RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A Wake Forest murder suspect told investigators he shot three people but was uncertain of the identities of two of his victims.
Wake County jurors watched Thursday the remainder of a long interrogation of capital murder defendant Jon Sander, conducted by deputies a few hours after the fatal shootings of Sandy Mazzella, his wife Stephanie, and his mother Elaine. The jury watched the first portion of the tape Wednesday afternoon.
Prosecutors said the video recording shows Sander’s confession. Investigators said he also described the shooting to paramedics and hospital staff. The interrogation video includes footage of deputies reading Sander his Miranda rights, which offer him the opportunity to remain silent and have an attorney present for questioning.
“I know nobody else did what happened there. I did it. All of the details were a blank,” Sander said on the tape.
He told interrogators Sandy Mazzella was once his best friend. The pair worked together and were neighbors, but began to have disagreements over money and property.
Sander said the Mazzellas accused him several days before the March 25, 2016 shooting of touching an underage family member. Child protective services came to the Sander home to interview his three children, and he decided to stay at a motel for a few days.
He returned home on March 25 after consuming six pints of beer during lunch at a local restaurant and said Sandy Mazzella and his cousin heckled Sander about being a child molester.
“I went upstairs, I grabbed my chest, I think I was having a heart attack. I cried, I cried briefly, I’m not sure how long, and I said it’s just not fair. It’s just not fair. I snapped and said my life was over because of their lies,” Sander told the deputies.
“I said my life is over and now I’m going to get even. I grabbed my gun and snuck out of the house so I wouldn’t scare my wife and my kids. I saw that piece of (expletive) out there, somewhere in the driveway. He ran inside, and all I can remember was I think I looked down at Sandy on the ground.”
Sander kept a loaded Mossberg 800 shotgun in his garage. It holds eight shells and must be pumped in between the firing of each round. Sander told deputies he could not remember if he took extra ammunition with him to the Mazzellas’ house, or if he reloaded, but said it was likely.
He was also unable to recall how he got through the front door. He said he either kicked it in or shot through the door.
Investigators said earlier in the trial that evidence showed Sander fired three shotgun shells through the front door. A total of seven rounds struck the three victims, which meant Sander must have reloaded the firearm.
“I entered the main foyer. The first thing is I saw the girl that accused me, screaming. I’m hoping I just ignored it, because I wouldn’t want to hurt a child, even if that child was (involved),” Sander told the deputies.
“I saw her running up the stairs. I thought I saw Sandy and his wife (Stephanie) running around the kitchen and I think they ran outside. It was a blur. Then I know I shot a couple times,” he said in response to questions.
“I saw them running around. I saw no faces. I’m pretty sure I shot Sandy. I don’t remember… or everyone was wearing white stuff. I’m not exactly sure. I think I shot a few times.”
“Do you think you know how many times you shot,” a deputy asked.
“I want to tell you so you can help me, but there’s no helping me,” Sander said.
He said he saw Elaine Mazzella, Sandy’s mother, running around the kitchen screaming. He did not see Sandy’s father, Sal, but told the deputies that he also wanted to kill Sal.
In response to multiple questions, Sander said he only remembered seeing Sandy Mazzella’s body. The deputies continued to ask if he shot anybody else.
“I think I shot two women and Sandy,” Sander said.
“Who would the women be?”
“Well, either Stephanie or Sandy’s mother, who was screaming, which would make sense. One of them was with Sandy. One of them was with themselves. I believe in the dining room, not the formal dining room, but in the kitchen.”
“Do you know how many times?”
“I think I might have shot like 10 times altogether.”
“So at some point, you had to reload.”
“I might have just shot eight times.”
“Do you remember reloading your gun at any point?”
“I think I reloaded the gun when I went through the front door. I think I tried to kick through the front door. I couldn’t get through it. I think I might have shot two or three times to open the door. Put a couple slugs in that.”
Sander said dozens of times that his mind went blank. He confirmed he wanted to kill Sandy Mazzella, and his rage came from a fear that he would be put in prison for child molestation charges. Sander said his life would be over if he were separated from his children.
At one point, he told the deputies that he considered killing himself.
“I’m going to get my (expletive) revenge and I’m going to kill myself,” Sander said. “I wanted to kill him so his family would be hurt just like my family.”
Sander told the investigators that once he shot Sandy Mazzella, he had gotten his revenge. He said he looked at Mazzella and reality set in.
“My vengeance was over. I didn’t want to look for the parents. I didn’t want to look for the kids,” Sander said.
Mazzella’s mother was already dead, and so was his wife. His father fled in search of help. His teenage daughter was hiding in a bedroom closet.
Sander said he was out of ammunition when returned to his home, where he told his wife he killed Sandy Mazzella. He said she broke into tears, and he asked her to take their three kids away from the home.
He later put the shotgun on his bed and surrendered to deputies. He told the interrogators he decided to come outside as a gentleman and not commit “cop suicide” by forcing an officer to shoot him.
The interrogation ended around 1:20 a.m. the morning after the shootings.
“If we have any more questions, we’ll come back. You lay your head down,” the primary interrogator said.
“Are you going to tell me what happened,” Sander asked.
“There are three people dead.”
“Was anybody else shot?”
“Not that I know of.”
“I’m not going to tell you that right now.”
“And I’m now in here for murder?”
The prosecution’s final witness was a captain from the Wake County Detention Center. The officer corroborated a recording of a phone call Sander made to his wife and children from the jail.
He discussed with his wife some statement made by witnesses who saw him return to his house from the Mazzella house, carrying a shotgun.
He also boasted to his son about the media coverage of his arrest and court appearances, which the child had not seen.
“Did you see me on TV? You didn’t see me? Are you crazy? I’m going to try to get the whole thing on tape one day,” Sander said.
The defendant has spent much of the trial staring directly at the courtroom camera.
After the state rested its case, Judge Graham Shirley gave Sander the option to take the stand in his own defense.
“I don’t need to testify,” Sander said. “The truth will come out.”
Sander’s wife, Lori Botti, testified for most of the afternoon. She discussed the friendship formed between her husband and Sandy Mazzella and described some of the financial conflicts that led the business partners to split and feud.