Jury selection begins in trial of June 2012 murder of delivery driver

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Cornell Dwayne Haugabook
Cornell Dwayne Haugabook

Jury selection is underway in the case of a Wilmington man charged with the shooting death of a 60-year-old man in June 2012.

The first-degree murder trial of 23-year-old Cornell Dwayne Haugabook is scheduled to begin this week, according to court records. Haugabook is one of six people charged connection with the murder of Zhen Bo Liu—a Chinese restaurant delivery driver—who was fatally shot on June 14, 2012.

Wilmington police found Liu shot inside a car in the 700 block of South 13th Street at about 10:23 p.m., according to police records.

“We quickly learned that he was a Chinese food delivery driver and made contact with the business,” Detective Lee Odham said.

Detectives determined that “after the murder, [the suspects] went into the victim’s car and looked for stuff to steal,” Odham said. “They all went back and ate the Chinese food that they robbed from [the victim].”

Haugabook and his co-defendants were indicted in connection with the incident on April 6, 2012, according to indictments. The indictments state the defendants are charged with taking $79 worth of Chinese food from the victim.

In addition to the murder charge, Haugabook also faces charges of robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and discharging a firearm into occupied property.

In August 2012, the State filed a motion to seek the death penalty in the case. But in March, Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser order that the case could not proceed as a capital murder trial after a mental health evaluation concluded Haugabook is mentally retarded, as defined by North Carolina law.

A motion to change venue was filed Monday morning by Chief Public Defender Jennifer Harjo, who is representing Haugabook in the case. In a hearing before jury selection Monday, Harjo said that media reports released before the trial Sunday night and Monday morning would impede the defendant’s right to a fair trial.

Superior Court Judge John Nobles denied Harjo’s motion to change venue. According to District Attorney Ben David, opening statements could begin on Wednesday. Assistant District Attorney Dru Lewis is also a prosecutor in the case.

Mustafaa Rashid Friend
Mustafaa Rashid Friend

Haugabook’s co-defendant in the case—18-year-old Mustafaa Rasheed Friend—was also scheduled for trial this week, according to court records. But, according to David, the State will not to proceed with the two cases together. A trial date for Friend has not been set.

Court records show Friend has been charged with first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and discharging a weapon into occupied property inflicting serious bodily injury.

Four other co-defendants in the case, Nathaniel Lawrence, Manije Dameek Johnson-Martin, Rasheed Ramone Thompson, and Marvin White were also arrested and charged with armed robbery and conspiracy charges in connection with the case. Lawrence, 19, Johnson-Martin, 19, and White, 21, have each pleaded guilty to charges in the case, according to court records.

Christina Haley is a crime and courts reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6337 or christina.h@portcitydaily.com.