FORT PIERCE, Fla. – The first trial stemming from last year’s fatal shooting and robbery of Fort Pierce store owner Parag Patel ended with a guilty verdict Friday morning.
A 12-member panel found Donald Isaiah guilty of first-degree felony murder and armed robbery. Isaiah is the first of three defendants charged with first-degree murder and robbery to stand trial in connection with the shooting.
After deliberating approximately 90 minutes before returning home Thursday evening, jurors took little more than an hour Friday to reach their verdict.
Isaiah showed no emotion as he stood and heard the verdict and then listened as each juror was polled on the decision.
Patel was working alone at his A & M Discount Beverage store on the morning of Sept. 4, 2009, when three men, two of whom were armed, stormed the store, shot Patel four times with a .40-caliber rifle and took a cache of $50 and $100 bills Patel kept under the counter to cash customers’ checks.
One of the participants in the crime, Mahogany Alexander, who is also charged with first-degree felony murder in the case, became the state’s central witness against Isaiah at trial.
Alexander testified that Isaiah discussed robbing Patel’s store in her presence on several occasions prior to the crime and identified him as a key participant in the robbery.
Though Isaiah did not actually pull the trigger, prosecutors argued that a person who participates in a felony where a person is killed as a result can be found guilty of first-degree felony murder under Florida law.
Rajem Patel, Patel’s brother-in-law who was present throughout most of the trial, said he had mixed emotions upon hearing the verdict.
“I am happy and sad,” Patel said. "We are a very religious family, and we do not believe in taking a life. We have a judgment, and that is good, but one life is gone and another is ruined.”
Assistant State Attorney Daryl Isenhower said prosecutors were satisfied with the trial’s outcome but felt sympathy for Patel’s family, many of whom sat in the gallery to watch the weeklong proceedings.
“Though we’re sad for the Patel family, we’re very pleased with the jury’s verdict and glad to see justice done today,” Isenhower said.
Because the conviction carries a mandatory life sentence, Isaiah’s attorney asked the court to proceed immediately to sentencing. However, the matter was pushed back until 1:30 p.m. Friday to allow members of Patel’s family to attend.
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