Friday, Sept. 30, 2011
MCDUFFIE COUNTY, Ga. -- A 36-year-old mother of two is dead tonight after her ex-husband and another relative allegedly shot at her and then dragged her body behind a vehicle for at least 6 miles.
Family members say Jennifer Kitchens Wells of Glascock County was a stay-at-home mother to her two children, a son and daughter, 12 and 5 years old.
"This is one of the most heinous crimes I've ever worked in my career," said Warren County Coroner Paul Lowe.
He says the victim suffered massive trauma from the dragging; there is some indication she was also shot. Because of the nature of the crime, it would have been difficult to identify the remains, but Lowe says family members were able to provide investigators with descriptions of birth markings and tattoos to make the match.
Investigators say witnesses first called in a report of shots fire outside the Happy Valley Convenience Store off Wrens Highway and Happy Valley Road. They believe Jennifer and her ex-husband, Ricky Charles Wells, had some sort of fight outside the store. The store was closed at the time.
Pat Morgan is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge at the GBI office out of Thomson.
"From everything we gathered from interviews and evidence that we found, the shooting occurred at this location and the body was taken to Warren County," Morgan said
But not just taken. Lowe says Jennifer was actually dragged behind a vehicle from Happy Valley Store in McDuffie County all the way down Happy Valley Road through Warren county; the crime scene was about 6 miles in total.
"The Sheriff's Office from McDuffie County put a look-out for some vehicles that were involved in the altercation that began here at Happy Valley Store," Morgan said. "Glaskcock County sheriff's deputies observed and located those vehicles on Purvis School Road at which time they confronted the occupants of the two vehicles."
Happy Valley Road turns into this Purvis School Road in Warren County before the Glascock County line.
They say the occupants were suspects Ricky Charles Wells and Tina Ann Wells. The two are not married but are related in some way.
Two vehicles were towed from the scene, a red SUV and a gray truck. Deputies also found Jennifer nearby. The coroner says her body was barely recognizable.
"The body was found in a location near where the vehicles were stopped," Morgan said.
GBI agents were still processing the extensive crime scene until after sunrise. Morgan says without quick teamwork and communication between the three counties, they might not have found anything.
"Because of the good work between Glascock, McDuffie and Warren counties, we had some good leads to go on when we got here," he said.
The sheriffs from all 3 counties were also on the scene overnight to personally oversee the investigation.
The investigating agencies include the GBI, McDuffie County, Glascock County, Jefferson County and Warren County Sheriff's Offices as well as two district attorneys and the Georgia State Patrol. The McDuffie and Warren County coroner's offices are also working together.
Jennifer's body will be examined at the crime lab in Atlanta, and the autopsy won't happen until sometime Saturday.