveillance video.
But police believe Morris acted as a scout who twice went inside the store to scope out the scene, said Bud Corbett, assistant police chief in Pasadena.
Officials said Morris, who police said is a friend of Stiner's, went into the store the first time and made a purchase. He returned, obtained change from Elaprolu, and exited the business again.
Police said Stiner, wearing a mask and carrying a semi-automatic pistol, then entered the store and immediately opened fire, striking Elaprolu at least five times as he tried to retreat to a back room. Stiner fled, carrying the lightweight register, police said.
Elaprolu was wounded in the stomach, liver, upper torso, intestine and heart.
A tip from Crime Stoppers helped lead to the arrests, Corbett said. Neither of the men has criminal convictions in Harris County, according to county records.
Indian news organizations reported that Elaprolu moved to the U.S. four months ago from the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
He graduated from Siddartha Engineering College in the city of Vijayawada, the Times of India reported on its website.
His father, Rao Nageswar, told the Calcutta Telegraph that he had spoken to his son hours before the slaying. His father is an engineer and his mother works as a pharmacist.
He was their only child, the Times reported.
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