MAYS LANDING -- Ellis Spell Sr. had been enjoying his life when an armed home invasion ended that Dec. 9, 2011.
But who shot the man inside his Pleasantville home will be for a jury to decide.
Jeremiah Jackson, 21, of Atlantic City, is on trial for killing Spell, shooting a small-caliber gun three times, striking the father of 11 twice.
He and two friends were trying to break into the home when Spell got in their way, and -- injured by a shotgun -- Jackson fired, Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy told jurors in his opening statement.
He later told friend Tyree Kelly what happened, then asked Kelly to clean and get rid of the guns, Levy said. But as Kelly left his Atlantic City home with the guns, police intercepted him.
Kelly is not charged in the case, but instead will testify against Jackson, saying he not only cleaned the weapons, but recognized two as guns he had given the defendant, Levy said.
Jackson was injured inside that house, defense attorney Robert Gamburg said during his openings. Then, he left.
"This guy went from victim to defendant because of the guy who had the guns before the murder and had them after the murder," Gamburg said.
Spell Sr. had been showering with his wife at about 8 that night when their son came running in to say there were men with guns outside, Ronda Lawrence testified this morning. Naked, wet and scared, she dove into the closet, pulled clothes on top of her, and called 911.
That call was played in court as the state began presenting its case. Lawrence telling the 911 operator she feared the gunmen would come kill her if they heard her.
A warrant was issued for Jackson a week after the killings. In late January, he turned himself in.
He has been jailed since on $500,000 cash bail.
Fourteen jurors -- nine women and five men -- will be hearing the case before Superior Court Judge Mark Sandson. After both sides have presented their case, 12 will be chosen to deliberate.