Mattapoisett man charged with murder, held without bail

Nov 30, 2020

An 18-year-old Mattapoisett man pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in New Bedford District Court on Monday following a Nov. 27 New Bedford shooting that left one man dead and another injured.

Jon Zell was charged with murder, carrying an illegal firearm, and 10 counts of armed assault with intent to murder — among other charges — after allegedly shooting New Bedford resident Angel Cruz, 40, to death with a gun stolen from his father’s Mattapoisett home.

The second victim, named as Wilfredo Balestier, 32, of New Bedford, is currently in stable condition at Rhode Island Hospital, according to the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office.

Before his arrest, Zell allegedly unloaded the stolen gun on New Bedford Police officers who were trying to apprehend him according to police reports.

Zell is being held without bail with the option for defense attorney Jim Caramancia to argue for a release on bail in the future. 

Before any other proceedings take place, Zell will undergo a court-ordered mental evaluation to see if he’s fit to stand trial or be held criminally responsible. 

“Mr. Zell has a long-standing history of mental health and that’s a concern that should be looked at in the case,” Caramancia said after the arraignment. 

According to New Bedford Police, the department received a 911 call for gunshots at around 10:21 a.m. in the area of LaFrance Court. When officers arrived on scene, they found Cruz lying unresponsive on the ground. He was rushed to St. Luke’s Hospital and later pronounced dead. 

Balestier was shot and attempted to drive himself to the hospital but rolled his car over en route. He was later taken to Rhode Island Hospital.

Witnesses described the assailant as wearing a black jacket with white/brown fur around the collar, blue jeans and white sneakers. A video recording shown to officers matched the description. 

About 45 minutes later, officers found a man wearing the same clothes standing at the intersection of Penniman and Reynolds Streets and tried to apprehend him. 

The man — later identified as Zell — allegedly unloaded all the bullets in a stolen gun on police before he dropped the weapon and was arrested, according to police reports. No officers were injured and did not return fire.

Shortly before the shooting at around 9:15 a.m, Mattapoisett Police received a call from Zell’s father, Eric, who believed his son stole his legally-owned and registered gun and ammunition earlier that morning.  

In a police interview, the elder Zell said Jon rummaged through the drawers of his bedroom bureau at 5 a.m. When he awoke at 7 a.m. Eric said his son was gone along with his gun. 

According to police, Jon Zell was spotted in New Bedford at around 8:30 a.m. at the home of Katie Kiefer, whose son Keith was friends with the defendant. 

Kiefer reportedly told police that Zell was an uninvited guest and was asked to leave.

After a search of the Keifer home, police found a duffel bag of ammunition matching the description of the one missing from Zell’s father’s home in an attic.

For the alleged theft of a firearm in Mattapoisett, Wareham District Court charged Jon Zell with felony larceny of a firearm, larceny from a building and larceny over $1200.

In New Bedford District Court, Zell was charged with carrying a loaded illegal firearm and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building along with the murder, armed assault, and illegal firearm charges.