Family of Craigslist Home Invasion Relives Horror in Court
An anguished widow relives the night her husband was murdered as he tried to protect his family in a vicious home invasion.
Charlene Sanders said to the court, "I said to myself, 'Why is this happening to us God?' "
Their 11-year old son, his identity shielded, also sobbed as he described the family's ordeal.
"Two guys came up with guns and pointed them at us," said the son.
The heartbreaking testimony came at the trial of one of the accused murderers.
From the moment Charlene took the stand, she struggled to contain her emotions. The simplest questions involving her husband Jim reduced her to tears.
Charlene told how her husband Jim had listed a ring for sale on Craigslist. She said a man and a woman showed up at the family's home near Tacoma, Washington, on the pretext of buying the ring. The man did the talking.
Charlene told the court, "He pulled out a wad of cash, and he said 'How about this?' And my husband and I just looked at each other and said 'Okay.' And then he pulled out a gun, and said 'How about this?' "
Cops say the gunman let two more accomplices into the house.
Charlene and her husband were then bound with zip ties, and their two young sons were forced into the kitchen at gunpoint. Charlene was kicked in the head to get her to reveal the whereabouts of the family's valuables. But worse was to come at the hands of one of the intruders.
"He kept threatening, 'I'm going to kill them, I'm going to kill you, I'm going to hit you harder.' And then he came to the point where he put the gun on my head," said Charlene.
The Sanders's son said, "He pointed to mom's head and counted down 3-2-1."
"And he just said 'Three, two!' My husband and I were screaming harder and harder and I can't imagine what my husband's last...what he went through watching that," said Charlene as she wept.
When one of his sons was then pistol-whipped by the gang, Jim Sanders fought back.
"He broke his zip ties and started fighting. He started punching one of them," said the Sanders's son.
Jim Sanders was shot three times in the struggle.
Charlene told how the gang then ripped the wedding rings off her dying husband's finger and her own finger and fled. She demonstrated how she then managed to dial 911 with her hands still tied.
Tragically, it was indeed too late to save Jim Sanders.
23-year-old Kiyoshi Higashi, the alleged trigger man, is being tried for the murder. Two other men are also facing murder charges along with a 22-year-old woman. All have pleaded not guilty.
Among Charlene's memories of her husband, the wedding ring that was ripped off his finger after he was shot, was returned to Charlene by police. She now wears it on a chain around her neck.