GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A judge has sentenced Willie Whitehead to life in prison for his part in the Hustle Mart triple murders.

A jury convicted the accused mastermind in the case Monday afternoon, finding Whitehead guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon. They returned the verdict about five hours after beginning their deliberations Monday morning around 10:30 a.m.

The judge sentenced Whitehead to life in prison for each count of first-degree murder and 115 months to 150 months in prison for the charge of robbery with a dangerous weapon.

As Whitehead’s fate was read, the now guilty defendant wasn’t short of emotions; a couple of hand gestures, a smirk toward District Attorney Kimberly Robb.

That’s how Whitehead reacted to his sentence.

Prosecutors successfully argued their case that Whitehead planned the robbery that resulted in the murders of 3 people at the convenience store located outside Farmville. Family members 26-year-old Nabil or “Sam” Al’Mogannahi, 24-year-old Gaber or “David” Alawi, and 16-year-old Mokbell or “Sam” Almujanhi were all found shot to death on April 1, 2012.

“I am just so thankful to the jury and grateful for the citizens of this county, for being patient and waiting through the process and applying the laws that needed to be applied,” said Kimberly Robb, District Attorney. She said the victims’ family was notified and they are glad justice was served.

The defense said Whitehead’s process isn’t over just yet.

“He’ll not be eligible for parole,” acknowledged Thomas Sallenger, Whitehead’s attorney. “We’ve given notice of appeal. The fight is not over, but this battle in this courtroom has come to a conclusion today.”

9 On Your Side caught up with defendant’s dad after the trial.

“God knows, I’m so sorry,” said Willie Whitehead Sr. “I want y’all to know I’m sorry from my heart. I wasn’t there when it happened. If I was, I would’ve stopped it. I’m quite sure everybody else would. I’m sorry and I want y’all to take in consideration that my son haven’t killed nobody. But I’m sorry for your loss, I really am.”

Two other suspects in the case, Xavier Shamble and Raekwon Blount, testified that Willie Whitehead waited in the car while they went inside the store. Both confirmed Antwan Anthony went inside with them and pulled the trigger, killing three store employees. Anthony was sentenced to death for his role in the case earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Shamble and Blount are each set to stand trial next year.

Previous Story:

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Accused mastermind behind the Hustle Mart robbery, Willie Whitehead will have to wait longer to learn his fate.

Jurors will begin deliberations on Monday.

Lawyers spent Friday morning trying to persuade why or why not to convict Whitehead.

The state said Whitehead planned the Hustle Mart robbery that ended in the murders of three people. The defense said there isn’t enough evidence to prove he was even there.

Four attorneys, two sides, but there’s only one verdict possible. Closing arguments are the last chance attorneys have to convince the jury their side is right.

For the state, both Kimberly Robb and Clark Everette brought up the Princeville murders; a crime Whitehead was convicted in that case after he pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact.

The state said, while Whitehead may not have gone into the Hustle Mart on the night of April 1, 2012, he knew what his co-defendant Anwtwan Anthony was capable of.

Anthony was the triggerman in both the Hustle Mart and Princeville murders.

Then it was the defense’s turn.

Attorney Thomas Sallenger reminded the jury the case is about his client.

Sallenger said all the evidence presented was about Antwan Anthony and how he killed the three store employees. He told the jury to throw all the evidence and testimony in a box called Antwan Anthony.

Sallenger told the jury there’s no evidence to prove his client should be charged with first-degree murder.

The jury won’t start deliberations until Monday. All 12 jurors have to agree before the verdict is read.

If convicted Whitehead could face life in prison.

Previous Story:

The state has rested its case in the trial of the alleged ringleader of the Hustle Mart Triple murder.

On Thursday, the state rested its case and the defense called no witnesses. Closing arguments are slated for Friday.

Wednesday, another co-defendant took the stand. While being cross-examined, Xavier Shamble confirmed Willie Whitehead did not enter the Hustle Mart.

On Tuesday, another of Whitehead’s co-defendants took the stand.

More people filled the courtroom Tuesday afternoon compared to the first two days of testimony combined.

It was all for Raekwon Blount’s testimony. He’s one of three men caught on surveillance  robbing the Hustle Mart. He shared his version of what happened the night of April 1, 2012.

The now 19-year-old was 14 during the time of the murders.

Blount admitted to robbing the Hustle Mart in Farmville. He talked about how the initial plan was to rob a drug dealer. And when that didn’t work out, the group came across the Hustle Mart.

Blount said he was shocked when another co-defendant, Antwan Anthony, shot one of the store’s employees.

Blount told the court he ran out the convenience store to the defendant who was sitting in the car. He said Whitehead told him to go back in the store and get everyone.

Surveillance video confirmed Blount’s testimony.  It shows three people robbing the Hustle Mart. The defendant, Willie Whitehead, is not in any of that video.

Blount now lives at a juvenile detention center.

This case is expected to go through next week. It’ll pick up where it left off on Wednesday.

Several witnesses testified Monday, including the person who was in an intimate relationship with Whitehead at the time of the murders.

Tenisha Smallwood answered questions about the night before and after the murders.

The night of the murder, Smallwood noticed Anthony and Whitehead watching the news. She testified she said to them, “I’m assuming you all had something to do with that.”

A Pitt County detective was also questioned.

The prosecution had him on the stand for hours going over the night of the murder and the follow-up investigation.

Multiple surveillance clips from the Hustle Mart DVR were shown in court, including the murders.

Whitehead is the alleged ringleader behind the Hustle Mart robbery that ended in the murders of three people in 2012. These are the same murders Antwan Anthony, who was sentenced to death for his role as triggerman, was involved in. Whitehead could face life in prison if convicted.

He was escorted into court Friday morning, shook his lawyers’ hands, and took a seat where he stayed for much of the day.

Opening arguments were shared, and then a host of witnesses took the stand, including a family member, someone who went to the Hustle Mart the night of the murders, the person who called 911, a first responder, and a deputy.

Zeporia Pervis took the stand and talked about her relationship with Whitehead and their encounters before and after the crimes.

She told the courtroom she signed for a car a couple days before the murders, and that the car was paid for by both Whitehead and Anthony.

Pervis then told the jury she, Whitehead, and Anthony all went to the Walmart off Greenville Boulevard to buy ammunition.

The jury watched that via surveillance video.

Whitehead reportedly threatened to kill Sheriff Neil Elks and his wife and made threats to District Attorney Kimberly Robb while in jail.

However, a judge denied Whitehead’s motion to remove Robb from the case.