A dispute between next-door neighbors that had festered for months ended after three people were found shot dead Friday evening.
Jonathan Frederick Sander, 52, who lives next door to the three victims in the Clear Springs subdivision, was taken into custody and has been charged with three counts of murder.
That morning, Wake County deputies had been to the two houses on Clearsprings Drive to settle a dispute.
Nicole Privette, who lives across the street in the neighborhood of single-family houses with spacious lots and large front yards, said she saw her neighbors arguing that morning, and one of them parked her car in front of the other’s driveway to prevent anyone from leaving.
“They were yelling loud enough for us to hear them from inside our house,” Privette said. “But then the Sheriff’s Department showed up and things seemed to calm down.”
However, it was only the beginning. Deputies were called back about 5:55 p.m. after a report of shots fired in the 5900 block of Clearsprings Drive.
When deputies arrived, they found Sandy Mazzella, 47; his wife, Stephanie Mazzella, 43; and Sandy Mazzella’s mother, Elaine Mazzella, 76, dead in their home. Elaine was visiting Sandy and Stephanie, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said Saturday.
Two more people, the couple’s 14-year-old daughter and Sandy Mazzella’s father, were in the house at the time but were not shot.
“We were told that the people who did the shooting was a neighbor next door,” Harrison said.
Deputies went to the house next door and after talking with the resident for a few minutes, got him to come out of the house.
Neighbors say the dispute had been going on for months. Residents of both homes would play loud music to annoy each other, Privette said.
She said it had gotten so bad, she told her husband she suspected someone would pull out a gun one day.
Last month, Sander was arrested and charged with communicating threats. It is unclear whether the Mazzellas reported it.
Neighbors said both Sander and Sandy Mazzella worked for a landscaping business, Advanced Mowing & Landscaping Inc. A company truck sat in each yard.
The company’s website lists Sandy Mazzella as the president.
‘You just never know’
Saturday morning, the sky was cloudy, but birds chirped. Neighbors stood outside and talked among themselves.
As drivers passed by the victims’ house, with yellow tape surrounding it, they slowed down to look. A deputy sat in his car outside the house.
Privette said she and her family weren’t home when the shooting happened, but before she left around 4:15 p.m., she saw Sander walking down the street.
“You just never know what’s going on in people’s lives,” she said.
Jim Passos, who lives next to Privette, said he was home when the shootings happened, but he did not hear anything.
You never know what is going on in people’s lives.
Nicole Privette, neighbor of suspect and victim
He said deputies knocked on his door and told him and his family to lock their doors and stay away from the windows.
“These people apparently had their grievances and that’s the way it ended up and sadly so,” Passos said. “I would say that was a hell of an overreaction, I don’t care what the grievances were.”
Passos and Privette describe the neighborhood as quiet, where most people get along.
Rebecca Warriner, who runs down Clearsprings Drive every day – sometimes with her children in a stroller – said the same. She said she was shocked to hear what happened.
“What if some kids would have been out and about?” she said. “What if we had been running? It was in the middle of the afternoon and it wasn’t random, so it was very scary.”
Warriner said she won’t stop running her usual route down Clearsprings Drive. “I don’t think we can let the fear of one person’s actions change the way we live,” she said.
But when she does run, she’ll say a prayer for the families so they can find peace.
“These poor families and now everyone in this neighborhood is going to feel unstable and unsecure in their home, which is where you’re supposed to feel most at peace,” Warriner said. “And they rocked that for everyone around here because I guess he couldn’t control his temper.”