Best friend of murdered clerk: 'It's unimaginable'

St. Augustine tobacco store clerk, 29, shot in head during robbery; teen charged


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – One by one, customers dropped off flowers, cards and mementos at the Tobacco & Beverage Express in St. Augustine on Wednesday.

The makeshift memorial on Masters Drive was evidence of the impact Malav Desai had in just the few weeks he had been working there. Desai, 29, was murdered Tuesday afternoon, shot in the head during a robbery at the tobacco store.

Desai's best friend, Parth Patel, who flew in from out-of-state, said Desai has lived in the area for a couple of years after he and his wife moved to Florida from South Carolina. The two are originally from India.

"He was nice to everybody. He was concerned about everybody. He called and checked up on everybody," Patel said. "Somebody who would do something like that to him? It's unimaginable."

Akansha Desai spoke to her husband about an hour before he was killed. Family and friends flew in from out-of-state to comfort her Wednesday.

Police said 15-year-old Sergio Morgan-Wideman robbed and shot Desai in the head and then took off on a high-speed chase through three counties in a stolen jeep driven by 16-year-old Andre Robinson Jr.

The two were caught and arrested in Green Cove Springs.

Morgan-Wideman is charged with murder and robbery with a deadly weapon in St. Johns County. He also faces charges of grand theft auto and resisting police without violence in Clay County. Robinson was charged in Clay County with two felonies: fleeing and eluding law enforcement and grand theft auto.

Donna Locke runs St. Augustine Christian Service Center, a food pantry next door to the convenience store. She said she raced over in the chaos and prayed for Desai until police arrived.

"I do believe he was still alive," Locke said. "So we just prayed. … I had the strength to go in there, but today I'm starting to feel the effects. My husband had to hold my hand all night long so I could sleep."

Locke said she thinks when people commit such crimes, they don't realize that they're not just hurting the victim.

"The ripple effect has gone all the way to India now," Locke said. "It's not just what they did here in St. Augustine. It's going across the world."