Police continue to investigate cold case at Laith’s Candy Land

By: Andy Kozlowski | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 22, 2021

 The 2017 murders of two family members who ran Laith’s Candy Land remain unsolved, with cash rewards available for those with tip leading to the arrest of the two gunmen and their getaway driver. The business was once located on Mound Road, between 16 Mile and 15 Mile, in Sterling Heights.

The 2017 murders of two family members who ran Laith’s Candy Land remain unsolved, with cash rewards available for those with tip leading to the arrest of the two gunmen and their getaway driver. The business was once located on Mound Road, between 16 Mile and 15 Mile, in Sterling Heights.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Advertisement

STERLING HEIGHTS — Three years ago, two cousins were killed, five days apart, at the same business in Sterling Heights. Two unknown visitors and their getaway driver are the suspects. And to this day, Sterling Heights Police haven’t given up the chase.

The killings at Laith’s Candy Land have intrigued investigators with their brazen nature — striking the same place twice in a short period of time, with no obvious motivation.

The candy and nut wholesaler, once located on Mound Road, between 16 Mile and 15 Mile roads, focused on Middle Eastern specialty items. The murders occurred near the end of 2017. Sufian Saba, known as Sam, was found dead of gunshot wounds in the office on Nov. 27, 2017.

Just five days later, Saba’s younger cousin Laith Anki, the owner of the business, was found shot to death in the warehouse. Anki was 26.

The two men had co-founded the candy distribution center earlier that year. They were close, with Anki reportedly calling his older cousin “uncle.”

Investigators say the killing of Saba occurred after Anki had left the store for less than an hour. During that time, it appears that two suspects arrived at the building in a pewter-colored Suburban, at around 11:30 a.m., and entered the business through a rear entrance — the door possibly unlocked at the time. The two suspects located Saba in the front office and shot him multiple times. When Anki returned, his cousin was dead.

Five days later, on Dec. 1, 2017, Anki himself was confronted by two suspects who are believed to be the same individuals from before. They arrived at night, around 10 p.m., and shot him several times before leaving.

The suspects are presumed to be men, with similar builds in surveillance video, but police have been unable to obtain further descriptions such as race and age.

The Suburban that served as the drop-off and pickup vehicle in the first incident was recovered in Detroit shortly after the incident. The suspect vehicle in the second incident was a dark-colored Dodge Caliber-style vehicle of unconfirmed make and model. That vehicle has not been recovered.

Two murders, in the same way at the same place, mere days apart, suggests targeted killings. Surveillance footage showed a third person seen in a getaway car that relocated outside the building after the second killing. And in the second killing, one of the guns used matched one of the two guns used in the first killing.

More than 100 interviews have been conducted by police, trying to uncover leads on the suspects or the motives, considering a variety of angles, including whether Anki was the intended target all along and Saba was killed mistakenly.

It does not appear that Laith’s Candy Land owed anyone any money, or that the cousins had any enemies.

“We cannot find money owed to anyone, but we have not dismissed that possibility,” Sterling Heights Police Lt. Mario Bastianelli said in an email. “Precautions were taken by Anki after the first incident, although it is not known why he went to the warehouse on Dec. 1, 2017. The business was secure prior to Anki’s arrival on that day. The business did not have cameras, but neighboring businesses did. Anki also did not provide any leads in the death of Saba. He was mourning the loss of his ‘uncle.’”

The lieutenant said the case is unusual in many ways.

“The Sterling Heights Police Department prides itself on (serving) one of the safest cities in the country. For there to be two homicides within (a week) in the city, let alone in a year, is very rare,” Bastianelli said. “The Sterling Heights Police Department has assigned its best detectives to continue diligently working on this case. Any time that a crime like this occurs within the city of Sterling Heights, we will utilize every resource to solve the crime and bring justice for the victim and their family.

“The city of Sterling Heights is one of the safest cities in the country,” he said, “and that’s a direct reflection of the hardworking, dedicated men and women at the Police Department.”   

Crime Stoppers continue to offer a $2,500 reward in each of the murders, for any information leading to an arrest. The number for Crime Stoppers is 800-SPEAK-UP.

Advertisement