Man found guilty in June 2012 murder of delivery driver

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Cornell Dwayne Haugabook
Cornell Dwayne Haugabook

A man charged with the 2012 shooting death of a 60-year-old delivery driver was sentenced to life in prison Friday after he was found guilty on several charges, including first-degree murder.

Cornell Dwayne Haugabook, 23, was found guilty by a New Hanover County jury on charges of first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle and possession of a firearm by a felon.

The jury’s verdict came Wednesday afternoon in New Hanover County Superior Court. Haugabook was 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.

The victim was robbed of $42.27 in Chinese food and some assorted change, according to District Attorney Ben David.

During the five-day trial, prosecutors presented more than 60 pieces of evidence and testimony came from more than 20 witnesses, David said.

Some of the evidence presented at trial was Haugabook’s palm print that was recovered from the victim’s vehicle as well as a .22-caliber bullet that was extracted from his ribs. The bullet was consistent with a .22-caliber handgun investigators linked to Haugabook, David said.

“In addition to obviously being a botched armed robbery, was also a premeditated and deliberate act where this defendant was found to have the specific intent to kill before he fired that gun that obviously projected a bullet into the face of Mr. Liu,” David said after sentencing. “We always assessed that this was the only appropriate outcome and were very pleased that the jury has agreed with us unanimously today.”

Haugabook’s co-defendant in the case—18-year-old Mustafaa Rasheed Friend—was also 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. His case is pending a trial date, David said.

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.

Haugabook and his co-defendants were indicted in connection with the incident on April 6, 2012. Lawrence, 19, Johnson-Martin, 19, and White, 21, have each pleaded guilty to charges in the case, according to court records.

“We have always said…Cornell Haugabook, who was four years to five years older than the other five defendants, was by far the most culpable,” David said. “This is a young man from Florida…he knew his co-defendants in some cases less than minutes before this incident. The message that this sends today is that you have to pick your friends wisely and you have to answer for their conduct.”

“I don’t believe there’s throw-away people. And I will continually fight for all people in this community, particularly for the ones most at risk. But where we have a premeditated killer who takes five other children down this road, he will be held fully accountable,” David said.

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