Murder trial begins in death of York Exxon clerk
Prosecutors are expected to call two ex-girlfriends of Mark Anthony Ellis on day two of his trial to help tie him to the homicide of Exxon store clerk Aditya Anand.
Trial began the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 9, with opening statements from deputy prosecutor Erin Bloxham and defense attorney Korey Leslie.
Ellis, 30, who has lived in York and Baltimore, is charged with first- and second-degree murder and attempted robbery for the Oct. 17, 2017, fatal shooting of clerk "Sunny" Anand at the Exxon on the corner of West Market Street and Richland Avenue in York City.
Bloxham told jurors during her opening statement that Ellis — who was living with girlfriend Jessica Soder in the 600 block of West King Street at the time — woke up early with a plan to rob a convenience store.
Neither Bloxham nor Leslie made any mention about the shooting being possibly domestic related, as police said early on in their investigation. Rather, prosecutors are arguing Ellis' motive was robbery.
Bloxham told jurors that Ellis was recorded on surveillance video at Turkey Hill Minit Market about two blocks away on Richland Avenue just minutes before Anand was gunned down.
14 cameras: The Exxon station also had a video-surveillance system that consisted of 14 cameras both inside and outside its store, testimony revealed.
Jurors on Wednesday saw video of the would-be robber, with his hood up, walk into the store, approach the counter and apparently ask for cigarettes. There's no sound to the video.
Anand, 44, who is behind the counter, grabs two packs of Newport 100 cigarettes, puts them on the counter and begins to ring them up, the video shows.
As Anand works the register, the customer pulls out a handgun and points it at the clerk, who then has trouble opening the register, apparently because he's terrified.
The robber fires a warning shot over Anand's left shoulder as Anand keeps trying to open the register, the video shows.
Anand then tries to make a quick exit out an employee door near the counter, but as he runs, he is shot. Anand makes it out the door and a few feet away from the building before collapsing.
The video then shows the shooter running from the store toward Richland Avenue, having taken nothing from the store.
Photos released: York City detectives released still photos from the video, asking for the public's help in identifying the killer.
They were contacted by Tabitha Miller, who told them she'd dated Ellis on and off for nine years and knew it was him, according to Bloxham.
"She knows it was his face. She knows it was his walk. She knows it was his body," Bloxham told jurors. "She knew him."
Miller is expected to testify for the prosecution Thursday, as is Soder, the woman with whom Ellis was living on West King Street when Anand was killed.
In her opening statement, Bloxham said Soder allegedly stole a .38-caliber revolver and rimmed cartridges from her mother when Soder and Ellis were having dinner at the mother's home.
The prosecutor noted that Soder denies stealing the gun. York County court records show she is charged with theft and receiving stolen property.
Bag of bullets: When Ellis was captured, police found a Crown Royal whisky bag of .38-caliber bullets with rimmed cartridges at the location, according to Bloxham, who is trying the case jointly with chief deputy prosecutor Chuck Murphy.
Those type of bullets are specifically designed for revolvers, which explains why no spent shell casings were found at the scene, Bloxham said.
Soder initially tried to provide Ellis with an alibi, but eventually she told police she doesn't know where he was at the time of the homicide, according to the prosecutor.
Leslie told jurors it's up to them to decide whether the killer in the surveillance video is his client.
"Is that individual Mark Ellis?" Leslie asked. "Or could it be someone else?"
Prosecutors called eight witnesses to the stand on Wednesday, including a police officer and detectives, and they are expected to call five more witnesses Thursday before resting their case, according to presiding Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.