“You know what we want,” family members overheard the intruder telling Ellis Spell Sr.
But the Pleasantville man didn't know, the family testified Tuesday as the trial of Spell’s accused killer began Tuesday.
Jeremiah Jackson, 21, of Atlantic City, is charged with murder and other offenses in the case. He and two friends were trying to break into Spell’s East Thompson Avenue home when Spell got in the way, and — injured in the thumb by a shotgun shell — Jackson fired, Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy told jurors in his opening statement. He didn’t say who may have injured Jackson.
After the Dec. 9, 2011, killing, Jackson 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 guns, but recognized two as weapons he had given the defendant, Levy said.
Jackson was injured inside that house, defense attorney Robert Gamburg agreed during his opening. But 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 referring to Kelly.
Spell had been showering with his wife, Ronda Lawrence, at about 8 that night when their son came running in to say there were men with guns outside, Lawrence testified Tuesday. Naked, wet and scared, she dove into the closet, pulled clothes on top of her and called 911.
“He’s inside my house right now,” she tells the operator about a man with a gun. “Please come, please,” she is heard repeating in the tape that was played in court. “I gotta be quiet or else they’re going to come kill me.”
Ellis Spell Jr. said he was downstairs with a friend and two cousins when someone tried to open the front door.
The man at the front door had come for “Skee” and had a shotgun, the younger Spell testified. But Skee — who has also been identified as Omar in court — had left the house after visiting earlier in the day. And, although the man identified himself as Trayvon, he wasn’t the Trayvon that Spell Jr. knew.
So, he shut and locked the door, locked the backdoor, then ran to warn his parents. Eventually, he jumped out a window to escape.
Michael Spell, the victim’s nephew, said he ran into a bedroom and pulled the mattress over himself. He doesn’t know why the man who came into the room with a gun didn’t shoot him.
“Maybe he heard the sirens like I heard the sirens,” he said.
“Were you scared?” Levy asked him.
“Yes, I was,” he replied. “For my life.”
During his opening, Gamburg painted a different picture. One of a home that included a new member, William Frambro, a nephew with a pending drug-and-gun case who had been living there about a week
“He was visiting,” Lawrence said during cross-examination.
When asked if Frambro could have been a target, Lawrence replied: “It could be anybody. Everybody got in trouble in that house.”
Frambro had also jumped out the window, and hid across the street in a field, where he watched the three men leave the house with guns, and get into a car matching the one Kelly told police Jackson drove, Levy told the jurors in his opening.
A warrant was issued for Jackson a week after the killings. In late January, he turned himself in, and has been jailed since on $500,000 cash bail.
Fourteen jurors — nine women and five men — will hear the case before Superior Court Judge Mark Sandson. After both sides have rested, 12 will be chosen to deliberate.
The state will continue presenting witnesses today.
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