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February 3, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Man sentenced to 27 years for killing Ballard clerk

A 19-year-old man was sentenced this afternoon to 27 1/2 years in prison for killing Ballard convenience-store clerk Manish Melwani during an armed robbery in July 2009.

Elijah Hall’s defense had sought a sentence below the standard range of 27 1/2 to 35 years in prison, claiming Hall’s youth and traumatic upbringing were mitigating factors warranting leniency. But in her sentencing brief, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Snow said Hall “continues to shift blame for the murder” and first claimed the victim pulled the trigger, then blamed his actions on a drug binge, duress, “and now finally to diminished capacity because of his ‘youth.’”

Snow recommended Hall serve 30 years in prison, court records show.

Just after 6:30 a.m. on July 26, 2009, Hall — wearing a disguise and armed with a .38-caliber revolver — entered the Seattle Pit Stop Express convenience store and 76 gas station at 15th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 58th Street.

Melwani, 28, of Lynnwood, was in a backroom as Hall attempted to open the cash register, grabbing a pair of gloves from a store display to avoid leaving prints behind. Melwani returned to the front of the store and dropped the boxes he was carrying when he saw Hall behind the counter.

The two struggled and Hall shot Melwani in the thigh and abdomen before fleeing the store.

On his way back to his girlfriend’s apartment, Hall ditched the gun and dumped his bloody clothes in a neighbor’s yard. Melwani was rushed to Harborview Medical Center, but died from his injuries.

Hall returned to the crime scene later that morning and calmly talked to a police officer, who grew suspicious after Hall claimed to have heard two gunshots from his apartment several blocks away.  Hall, who was 17 at the time, was arrested and charged as an adult with first-degree murder. Fingerprints left on a pair of sunglasses that were knocked off Hall’s face during his struggle with Melwani helped police connect Hall to the crime.

Hall pleaded guilty in November 2009, but two months later filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that his defense attorney — the late Tony Savage — provided ineffective counsel and gave Hall incorrect information about the length of his community supervision following his release from prison. Under the plea deal, Hall would have served a little over 23 years behind bars.

Hall was allowed to withdraw his plea and was appointed new attorneys. On Oct. 24 of last year, a King County jury found Hall guilty of first-degree murder and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Ballard, first-degree murder, homicide

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