Wake Forest triple-murder suspect held without bond

Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Jonathan Sander appearing in court
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Jonathan Sander appearing in court

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- "It's beyond shock. It's gruesome, it's unimaginable." That's how Richard Sussman describes learning about the death of his mother, brother and sister-in-law.

On Monday afternoon, Sussman faced the man charged with those murders, in a Wake County courtroom.

"Hey Sander, you rot in hell, you piece of garbage," Sussman yelled as 52-year-old Jonathan Frederick Sander was being escorted out of the courtroom.

Sander is accused of shooting and killing Sandy Mazzella, 47, Stephanie Ann Mazzella, 43, and Elaine Toby Mazzella, 76. The shootings happened Friday evening at the home of the Mazzellas in the 5900 block of Clearsprings Drive in Wake Forest.

Elaine Mazzella's husband was also in the house at the time of the shooting, but was able to get away.

"I heard boom, boom, boom, pause, boom," said neighbor Peggie Leoffler. "They saw a gentleman running through the woods and my husband got in the truck and barreled out of here and went down around the corner and got the gentleman."

Read more about the triple-fatal shootings here

That's when they called 911. They said within minutes, help arrived.

Court records prove what neighbors and loved ones said about a bad relationship between Sander and his neighbors, the Mazzellas. Court documents show they argued over money and that Sander had already been arrested in February for threatening to kill one of the victims.

He was charged on Feb. 26 with threatening to kill Sandy Mazzella and "put him in a box." A no-contact order shows Mazzella listing threats in the form of text messages, phone calls and in person. Sander reportedly said to Sandy Mazzella that the "cops could not protect him."

Sander was ordered not to threaten, assault or harass Sandy Mazzella, but that temporary restraining order expired one day before the shootings. So there was nothing in place when deputies responded to an argument between the two that morning before the shooting.

To avoid any further conflict, the Mazzellas had decided to move and were in the process of packing up the home when Sander allegedly showed up with a gun.

"That was like seeing a train coming to hit you and you were scrambling to get it together to get out of the way," said Nicole Perry, Stephanie Mazzella's best friend.

Perry said the Mazzellas were planning to move by this Wednesday.

Now instead of helping them start over, those who loved the victims are trying to cope with the loss.

"Her smile was amazing," said Perry of her friend. "She used everything she had to make things better for other people."

Stephanie Mazzella worked at WakeMed, which sent a statement:

"Stephanie Mazzella was an ICU nurse at WakeMed. She was a valuable part of the team and will be missed. She has been employed since the spring of 2008."

Sandy Mazzella owned a company called Advanced Mowing and Landscaping.

Sussman, who said his father was able to escape the shooting to get help, said they're doing what they can to help him get through this.

"It's beyond difficult for him. In a second, to lose your son, daughter-in-law, wife. They had a very unique relationship, always together, did everything together," Sussman said.

The family is also banding together to help with the Mazzellas' two children, ages 10 and 14. ABC11 was told the 10-year-old boy was not home at the time of the shooting, but his older sister was. She locked herself in her room during the shooting and called 911.

"Now, my niece and nephew, who don't have parents and my objective is to do my best to make things as comfortable as possible for everybody," Sussman said. "This animal or whatever word you want to attach to him, that's probably too kind of a word, will get what he deserves."

Sander is being held without bond. On Monday, the judge also told Sander he faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.

Sander's fiancee chose not to comment on what had happened, but Sander's attorney did.

"There's two sides to every story and we're in the process of gathering all the facts," said defense attorney Alan Briones. "He's upset and he's doing the best he can."

Briones went on to say that Sander has his own family and his own concerns.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the two children the Mazzellas left behind. Click here to donate

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