Suspect in killing of Fall River convenience store owner arraigned in superior court

·6 min read

FALL RIVER — Friends of Nepali immigrant Lal Kishor Mahaseth — who was shot to death during a struggle with a gunman in his convenience store last October — say they want the Fall River man being charged with murder to spend the rest of his life in prison.

“We want the maximum sentence,” said Manoj, a 40-year-old resident of Worcester County who was close friends with Mahaseth.

The maximum sentence for a first-degree murder conviction in Massachusetts is life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Manoj, who asked that his last name not be used, spoke in the fifth floor lobby of the Fall River Justice Center shortly after shooting suspect Nelson Coelho was arraigned in Bristol County Superior Court for murder, attempted armed robbery and illegal possession of a gun.

Manoj was accompanied by Mahaseth’s widow, her teenage son and his older sister, all of whom declined to comment. Another son, who is the oldest of the three siblings, didn’t attend the arraignment.

Nelson Coelho, seen here being led out of the courtroom after being arraigned on a murder charge in Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, is accused of killing convenience store owner Lal Mahaseth.
Nelson Coelho, seen here being led out of the courtroom after being arraigned on a murder charge in Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, is accused of killing convenience store owner Lal Mahaseth.

'We can't stop a bullet': Fall River convenience store owners grieve for slain shopkeeper

What happened the night he was killed

Police say Mahaseth, 54, was working alone the night of Oct. 18 inside his Stop N Save convenience store at 201 Rock St., at the corner of Pine and Rock streets, when he was fatally shot in the chest.

He lay bleeding and mortally wounded on the floor behind the store’s checkout counter for 75 minutes before two customers walked in at 10:30 p.m. to see why the light inside the store, which normally closed at 9 p.m., was still on, police said.

Police say they found a total of $45 in bills on the floor, in one of Mahaseth’s hands and in the cash drawer that was left open after the struggle between the shopkeeper and his assailant.

'He was trying to live his life': Convenience store homicide shocks Rock Street neighbors

Police say the night Mahaseth was shot he spoke on the phone to his wife at around 8:45 p.m. to let her know he planned to close on time. It turns out, they said, that he stayed open past 9 p.m.

Police said exterior surveillance video shows Coelho walk toward the store at 9:10 p.m. and then wait a few minutes until a group of four juveniles leave the store.

He allegedly then walks into the store and once inside, according to interior surveillance evidence, uses his left hand to pull a black handgun from a backpack or bag, which is attached to the front of his body.

As Coelho allegedly pulls out the gun and points it at Mahaseth, police said, the video shows that the gun’s ammunition magazine falls out onto the floor behind the counter.

The black-masked Coelho, police said, unhesitatingly retrieves the magazine while pointing the gun at Mahaseth and then returns to the front of the counter and tries to reinsert the magazine, all the while aiming the gun.

Police said Mahaseth can then be seen picking up a chair from behind the counter and throwing it at Coelho, who tries to avoid being struck.

While doing so, police said, the magazine again falls out of the gun. Coelho allegedly then picks up the magazine with his right hand.

He then allegedly reaches over the counter with the gun in his left hand and fires one shot into Mahaseth, who police say is next seen reaching in vain for the store’s panic-alarm button before collapsing to the floor.

Police said Mahaseth was later declared dead at Charlton Memorial Hospital as result of a single .38-caliber bullet entering his chest and exiting his shoulder.

Pretrial hearing set for March 29

Judge Rafi Yessayan on Wednesday ordered that Coelho, 37, continue to be held without bail and set a pretrial hearing for March 29.

Coelho has been in lockup since Oct. 25, after police arrested him for the Oct. 17 nighttime armed robbery of 7 Days Food Mart, a convenience store at 182 Durfee St. located half a mile away from Stop N Save.

Police allege Coelho used a gun to threaten a store clerk and rob the Durfee Street store the night before Mahaseth was shot to death in his store.

Coelho eventually was charged with murder while attempting to rob Mahaseth and initially was arraigned in Fall River District Court on Nov. 8.

Coelho’s court-appointed attorney Dana Sargent entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client during Wednesday’s arraignment.

Police say they were able to charge Coelho with Mahaseth’s killing after collecting video surveillance evidence from inside and outside the Rock Street store and interviewing witnesses who had been with Coelho shortly before and after the homicide.

Police say surveillance video of Coelho showing a tattoo on the webbing between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand is consistent with video images recorded during the armed robbery of 7 Days Food Mart.

Video evidence from both stores, police said, shows the assailant pulling a gun from a carry bag positioned on his chest and then holding the gun in his left hand.

Police also say the suspect seen in both store videos exhibited similar body mannerisms while pointing the gun at each victim.

Witnesses who know Coelho and saw him on a regular basis allegedly told investigators he had been squatting in an apartment building at nearby 251 Pine St. where he had been sleeping in a common hall area.

He also, according to some witnesses, had been spending money to buy crack cocaine, police said.

The triple-decker house on Rock Street where the Stop N Save is located on the ground floor has a rental apartment on the top floor and the drug rehabilitation High Point Treatment Center as a second-floor tenant.

The Stop N Save at 201 Rock St. where owner Lal Mahaseth was shot to death last October now has a buzzer security system for all customers entering the store.
The Stop N Save at 201 Rock St. where owner Lal Mahaseth was shot to death last October now has a buzzer security system for all customers entering the store.

Victim owned a second store in the city

Mahaseth owned another Stop N Save at the corner of Oak Grove Avenue and Locust Street. Both stores remain open.

Later in the day on Wednesday, after Coelho’s arraignment, Mahaseth’s daughter said that a security entrance buzzer was installed a couple months ago at the Rock Street store.

All customers must first push the doorbell button before the clerk on duty decides whether to buzz them in.

She said her father would sometimes lock the door at night and check to see who was knocking before letting them inside. Unfortunately, she said, he left the door unlocked the night he was killed.

Charles Winokoor may be reached at cwinokoor@heraldnews.com. Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today.

This article originally appeared on The Herald News: Suspect in Fall River store owner killing arraigned in superior court

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