Ellis Spell Sr.’s killer was convicted of murder Wednesday, but the Pleasantville man’s family is still seeking answers.
Jeremiah Jackson, 21, was found guilty of murder, felony murder, robbery and conspiracy in the Dec. 9, 2011, killing. But the two other men witnesses said were accomplices in the home invasion have never been named.
“I just hope one day, the truth will be revealed,” Spell’s oldest daughter, Laneika Spell, said outside the courtroom shortly after the verdict was read. “I hope one day the other two come up and just confess.”
Jackson and two others came to the East Thompson Avenue home shortly before 9 p.m. on the night of the killing, according to witness testimony. When they tried to get in the front door, Ellis Spell Jr. got the door shut and locked. His father was at the back door when the men tried to get in that way.
At some point, a shotgun went off, striking Jackson in the thumb, witnesses said. That was when he shot twice, killing Spell Sr., 51.
The case puts a focus on the violence many young people get involved with, Spell’s family said.
“It’s just so sad these kids get involved with people who are into bad things,” said Laneika Spell, 28.
“He’s only 21, and he’s done,” Spell’s cousin Joy Thomas said of Jackson. “These kids take a life, but they don’t realize, they’re take their own, too.”
The jury deliberated for nearly three full days before finding Jackson guilty on six of the 14 counts against him. He was acquitted of robbery, tampering with evidence and several weapons offenses.
Investigators were led to Jackson after arresting his friend Tyree Kelly as he attempted to get rid of the guns used in the attack.
Kelly testified that Jackson asked him to clean the shotgun and the handgun that killed Spell. He was leaving his Atlantic City home to sell the guns in Philadelphia when he was taken in.
In exchange for telling police the truth about the guns, Kelly was not charged, he testified.
But the jury’s decision to acquit Jackson of the weapons offense along with the tampering charge may show they may not have fully believed Kelly, the attorneys theorized after the verdict.
“I think they completely rejected Tyree Kelly and went with the blood evidence,” said defense attorney Robert Gamburg, who plans to appeal the murder conviction.
“I think the verdict says they may not have believed certain witnesses’ testimony, but that the physical evidence stood on its own,” Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy said outside the courtroom. “The most important thing is that now the focus is off who did it and back onto the family and mourning Ellis Spell Sr.”
Kelly testified that, when he first saw the guns, he recognized them as ones he once had. But he and his now-wife testified that he was out of the area visiting her in Cherry Hill when the crime occurred.
“We know there’s something fishy about that Tyree Kelly,” Thomas said. “I just hope down the road, somebody starts talking.”
There was no celebration for the family after the verdict.
“We lost someone, but (Jackson’s family) lost someone, too,” Laneika Spell said, shaking her head. “My condolences go out to his family.”
“It’s sad on both ends,” said Katrina Purnell, the mother of Spell’s two oldest children. “We forgive him.”
Jackson will be sentenced before Superior Court Judge Mark Sandson on Aug. 23. Murder and felony murder each carries a possible sentence of 30 years to life.
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow @LyndaCohen on Twitter