Sanjay patel murder

Two New Haven, Connecticut, men are awaiting sentencing for the April 2015 murder of Indian American store clerk Sanjay Patel. Jamal Sumler (left) was found guilty of felony murder and robbery, and faces 95 years in prison. Dwayne Sayles (right) was also found guilty of murder, along with several other charges. At the center is Leighton Vanderberg, who took a plea deal and testified against Sayles and Sumler. (New Haven Police Department photos)

Two men are awaiting sentencing for the April 6, 2015 murder of Indian American store clerk Sanjay Patel, who was repeatedly shot by gunmen as he stood behind the counter of the Pay Rite Food/Citgo gas station in New Haven, Connecticut.

A jury deliberated for less than four hours Feb. 7 before finding Dwayne Sayles guilty of felony murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery, criminal possession of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit. Sayles’ trial ended Feb. 5, and the jury began deliberations, but had to stop when one juror claimed she saw the defendant while visiting her husband in the same jail where Sayles was being held on $2 million bail. The juror said Sayles recognized her and waved to her, which caused her to fear for her safety, reported the New Haven Register.

That juror was recused, and an alternate juror was added in.

During the trial, one witness testified that Sayles admitted to shooting Patel – who was 39 at the time of his death and about to become a father – because he was too slow in handing over cash and cigars.

Patel was shot at least five times during the course of the robbery and died of bullet wounds to his chest.

Sayles is scheduled to be sentenced this April.

A second suspect, Jamal Sumler, was found guilty last November of felony murder, murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery and carrying a pistol without a permit. Prosecutors charged him with felony murder as well as murder because Patel’s death occurred in conjunction with the robbery and conspiracy (see earlier India-West story here). Sumler was initially scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 23. His sentencing date was moved to Feb. 27, but Sumler had not been sentenced as of press time March 1.

A third man involved in the murder of Patel, Leighton Vanderberg, took a plea deal in exchange for testifying against Sumler and Sayles. Vanderberg said he drove Sayles and Sumler to the gas station, but then waited in the car while they committed the robbery and murder, then drove them away. His charges reduced from felony murder and robbery conspiracy, to aiding and abetting first-degree robbery. He is also awaiting sentencing.

Five days after his involvement in the murder of Patel, Vanderberg killed another store clerk, Jose Salgado in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Vanderberg is already serving a 40-year sentence for the felony murder of Salgado.

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