Jon Sander murdered three members of the Mazzella family in bitter feud: Fear Thy Neighbor investigates

Mugshot of Jon Sander
Jon Sander was sentenced to life in prison for the triple homicide of his former friends and neighbors. Pic credit: North Carolina Dept. of Corrections

Fear Thy Neighbor is investigating a triple homicide by Jonathan “Jon” Sander in Wake Forest, North Carolina, when he murdered husband and wife Sandy and Stephenie Mazella, and Sandy’s mother, Elaine Mazella.

Tragically, Sander and Mazzella had been friends, neighbors, and business partners in a lawn and landscaping business. However, their relationship ran into difficulties in 2016 when the business began struggling.

The pair began a serious feud that escalated out of control at great speed and culminated in murder after the Mazzellas accused Sander of child abuse when he allegedly inappropriately touched a younger member of the Mazzella family.

In February 2016, the Mazzella’s took out a restraining order against Sander. But on March 25, 2016, just one day after the restraining order had been lifted, a drunken Sander grabbed a loaded shotgun and burst into the house of his former friend yelling, “Child molester? Really, Sandy?”

He then gunned down Sandy Mazzella, 47, his wife, Stephenie, 43, and Sandy’s mother, Elaine, 76, before fleeing the scene.

As the first responders arrived, one of Sander’s daughters told them: “My father did it. They deserved it. They tried to kill us and my cat and my dog.”

Jon Sander confessed to the murders, but later seemed to retract

After the murders, Sander was recorded confessing to the crime to a sheriff’s detective. He said that he had been angered by the molestation accusations and that he feared losing his family as a result.

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He said he wanted revenge so that “his family would be hurt like my family,” and he told the police that he was full of rage and had snapped.

Bizarrely, Sander would later try to absolve himself from blame. He claimed that the three victims had already been dead when he burst into their home. He admitted to firing the shotgun but said that he now realized they had already been dead. He blamed his intoxication on not noticing their corpses beforehand.

At his trial, Sander was very disruptive of the proceedings, and he even mocked members of the Mazzella family as they read out their victim impact statements. He sarcastically clapped Sal Mazzella, father to Sandy and wife to Elaine, and even accused him of having a hand in his family’s murder.

Judge Graham Shirley lost patience with Sander after he was finally sentenced to life in prison; the judge told the killer, “you’re going to die alone, and you’re going to die forgotten all because of this action.” He added: “Now get him out of my courtroom.”

More from Fear Thy Neighbor

Follow the links to read about more murders profiled on Fear Thy Neighbor.

Herbert Snipes had been feuding with neighbor Jerry Wilson for years over a boundary dispute in Danville, Virginia. One day, as Wilson taunted his neighbor, Snipes retrieved a firearm and shot him dead as he tried to escape into his house.

Richard Gordon waited for Joseph Clifton to pull up in his truck and shot him three times with a semiautomatic pistol. Gordon then fled the scene leaving Clifton’s 2-year-old son in the back of the truck.

Fear Thy Neighbor airs at 11/10c on Investigation Discovery.

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