THOMSON — A change of venue has been requested in the trial of a McDuffie County man charged last year with killing his ex-wife and dragging her body into another county.
Caryn Lobdell, the public defender representing Ricky Wells, filed the request in Superior Court.
In her motion, Lobdell asks that Wells’ trial be moved beyond a 75-mile radius of Thomson to a county with a constitutionally composed traverse jury list.
Lobdell said newspapers, radio and television stations have devoted great attention to the Sept. 29, 2011, slaying of Jennifer Kitchens Wells, 36, and publicity has severely prejudiced potential jurors against her client.
Court officials called the filing premature in the proceedings of the case. A change of venue is usually requested closer to the trial date.
Neither Ricky Wells nor co-defendant Tina Wells has been arraigned, although they have been held in jail more than a year.
Lobdell said that to try Ricky Wells in McDuffie County, where the community feeling is strongly set against him, will violate his right to a fair trial.
Tina Wells is represented by Thomson attorney Lucy Bell, who was appointed by the Public Defender’s Office. No request for a venue change has been filed by Bell.
After a change of venue motion is filed, a hearing may be scheduled and a judge will listen to each party’s presentation when determining whether to grant the motion. If the motion is granted, the judge will issue an order for a change of venue. The case will then be transferred to the new jurisdiction.
There is no word on when such a hearing will be held.
Court officials expect Ricky Wells and Tina Wells, his girlfriend, will be arraigned this month, with trial planned for next year.
Both suspects are charged individually and as co-conspirators with one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of armed robbery, three counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and three counts of aggravating circumstances.
The indictment says the slaying was outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible and inhuman. The defendants are accused of shooting the victim multiple times and dragging her behind a pickup for several miles.
Because of the aggravating circumstances, there is a possibility this could be a death penalty case. Both Ricky Wells and Tina Wells are in the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center, held on $1 million bond.