Accused killer talks about getting his ‘vengeance’ in shooting
Three days into murder trial, accused killed Jonathan Sander telephoned his children from the Wake County jail and asked, “Did you see your crazy dad on TV?”
The death-penalty case against Sander, 55, entered its ninth day Thursday with jurors hearing of a recording from March 27, during which the defendant in the triple slaying spoke to his wife and each of his children, asking if they had viewed news accounts of the trial.
At one point in the call, Sander told his wife, “You missed the good part,” and described his outburst from the trial’s opening day, in which he yelled at Sal Mazzella, the husband and father of two of the shooting victims, while he wept on the stand. Deputies pulled Sander out of the courtroom after his disturbance, and he has watched the trial in handcuffs and chains.
“I screamed at him in front of everybody that he was a piece of ...” Sander told his wife on the recording.
Sander told Superior Court Judge Graham Shirley that he will not testify in his defense. “I don’t need to testify,” he said. “The truth will come out.”
On the recording, Sander sounded disappointed at the missed opportunity.
“They don’t want me to testify,” he told his wife. “But the truth is coming out.”
Sander stands charged with murder for the shotgun slayings of Sandy Mazzella, his wife, Stephenie, and his 76-year-old mother, Elaine. Sander, 55, had befriended the Mazzella family and moved in next-door to their house outside Wake Forest, where the two families were partners in a lawn and landscaping business.
But the relationship turned sour over money problems, business disagreements and, finally, accusations from an underage member of the Mazzella family that Sander had inappropriately touched her. The Mazzellas had obtained a restraining order, which they were unable to make permanent.
Earlier Thursday, jurors heard Sander’s interview with a Wake County sheriff’s detective from 2016, hours after the shootings.
During that interview, he described going into a panic attack and then rage over the touching allegation, thinking that his life was over and he would “rot in jail a pedophile.”
He told now-retired Det. Paul Inscore that he got his shotgun from the garage, but that details inside the house were fuzzy until he found himself standing over Sandy Mazzella.
“When I shot him,” Sander said on the recording, “I felt like I got my revenge. ... I looked at him, and I guess reality set in, and my vengeance was over.”
Later Thursday, Sander’s wife Lori Botti testified that tensions between her family and the Mazzellas escalated high enough that she threatened to go home to Pennsylvania.
The Mazzellas would taunt her husband from the driveway, blasting the song “You dropped the bomb on me” and calling her husband “Chester the Molester.” Once, she testified, she thought she saw Stephenie Mazzella’s brother Joey Kern with a gun, and she knew Sandy Mazzella kept a firearm in the console of his truck.
In the last days of the dispute, she said, the family fled to a nearby Holiday Inn.
“We didn’t feel safe at home,” Botti said.