HAMILTON TOWNSHIP _ An Atlantic City man could spend nearly a lifetime in jail after he was sentenced Friday, Sept. 13 in connection with a home invasion that resulted in the death of a Pleasantville hero.
Jeremiah Jackson was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Mark Sandson to 50 years in state prison in connection with the death of Ellis Spell Sr., 51, who was shot to death while attempting to protect his family from armed intruders, prosecutors said.
“Ellis Spell, Sr., died a hero who was fighting to protect his family,” said Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy. “When the defendant shot and killed the victim, he not only destroyed a hero, but he also destroyed an entire family.”
Trial testimony showed Spell was in the shower when the three men, including Jackson, attempted to break down a door to Spell’s home. Spell's son frantically called for his dad’s help.
Moments later, however, Spell was the victim of two bullet wounds.
Jackson’s 50-year sentence is subject to the No Early Release Act. As a a result, Jackson must serve 85 percent of his sentence or 42.5 years, before he is eligible for parole, Sandson said.
Sandson said part of the reason behind the harsh sentence was Jackson’s refusal to aid investigators by identifying the other two men involved in the home invasion.
An Atlantic County jury convicted Jackson in Spell’s death on June 19.
On Dec. 9, 2011, Jackson and two unidentified armed men, broke into Spell’s residence on Thompson Avenue in Pleasantville. They had had planned to burglarize the home.
Spell, however, was shot when he attempted to stop the men. He later died from a pair of 22-calibre bullet wounds.
Jackson and the two other men fled the scene immediately following the shooting.
Arrest warrants were signed for Jackson several days after the homicide. Jackson turned himself in to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office on Jan. 20, 2012.
Jackson was tried for felony murder, murder, armed robbery, conspiracy, tampering with evidence and weapons offenses in a trial that began June 11, according to Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor John McClain.
On June 11, the State began a week-long trial against Jackson. Jackson was tried for felony murder, murder, armed robbery, armed burglary, conspiracy, tampering with evidence and weapons offenses.
The defense argued that Jackson was at the seen, but wasn’t responsible for the fatal shooting. Another man, who Jackson refused to identify, shot Spells instead.
The defense did not identify the other men or produce any witnesses.
Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy presented 26 witnesses including Spells’ wife and son, who were present at the time of the murder.
A friend of Jackson also testified that Jackson told him he committed the murder and asked him to dispose of the murder weapon.
Investigators seized the weapon from Jackson’s friend, along with a shirt that was used to clean the gun. The shirt contained Jackson’s DNA.
Levy also presented physical evidence, which pointed directly to Jackson as the killer.
The evidence included Jackson’s text messages which said he was “getting out of town.” The prosecution also presented the victim’s blood on a hooded sweatshirt found in Jackson’s car which was used as the get-away vehicle.
The jury needed only three days of deliberation to find Jackson guilty of murder, felony murder, burglary and two counts of conspiracy.
Prior to sentencing, Jackson addressed the Court, professing that while he was regretful of his involvement, he was not the one who shot the victim.
Instead, Jackson said, he was “in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people.”
But Levy argued that an armed Jackson along with two armed accomplices broke down Spell’s door and began a chain of events which resulted in the death of a hero.
To read more about Jackson’s trial, go here to read an article that appears in The Current, a Shore News Today publication in June.
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