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December 19, 2013 Issue

Christmas smiles...
Wells gets two life terms for murder
Deputies round up parents for non-support

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Christmas smiles...

Wrens recently held its Christmas tree lighting and Louisville its parade in celebration of this joyous holiday season.


Wells gets two life terms for murder

By Donna Stillinger

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, 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 Dunaway called it the worst he had 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 his ex.

Members of the victim’s family were in court, but did not speak. Sanders said Friday’s sentence was what the family sought.

Deputies round up parents for non-support

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Early in the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 10, law enforcement officers throughout Jefferson County searched for 39 men and women behind in their child support payments. Sheriff Gary Hutchins said this was a team effort

Besides officers with the JCSO, Hutchins said officers with Louisville, Wrens, Stapleton and Wadley police departments along with DNR and probation officers joined in what Hutchins referred to as a round up.


Hutchins said they had 46 warrants for 39 individuals. Separate warrants were issued for each child. Of those 39, officers saw 22.

“We did make contact by phone with others who were out of the county,” the sheriff said. “Fewer than 10 ended up in jail. The others found a way to make their payment.”

Hutchins said the officers out trying to serve those warrants were in four teams with five officers in each team.

“We collected between $7,000 and $8,000,” he said.

Hutchins said he was pleased with the results especially considering this is the first time his office has done this for those behind on their child support payments.

“We’re just sending a message out there to them. We’re going to do this again. It’s best for those who are behind in their child support payments to go ahead and get in touch with the child support division,” Hutchins said.

“They will work with them. The best thing is to get in touch with the office so something can be worked out. That is better than letting things go further and involve the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement.

“It’s the children who are suffering in our county. It’s the fathers and mothers who need to be accountable that the children are being taken care of. That’s our top priority,” Hutchins said, adding he was thankful for all the assistance he received from the other agencies.

“We appreciate it. It was a team effort and they volunteered their time to help make this a success,” he said.

Delmas Browning, manager of Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) in Sandersville, said he appreciated the sheriff’s department’s work.

“It was an outstanding effort. Right now, we’ve collected $8,259 as of today,” he said Monday, Dec. 16. “It’s one of our more successful tools we’ve used. I was really pleased with the sheriff’s department; because, we could not have done this without them. They really did an outstanding job.”

The economy has had an effect on the child support cases, Browning said.

“Those we targeted in this effort were what you might call our most wanted cases. We did screen out those who had lost jobs and were not able to make their payments because of issues like that. What we normally try to do, too, is if we are aware that something has occurred that affects someone’s ability to pay their child support such as a job loss, we do try to work with those people,” he said.

Browning said there is a program designed to assist people in certain circumstances who have difficulty meeting their financial obligation to pay child support. It is the Georgia Fatherhood Program. It helps any non-custodial parent paying child support through DCSS who lacks the economic capacity to do so because they are unemployed or underemployed.

There are some criteria that has to be met, he said.

There are some criteria that have to be met, he said.

The program offers job skills training, job placement, the opportunity to earn a GED, counseling and a chance to play a supportive role in the lives of their children.

“We handle at least 2,400 cases for Jefferson and Washington counties combined. We provide services to one out of every three children in these two counties,” Browning said.

DCSS also has online resources.

“A lot of customers are using that now to provide us with information and for us to provide them with information. Our website is http://dcss.dhs.georgia.gov. I would urge communication in the case of a job loss or something that affects someone’s ability to pay,” he said. “Incarceration is our last resort. If someone has an outstanding arrest order, it’s important to work towards resolving that as soon as possible.”

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