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Two arrested in 2012 murder of Patel

Click on the screen above to see video from Monday's press conference.

In this undated photo are (left to right) Ashvinkumar Patel, 43, who was murdered on Sept. 2, 2012; his son, Harsh; and his wife, Menisha.
Click on the screen on this page to see video from Monday morning's press conference.

By Paul Keane

Two suspects were transported to the Wayne County Adult Detention Center Monday morning, with both suspects facing charges in the September 2012 robbery and murder of a local convenience store clerk.

Lewis Bernard Hayes and Jermaine Stewart are both facing charges in the Sept. 2, 2012 murder of Ashvanbha Patel, 43, who was working at Lakeside Tobacco/Citgo Station on Azalea Drive at the time of the robbery and shooting.

The Waynesboro Police Department originally worked the case, but when Hayes and Stewart were identified as possible suspects the Wayne County Sheriff's Department became involved.

On Monday morning, Sheriff Darryl Woodson announced the apprehension of the two suspects, who are facing charges of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, armed robbery and capital murder.

"The two suspects were in custody with the Mississippi Department of Corrections on other charges," Woodson said at a Monday morning press conference. "Thanks to Laurel Police Department Chief Tyrone Stewart, District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell, the Lamar County Sheriff's Department, MDOC and the public, we were able to work this case and make these arrests."

Around 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 2, 2012, officers from the WPD responded to a 9-1-1 call at the convenience store and gas station on Azalea Drive. Officers discovered that the clerk at the store, Patel, had been shot during an apparent robbery. Patel was transported to Wayne General Hospital, where he died from the injuries sustained during the incident.

Officers and investigators from the police department secured and processed the scene for evidence. Wayne County Sheriff's Department investigators and deputies were also called to the scene to assist with the investigation.

Security video was viewed by officers and a description of a suspect was obtained from the footage. A slender-built, African-American male with dark complexion and wearing a black pullover shirt with a bandana over the lower part of his face was seen in the video. The individual was described at the time as being between 5-foot-8 and 6-foot tall. The suspect was armed with a handgun and may have fled in a white or light-colored vehicle with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Woodson said Hayes was believed to be the gunman in the incident while Stewart was believed to have driven the vehicle the two escaped. Hayes was being held in the Walnut Grove facility of the MDOC while Stewart was in the Lamar County Jail. Both were transported to the Wayne County Adult Detention Center on Monday.

"We suspected these two men about 15 months ago," Woodson said. "At that time, Mike Mozingo was our investigator and he began pursuing the case.

"Chief Tyrone Stewart was able to talk to Jermaine Stewart and gather information for us on this case. We have evidence and information regarding the case that we are still holding onto until we can talk to the district attorney further."

Woodson praised the efforts of Chief Stewart, the Lamar County Sheriff's Department, MDOC and the District Attorney's Office, but said cases such as this can only really be solved with input and assistance from the public.

"We are actively investing all cold cases," he said. "We are asking the public to give us any information about these cold cases. Any bit of information can be helpful to our investigations."

Woodson cited the following cold cases that are still being pursued:

• The Jan. 4, 2008 murder of Norman Howard.

• The Nov. 5, 2009 murder of Kenny Gandy, who disappeared on July 22 of that year, with his remains being discovered that November.

• The Aug. 19, 2010 murder of Joe Michael Ruffin.

• The murder on Court Street of Viola Richey.

• The April 13, 2014 murder of Cureon "C.C." Pope.

"It's hard to crack cold cases without the help of the public and other departments," Woodson said. "We're trying to close every cold case that we have on file.

"Basically, you have 48 hours before a case goes cold. After 48 hours, people tend to be more reluctant to talk and open up about incidents. But we have good deputies, good investigators and good help from other agencies to pursue these cases.

"But we still need help from the public. We appreciate all of the help the public gives us but just like you depend on us, we depend on you to work with us to help solve these cases."

Anyone with information about these other cases can call Wayne County CrimeStoppers at 601-735-5323. Callers can remain anonymous if they wish to do so.
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