When a customer arrived at the In & Out Mart on Creech Road about 8 a.m. Friday, he saw the white gate that covers the door unlocked and the door open. The man entered the store, didn't see anyone inside and left.
The same man returned about 10 a.m. and heard from bystanders that the clerk was not there. They worried that the store had been left unlocked.
The man went inside and began to search for Samuel Haj-Hussein, the 43-year-old store clerk. He found Hussein in an aisle -- dead from a gunshot wound. His 1992 blue Dodge Caravan was missing.
Deputies are trying to determine whether anything was stolen from the store. Investigators also want to talk with anyone who was in the store between 7 and 10 a.m. "The killer may have been in the store when that person was here," Sheriff Donnie Harrison said.
Authorities said Hussein's driver's license listed his first name as Samuel, but friends said that the Jordanian native's birth name was Osama Haj-Abu-Hussein. He, his wife and their two children, ages 3 and 5, lived in a West Raleigh apartment, according to family friends. His wife was distraught Friday evening over Hussein's death and was taken to the hospital after collapsing.
Yellow crime scene tape cordoned off the parking lot of the squat brick strip mall. The salon "A New You" and a beauty supply store closed for the morning as forensic experts entered and left the convenience store.
Located in a pocket of Wake County between Raleigh and Garner, In & Out Mart is the neighborhood bodega for several nearby subdivisions. Mornings are typically quiet, and teens often gather outside in the afternoon and evenings.
The counter and cash register sit in the open and are not sheathed behind bullet-proof glass, customers said.
Al Cooke would stop by In & Out Mart occasionally to pick up beer, cigarettes or a snack. He said Hussein was a quiet but friendly fellow who liked to joke with customers.
Hussein's friends gathered near the store's parking lot Friday afternoon, hugging one another while crying. They declined to speak with reporters.
(Staff writer Sarah Ovaska and news researcher Denise Jones contributed to this report.)