Farmington Hills— A 43-year-old Detroit man charged in the slaying of a popular party store owner in a Dec. 28 hold-up told police after he was arrested that he was inside “hiding” from two unknown men who fatally shot the victim.
Cassalle L. Nettles was in Farmington Hills 47th District Court Friday for a preliminary exam on charges he fatally shot Duraid Lossia, 59, inside Tom’s Party Store on Inkster Road near Eight Mile. Nettles is charged with felony murder, armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a felon and three counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
The preliminary exam before Judge Marla Parker is to continue on March 7. Nettles was remanded to the Oakland County Jail without bond.
In part of a 51-minute videotaped police interview played in court, Nettles admitted he was in the party store and and bought some snacks but denied involvement in the holdup and murder.
“I didn’t know if that was even the same party store,” Nettles told investigators. “... Is this why I’m being arrested?”
While the store has surveillance cameras, they were not operating on the day of the shooting, police testified Friday. But when pressed why he left his purchases behind on the counter and was filmed on a surveillance camera running from the store, Nettles revised his account.
“I didn’t shoot anyone ... I was in the store and I was hiding and then ran out of there,” he told investigators. “There were two gentlemen in the store and I was in the back. I was in there. I have a prior record. I don’t know if they saw me ... now you’re trying to pin it on me. The only reason I didn’t call (police) was because of my priors and the guys were still at large. ... I didn’t do anything to anyone.”
Nettles’ criminal history includes convictions for armed robbery. He said he couldn’t describe the two men he says robbed and shot Lossia but they “sounded black because of the slang they used.”
Vilish Kapadia, owner of Smoker’s Depot located in a nearby strip mall, said a man who called himself “Sal” spent several minutes inside his store before leaving without making a purchase before the shooting.
“He (Nettles) came in and said ‘I smoke too much marijuana’ and was interested in some (air) spray,” recalled Kapadia. “He wanted to buy 25 pounds of marijuana and I told him that was illegal but I wrote down his phone number and told him I would call if I knew of anyone.”
Kapadia said Nettles left shortly before noon, about the same time investigators believe Nettles then walked to the nearby party store and shot Lossia during an armed robbery.
Assistant prosecutor Robert Novy called a series of witnesses who put Nettles, or someone fitting his description, both inside and outside the store before Lossia’s lifeless body was discovered by a customer.
In other testimony, a fingerprint expert, Oakland County Sheriff’s deputy Robert Koteles, said Nettles’ fingerprints were found on a Twix candy bar wrapper left on the blood-spattered counter and also on an unopened bottle of Brisk raspberry iced tea found on the store’s floor. A 40-caliber shell casing, with no identifiable prints, was found on the floor.
Lossia was on the floor behind the counter, dead from a single gunshot wound to the head fired at close range — within two feet — the county’s medical examiner, Dr. Ljubisa Dragovic, testified Friday.
The cash drawer was found open and while $66 was found inside the register, it is believed Lossia’s killer somehow overlooked those bills while looting the register, police said. A .38 caliber revolver, loaded but not fired, was found behind the counter. The cash register’s last recorded receipt reflects a lottery ticket, chips and candy items found on the counter were selected for purchase by Lossia’s killer just before the shooting, Novy said.
“There is evidence that my client may have been inside the store but neither the evidence or anyone can say exactly when and just because he was in the store doesn’t make him a killer,” defense attorney Jerome Sabotta said during a morning break.
Lossia — known as “Dave” by his customers — had owned and operated the store for about 20 years and relatives and area residents held a candlelight vigil following his death. More than a dozen family members and friends attended Friday’s hearing.