Edgewood resident James Sanders' last moments alive were "a nightmare that came to life," a Pierce County deputy prosecutor told a jury Monday.
Armed intruders were inside his home, terrorizing his wife and children while he lay bound and helpless on his kitchen floor, deputy prosecutor Mary Robnett told jurors.
One of those intruders, most likely defendant Kiyoshi Higashi, shot Sanders three times when the 43-year-old man broke free of the plastic ties used to bind him, Rob-nett said during her opening statement in Higashi’s first-degree murder trial.
Sanders “was murdered in cold blood, in his own home, in front of his wife who’d been tied up and beaten and in front of his children who’d been held at gunpoint and terrorized,” the deputy prosecutor said.
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Higashi, 23, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of second-degree assault and one count of first-degree burglary.
He is the first of four defendants to go to trial in the case, which drew national attention.
Prosecutors contend Higashi and three others went to Sanders’ home April 28, 2010, intent on robbing him. They allegedly picked his house after seeing a ring and other jewelry he’d advertised on Craigslist, according to court records.
Higashi has admitted taking part in the robbery but denied shooting Sanders. He blames one of the other people who were with him that night.
His defense attorney, Michael Jordan, did not make an opening statement Monday. Jordan reserved his right to make a statement when the defense begins its case.
Robnett told jurors it doesn’t matter from a legal standpoint whether Higashi pulled the trigger or not. He’s guilty of murder for knowingly taking part in a felony during which someone was killed, she said.
But the deputy prosecutor said plenty of evidence points to Higashi as the shooter.
The gun used to kill Sanders was a silver, .380-caliber pistol, Robnett said. The victim’s wife, Charlene Sanders, told investigators she saw Higashi holding a silver pistol the night her husband died.
It was Higashi who sold the gun used to kill Sanders in South Tacoma the day after the shooting, Robnett said.
And Higashi’s ex-girlfriend, Jenna Ford, is expected to testify later in the trial that he came to her house the night Sanders died and told her, “I killed somebody tonight,” the deputy prosecutor said.
Ford recently pleaded guilty to three counts of rendering criminal assistance for helping Higashi and his alleged accomplices destroy evidence of the shooting.
Robnett and colleague Karen Watson called three witnesses Monday – the first two sheriff’s deputies on the scene and Tiffany Buchanan, a records specialist with the Law Enforcement Support Agency.
Buchanan was called so Robnett and Watson could introduce the call Sanders’ son, James Jr., made to 911 after his father was shot. During the call, the boy, then 14, and Charlene Sanders frantically ask dispatchers to send help.
“My father has been shot!” the boy yells into the phone.
Charlene Sanders and her two sons are expected to testify today.