Jurors hear timeline of dispute between Wake Forest neighbors, see grisly images of triple-homicide

March 28, 2019

A jury on Wednesday silently watched videos taken inside a Wake Forest home three years ago after three people were shot to death after spending hours hearing about the simmering dispute between neighbors that led to the shooting.

Jon Frederick Sander faces three counts of first-degree murder in the March 25, 2016, deaths of Sandy Mazzella, 47, his mother, Elaine Mazzella, 76, and his wife, Stephanie Ann Mazzella, 43. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Sander lived next door to Sandy and Stephanie Mazzella on Clearsprings Drive, and he and Sandy Mazzella worked together in a landscaping business. Their families often went on vacations and spent holidays together, but the relationship started to fray in late 2015, according to prosecutors.

Deputy Donnie Farmer of the Wake County Sheriff’s Office told jurors that he was asked to follow Sandy Mazzella home on Feb. 25, 2016.

“He was concerned that his neighbor would shoot at him when he pulled into the driveway,” Farmer testified.

The Mazzellas had obtained a restraining order against Sander, and on Feb. 26, 2016, Sander was arrested and charged with threatening the family. Stephanie Mazzella shared her fears with law enforcement.

“She was afraid she was going to get hurt,” Deputy J.A. Smith testified.

The restraining order expired on March 24, 2016, when a judge refused to extend it.

The following morning, Sander’s wife blocked the Mazzellas’ driveway with her car. Stephanie Mazzella taped the incident on her phone as officers defused the encounter.

“They were talking about how Jon was a child molester, and they just wanted Jon and Laurie to leave them alone,” Deputy S.A. Curtis testified.

Several days earlier, a family member of the Mazzellas accused Sander of inappropriately touching her, according to prosecutors.

Later that day, law enforcement was back at the house after the shootings.

Sander barricaded himself in his house, and jurors watched dashboard camera video that showed heated negotiations between deputies and Sander as they tried to coax him out of his house.

“Just come out to the steps where we can talk,” a Wake Forest police officer says. “If you come out up with your hands up, we won’t shoot you, Jon.”

After his arrest, officers said, Sander confessed to them in the ambulance and at the hospital.

“I was confronted by my neighbor, and I just reached my breaking point,” Deputy T.A. Thompson said Sander told him.

“He continued to say he snapped,” former deputy Jessica Bostian testified, adding that he thanked officers for how they handled the situation.

“He said, ‘You know, after doing something like this, I never would have imagined being treated like a human,’” Bostian said.

Testimony is expected to resume Thursday morning, and the trial could last up to three weeks.