Sixteen months after the owner of A&M Discount Beverage store was shot and killed during a robbery, the U.S. Marshals Service arrested a second murder suspect early Thursday in Louisiana.
Rajni Patel, 55, was shot and killed the afternoon of April 27, 2012, during a robbery of the store on Southeast Duval Street in Lake City. Patel's wife, Daxa, was there during the robbery but was not hurt.
The Lake City Police Department said 43-year-old Ernest Larry Grandison was arrested in Jefferson Parrish on an outstanding warrant for first-degree murder and armed robbery. He will be returned to Columbia County for prosecution.
Grandison is the father-in-law of the first suspect, James Johnson (pictured, right), who was arrested in Jacksonville on May 19, 2012, and is awaiting trial.
"Today brings the family and friends one step closer to obtaining justice for the senseless murder of Mr. Rajni Patel," LCPD Chief Argatha Gilmore said.
Close friends of Patel's say they can finally find some peace now.
"It was really hard for them to go through everything," family friend Mittal Patel said. "Everybody actually wished, you know, when are they going to catch that person? And now they finally caught him, and I'm sure it's going to be a big justice for the family."
Mittal Patel said losing a loved one in a killing is extremely difficult, but losing a loved one and knowing the suspect is still out there makes the situation even tougher.
Mittal Patel's family is close with Rajni Patel's family, and she said her uncle took over the store after Rajni's death. She said it was just too much for Rajni's wife to handle after seeing her husband shot and killed in their own store.
"It was really hard for her to even, you know, talk after that happened," Mittal said. "She was in really big shock."
Lake City police Investigator David Greear, who has spearheaded the case for more than a year, was able to obtain a key piece of evidence that placed Grandison in Louisiana. The Columbia County Sheriff's Office said cellphone records are what led police to Grandison.
The U.S. marshals service said he was arrested without incident.
Mittal said not only are family and friends relieved about the arrest, but Rajni's customers as well.
"Customers tell me that he never talked much, he was a quiet person, he loved to serve people," she said. "He's been here for a long time, so every other person knew him."
Rajni's loved ones said they will attend any court appearances that happen in Columbia County.