THOMSON -- A Dearing man’s guilty plea and sentencing Friday for his role in the brutal 2011 death of his ex-wife, also provided details of the crime that stunned the community.
Ricky Wells, 45, pleaded guilty to malice murder and armed robbery in the slaying of Jennifer Kitchens Wells, of Gibson, Ga., whom authorities say was dragged several miles after her death.
Judge Roger Dunaway sentenced Wells to two consecutive life terms, meaning he won’t be eligible to seek parole for 60 years. His girlfriend, Tina Wells, will be tried separately sometime next year for her role in the death.
The gruesome nature of the case shocked the community, and Judge Dunaway called it the worst he’d seen in his time on the bench. Authorities had released few details over the last two years because of concerns that publicity would jeopardize a fair trial.
At Friday’s hearing, however, Toombs Circuit District Attorney Dennis Sanders told the court what prosecutors believe happened.
According to Sanders, Ricky Wells had been angry with his ex-wife for some time and the rage continued to build. On Sept. 29, 2011, Jennifer Kitchens Wells called to ask that he babysit their 5-year-old son while she went out with some old girlfriends.
Ricky Wells picked up his son and became angry because the boy was dirty, had a rash and soiled pants. He took the child to stay with his own mother while he and his girlfriend Tina devised a plan to kill his former wife.
Later that evening, Jennifer called Ricky to pick up their son. She met him around 10 p.m. at the Happy Valley Store on Wrens Highway in McDuffie County. Sanders said Jennifer Wells arrived first. Ricky and Tina Wells came up and parked behind Jennifer.
Ricky then got out of Tina’s pickup truck, went to Jennifer’s SUV and after a brief discussion, fired several shots that struck her in the head and upper body. The gun jammed and he went to the truck and came back with another gun and fired more shots into his former wife.
Sanders said that Wells then dragged Jennifer’s body out of her vehicle and took some metal choke wire, wrapped it around her ankles and tied her to the trailer hitch on her own vehicle. Ricky Wells got into the driver’s seat of the SUV and drove several miles down paved and dirt roads, dragging his former wife’s body.
According to Sanders, Wells said that Tina Wells drove her pickup truck behind Jennifer’s body down the roads. The two had planned to drag her body in order to humiliate her and to hopefully disguise her and eliminate any evidence. Sanders said that at the time of his arrest, Ricky Wells, proclaimed he “was proud of killing the bitch.”
Members of the victim’s family were in court, but did not speak. Sanders said Friday’s sentence was what the family sought.