Family of slain mother wants to take away parental rights of father who allegedly killed her

By: Carter Coyle Email
By: Carter Coyle Email

A memorial for Jennifer Kitchens Wells has been set up on the side of Happy Valley Road. (WRDW-TV / Oct. 3, 2011)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Nov. 4, 2011

MCDUFFIE COUNTY, Ga. -- It's been a little more than a month since Jennifer Kitchens Wells was shot and then dragged for miles to her death. Ricky Wells and his girlfriend Tina Wells are in jail accused of the crime, and maybe even the death penalty.

But even though he's accused of breaking the law, the law is still on his side when it comes to his son. Jennifer's family wants to change that.

Spots all along Happy Valley Road and Purvis School Road are still marked with flowers and crosses. Jennifer's family is hoping something good can come out of this tragedy. They've started a petition online.

Jennifer's cousin Debbie explained, "If one parent is a suspect in the other parent's murder, it's not right for them to have automatic custody of the children or child."

According to the law, Ricky Wells still has parental rights over his and Jennifer's 4-year-old son Casey.

"Honestly, I don't think he needs rights at all on Casey," added Jennifer's sister, Christy. "I don't think he deserves any rights on Casey."

This isn't the first time they've tried to fight the law.

"Back in 2005, my cousin Janice Burkett was murdered by her husband."

Debbie said he had contact and influence with their children until he was convicted.

Similarly, Ricky is considered innocent until proven guilty and can exercise parental control from behind bars. That's usually through a court-appointed liaison.

"Most people in their mind that I've talked to out there think that he has no rights, but that's not the way the law is set up," Debbie said.

A McDuffie County judge gave temporary custody of the little boy to Ricky's parents. Debbie agrees with that ruling, but still says Ricky should have to forfeit his rights.

"If one of the parents is dead, they don't get to see them any more, get to talk to them anymore. Why should the other one if they were responsible?"

For now, they say they just hope to begin healing. Christy says through tears, "It's been hard. It's still hard. But we're taking it day by day."

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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