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Victim had sought protection
Jennifer Wells said ex-husband had followed and harassed her

The Glascock County woman who died after she was shot then dragged down a rural road Thursday night had previously sought protection against the man charged with her murder.

According to court records, Jennifer Lynn Wells, as she was known at the time, obtained a temporary protective order against Ricky Charles Wells while her divorce petition was pending. Records show the couple had a son, now age 5. Jennifer Wells also had a daughter, now age 11.

In her 2009 petition, Jennifer Wells wrote that Ricky Wells had left harassing messages on her cell phone, followed her and raced his motor in front of her home, frightening her children.

"I have heard Ricky state that he needed to shoot exwife," she wrote.

She claimed that he had three misdemeanor violence charges in the five years leading up to her request for protection.

The divorce was finalized on July 10, 2009.

Ricky Wells, 43, of the 900 block of Hobbs Mill Road in Dearing, and Tina Ann Wells, 40, of the 1200 block of Davis Circle in Boneville, are still being held at the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center in Thomson.

According to court records, Tina Ann Wells was formerly Tina Ann Davis. She and William Glenn Wells, the uncle of Ricky Wells, were married Jan. 21, 1994. William Glenn Wells died June 27, 2000.

The two McDuffie County residents have been charged with the murder of Jennifer Kitchens Wells, 36, of the 3000 block of Anthony Lane in Gibson.

According to an incident report, on the evening of Sept. 29, McDuffie County deputies Jeff Norton and Alan Baldwin were dispatched to the area of the Happy Valley Store on Wrens Highway in reference to a disturbance and shots fired. The report came in at 10:19 p.m.

While en route to the scene, dispatch informed the officers that two vehicles that were at the store during the disturbance had left and were headed toward Warren County. Upon arriving at the store at 10:26 p.m., Norton remained on the scene, while Baldwin followed Happy Valley Road toward Warren County, the path the vehicles were said to have taken.

At this point, calls went out to agencies in neighboring Warren and Glascock counties, providing them with vehicle descriptions and advising them to be on the lookout.

According to the report, Baldwin noticed a trail of dark liquid, later identified as blood, on the roadway. The trail started in the store parking lot near Wrens Highway. Baldwin followed it several miles down Happy Valley Road.

At the store, Norton had located a significant amount of blood and other evidence.

Soon after, Glascock County units discovered what they thought were the vehicles involved. They requested a McDuffie County unit to meet them at Purvis School Road at Highway 80 in Warren County, about five miles west of the Happy Valley Store.

Baldwin arrived at 11:32 p.m. A Glascock County deputy led Baldwin to a body, later determined to be that of Jennifer Kitchens Wells, lying in the grass on the side of the roadway. An Emergency Medical Technician had performed a check for vital signs and found none.

The officers secured the scene and waited for Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents. Special Agent Pat Morgan was the first GBI agent on the scene.

Morgan said the GBI cannot complete an incident report yet, as the investigation is still in progress.

"We're still doing interviews, still processing evidence and awaiting the results of the autopsy," he said.

Because the crime extended into three counties, the first determination was where to proceed, said Dennis Sanders, district attorney for the Toombs Judicial Circuit.

He met with McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall, Warren County Sheriff Joe Peebles and Glascock County Sheriff Dean Couch. Together, they decided to proceed in McDuffie County, as it appeared the crime was committed primarily in that area.

Marshall will lead the ongoing investigation with assistance from the GBI and in cooperation with the Georgia State Patrol and the Warren and Glascock county sheriff's offices.

There are aspects of the case they might need to follow up in each county, Morgan said.

"We have taken warrants out on them for murder," he said. "But just because we have people in jail doesn't mean we stop working the case."

Marshall said the suspects were questioned Friday and are currently being held without bond.

Sanders said he will be in regular contact with the investigators and the crime lab as they accumulate and analyze evidence pertaining to the case. He said everyone involved has ensured the investigation is as thorough as possible.

"Because of the fast response time and coordination between law enforcement agencies, a lot of evidence was seized," he said. "We'll be able to answer a lot of questions that possibly would not have been answered had there been a delay."

Right now, their responsibility is to seize any evidence that could have a bearing on the case and then turn it over to experts who can make scientific conclusions.

"The most important thing is to make sure we haven't missed any piece of evidence," he said. "That is vital."

Sanders said one of the best doctors in the state is working on the autopsy, which he expects to be as thorough as the other aspects of the investigation.

Warren County Coroner Paul Lowe said Monday that although it "does appear that she was first shot and then dragged," nothing will be confirmed until an autopsy is completed.

The autopsy, which Lowe said is currently in process, is taking place at the GBI Crime Laboratory in Atlanta.

"Hopefully we'll know something soon, but it's going to take several days to complete it," he said. "There's a lot of testing that's got to be done, and it's just going to take time. This is a very complex case, not just cut and dried."

Sanders said once evidentiary conclusions have been reached, there will be an initial hearing. He said the district attorney's office will make legal arguments urging that the suspects be held without bond. A judge must deny bond based on legal grounds, like the likelihood the suspects will abscond.

Curtis Funeral Home in Thomson will handle funeral services for Jennifer Wells. On Monday, a funeral home spokesman said arrangements cannot be made until they hear from the crime lab after the autopsy.

Residents in the area of the store reacted in shock after the crime.

Rob and Sabrina Thomas stopped at the store early Friday evening.

"Sickening," Rob Thomas said when asked to describe the crime.

"I could not imagine someone doing something like that," Sabrina Thomas said.

She said they live near a section of the road that was closed until late Friday morning as deputies recovered evidence. She said her father heard the news that someone had been killed, and had called her to make sure the Thomases were safe.

Rob Thomas said the crime was hard to believe. "Cold-blooded is one thing," he said. "But the cruelty. You'd never think that in this country."

The victim lived with her two children in a mobile home community along Beech Tree Acres Road in nearby Gibson.

"She was a good neighbor," said Tony Radford. "She kept to her herself and took care of her two children. She was always home."

Radford said Wells delivered newspapers in Thomson. He said she worked at Balloon Delights in Thomson until the February fire that closed several businesses in a Hill Street building. She also had worked at a restaurant and club in Gibson, he said.

"She was a good person. She'd do anything for you," he said.

Kelsey Stein and Garth Snow of The McDuffie Mirror and Bill Kirby of The Augusta Chronicle contributed to this story.

Web posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011

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