A Tale of Two Lives
by Robert A. Waters
At eight o'clock on the morning of May 4, 2008, nineteen-year-old Moussa Maida opened up the Snappy Food Store on Trollie Lane in Jacksonville, Florida. As he entered through the front door, Michael Yacob rushed in behind him. Masked and armed with a handgun, he forced Maida into the cashier's booth and made him open the safe.
With a bag full of cash, Yacob turned to flee. Maida, however, pressed a button that locked the the robber in the store. The clerk then locked himself inside the booth in what he thought was a bulletproof glass enclosure.
Yacob came back to the window and shot at Maida. He missed with the first round, but fired again. This time the bullet pierced the glass and hit Maida in the chest.
A surveillance video-camera in the store recorded Maida's final moments of life. After being shot, he fell to the floor. He moaned several times in an apparent attempt to breathe, then died.
In the meantime, Yacob ran to the locked door and tried to break the glass so he could escape. The diminutive robber (five-feet three inches tall and 139 pounds) fired several shots into the glass--eventually he pried open a hole and crawled out.
But during his struggle to get away, he cut himself. Investigators collected blood and developed a DNA profile. Two years later, while in prison for aggravated assault, Jacksonville cops got a cold hit. A match was obtained from the blood Yacob left behind at the Snappy Food Store.
In 2011, Michael Mulugetta Yacob, 24, was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death. Circuit Judge Adrian G. Soud was visibly shaken while watching the video of a cold-blooded murder in his courtroom. Addressing the killer, he said: “This is not a case of a robbery gone bad. This is not a case of things going out of control. This is the case of a man who made a conscious decision to end the life of a 19-year-old boy.”
"Moussa took me under his wing and helped me adjust to life in the United States," Cristen said. "I could ask him things I couldn't ask my parents. I can remember riding around with him, listening to music and singing to the top of our lungs."
All the while, the teen worked tirelessly in his father’s convenience store. Maida’s dream was to become a doctor and, after high school, he enrolled at Jacksonville Community College. He went out of his way to avoid trouble, concentrating instead on working to achieve his future dreams.
Maida's family was devastated by the senseless murder. “Most of the people can't believe it, especially my mom,” Cristen said. “It's a big loss for her to lose her son. She can't believe it. She's having a really hard time.”
Maida’s uncle, Fysal Taazieh, said: “Somebody took his future away...Since he got here, he's been working and going to school--that's been eliminated for no sense.”
Michael Yacob had a lengthy record filled with arrests for drug offenses, burglary, and robbery.
During Yacob’s sentencing, Judge Soud said: “This murder...is forever memorialized in full color on the video and audio security recordings of Snappy Food Store.”
Two lifestyles: one, a despicable life of violence and murder; the other, a productive life filled with dreams.
The wrong man died that morning.