Trial underway for Wake Forest triple murder suspect

March 25, 2019 GMT

Jon Sander, a man charged in the 2016 murders of his neighbors, returned to a courtroom Monday for the start of what the judge said could be an emotional trial.

Opening statements were expected Monday in the trial for Sander, who was charged in March 2016 with the murder of Elaine Toby Mazzella, 76, Sandy Mazzella, 47, and Stephanie Ann Mazzella, 43, at their Wake Forest home. Sander lived on the same street as the victims, police said.

In motions heard earlier this month, defense attorney Tommy Manning told the court that he expected Sander to “act out” during the upcoming trial as he did during the jury selection process.

In court on Monday, Judge Graham Shirley spoke directly to Sander, referencing a mask and a restraining chair he would use if the defendant had an outburst. The judge told Sander he did not want to use those him and asked if he understood.

The defendant acknowledged the judge.

Shirley also told the crowded courtroom that the trial would likely contain emotional, disturbing evidence. He said that if anyone started crying during the trial, they could leave the room.

In a search warrant released April 6, 2016, authorities said Sander told investigators he committed the crime. Authorities said the shooting might have stemmed from an earlier dispute between neighbors.

According to court records, Sandy Mazella and his wife, Stephanie, took out a no-contact order against Sander in February 2016. That same month, Sander was charged with communicating threats against the family. Sander threatened to “put them in a box,” according to arrest warrants.

The order was lifted March 24, the day before authorities say Sander walked into the Mazzella home and started shooting.