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Fayette jury convicts Monroeville man in 2007 robbery

| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 12:36 p.m.

A Monroeville man accused of holding up a Fayette County convenience store five years ago was found guilty of robbery, despite testimony from his parents indicating he was in Maryland at the time.

A jury deliberated for about 75 minutes on Tuesday before finding Vikram Yamba, 28, of 105 Urick Lane, Monroeville, guilty of robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment and theft.

Police said Yamba fired a handgun twice at employees of the Citgo Foodmart on Route 40 in Redstone on April 18, 2007, when they refused his demands for cash. One shot shattered the store‘s glass door.

Charges were not filed until 2012, when DNA recovered from a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap found near the Citgo was identified as Yamba‘s, police said.

Two state police forensic scientists testified that DNA on the ball cap matched Yamba's, but Yamba's parents testified their son was in Silver Spring, Md., at the time of the robbery.

Shashi Yamba said she took her son to visit his grandparents from April 15, 2007, to April 21, 2007. She testified her son was with her the entire time and did not travel to Fayette County on the day of the robbery.

Mohamed Yamba, who is interim dean of California University of Pennsylvania‘s College of Liberal Arts, said he recalled that week because his son was a student at the college, but had quit school.

“We were feuding a lot in that time period,” Mohamed Yamba testified. “I wanted him to go back to school. Every day was an argument. I think my wife took him away to soften the argument.”

Vikram Yamba's attorney, David Kaiser of Uniontown, asked jurors to find his client not guity because the sample taken from the hat for DNA testing was only one square centimeter.

“That's really not accurate,” Kaiser said. “There was only one person's DNA found ... on a cut of a cut of a hat. The whole hat was not tested.”

Assistant District Attorney Doug Sepic said police tested the most likely area of the hat where DNA would be found, regardless of the size of the sample.

“Finding it on that one piece ... is like finding a needle in a haystack,” Sepic said. “Is it coincidence? Clearly, the defendant had that hat on his head.”

Vikram Yamba, who is in the Fayette County Prison, will be sentenced at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 30 before President Judge John F. Wagner Jr.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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