A psychiatrist suggested in court Wednesday that a 2016 triple murder in Wake Forest might not have happened if the killer had $250 to pay for a mental health assessment he tried to get two days before the crime.
Jon Sander murdered Sandy, Stephanie, and Elaine Mazzella, on March 25, 2016. The Mazzellas lived next door to Sander in Wake Forest, and Sandy Mazzella was Sander’s best friend and business partner until late 2015.
Jurors convicted Sander on Monday of capital murder, and the case is now in its sentencing phase. He will spend the rest of his life behind bars, but the jury will decide if he will die by lethal injection.
Testimony ended early on Wednesday after one juror had a panic attack. The jury will begin its deliberations of Sander’s sentence on Thursday.
Wednesday’s lone witness was Dr. George Corvin, a psychiatrist who reviewed Sander’s records and met multiple times with the defendant as well as some of his family and friends.
“There’s clearly overwhelming evidence that he meets diagnostic criteria for bipolar 1 disorder with a history of mood congruent and psychotic features,” Corvin said.
“Mr. Sander does in fact have a history of clinically relevant alcohol use disorder, alcohol abuse, a past history of cannabis use disorder, and a more remote history of stimulant of cocaine use some years back. In my assessment, he also suffers from a mixed personality disorder.
He has characteristics of borderline personality disorder, of narcissistic personality disorder, and elements of paranoid and obsessive compulsive personality disorders.”
Corvin said Sander also has a history of exaggerating or feigning symptoms associated with some of the disorders.
Sander was previously committed to mental hospitals on two occasions after doctors deemed him “psychiatrically dangerous.” Physicians described him as paranoid, suicidal, manic, and delusional. Other reports surmised Sander had attention deficit disorder, depression, and anxiety.
He received prescriptions for psychotropic medication, antidepressants, stimulants, and sleep medication. Corvin said Sander either failed to take the medication or abused his consumption of the drugs.
On March 23, two days before Sander shot and killed the Mazzellas, he and his wife went to a local mental health clinic.
“They wanted him to pay $250 for the assessment, and as he did not have that money to pay, they left, which is, kind of, from a risk assessment perspective, and I don’t want to be monday morning quarterback, two days before this he sought treatment and it was not allowed because of financial constraints,” Corvin said.
“You look at this and say my goodness, this is a very dangerous situation emerging. And if he’d been seen at Carolina Partners and I was a psychiatrist there, and he was willing to talk about what he was thinking, he would have been committed again.”
The sentencing phase of the trial will resume Thursday morning. Jurors will hear testimony from Sander’s wife and father. Prosecutors said they will call one more witness, but did not identify the person during Wednesday’s proceedings.
A verdict on Sander’s sentence could come as early as Thursday afternoon.