Murder-for-hire plot survivor scared for her life

9:25 PM, Aug 6, 2013   |    comments
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DOUGLAS COUNTY - It was a double murder so horrific it made experienced investigators cringe at the scene.

BACKGROUND

It all started with a divorce Amara Wells wanted from her husband Chris Wells. But according to numerous court records, Chris wasn't the kind of guy who would let things go unless he made the decision.

"As a very controlling individual, we were able to show he didn't want to lose his wife and daughter," Sergeant Jason Weaver, the lead investigator on what would become one of the biggest murder cases in Douglas County, said. "There were a lot of things that Chris Wells did during the time of separation and divorce to try to keep Amara from leaving. He didn't want to provide her any money, didn't want to provide her any resources for her to be on her own."

Court records show Chris Wells violated several protection orders and was arrested several times.

He had cut up and urinated on Amara's clothes. Investigators said he also broke into her email. Amara lived in fear.

"Through the course of the homicide investigation, we learned she was terrified, seeing a psychologist to help her to try to work through this," Weaver told 9NEWS. "She was so afraid for her life and the life of her child, they even came up with a game plan of how to get out of the house in case a situation occurred similar to this. She was afraid."

Court records show in the summer of 2010, Amara Wells and their young daughter moved out of the home and came to stay with Chris' sister, Tammy Rafferty and her husband Bob. 9NEWS is choosing not to name the child to protect her privacy.

"I don't think during that time frame we felt an immediate danger," Tammy Rafferty said. "I think we always thought if something was going to happen, he would do something when she was caught off guard, somewhere out some place and alone."

Rafferty said Amara has shared with the family she felt Chris was going to "kill her," and the family took that seriously. But murder was still hard to imagine.

THE MURDER

On Feb. 23, 2011 at 2:53 a.m., Douglas County dispatchers received a call from Rafferty's neighbor.

He wanted deputies to check on the house next door. A young girl, later identified as Amara's daughter, came and told him her mom and uncle "were covered in blood," the arrest affidavit said.

She was six years old. She saw everything.

Inside the home, investigators found the bodies of Amara Wells and Bob Rafferty. Chris Gallo was one of the Douglas County prosecutors on this case. Part of his job was to go to the scene.

"That was the most wicked crime scene I've ever seen," Gallo said. "You can see different instances of carnage throughout this otherwise beautiful house."

In court, investigators would say it was obvious Bob Rafferty fought with his killer and fought for his life.

"As Bob drew his last breaths I'm certain that he was grateful that kids and I weren't home ," Tammy said, fighting back tears. "I wish it would've been me there instead of him, but that's not what the cards dealt me."

The investigation revealed Chris Wells was behind the murders. He pleaded guilty to first degree murder and is serving two life terms without parole.

"Through the interviews with all the suspects in this case, [we] were able to show that Chris Wells had promised Josiah Sher $10,000 to kill Amara Wells, and then another $5,000 for every other family member in that house," Weaver said.

According to court documents, Tammy Rafferty was also supposed to be killed, but she was out of town on business.

Sher, the man who actually committed the murders, pleaded guilty in the case. He and two others connected to the case are in prison also.

Wells was in the county jail at the time of the murders. He had been arrested for yet another violation of a protection order.

In his first interview with the investigators right after the murders, Chris Wells told them he had no idea what happened.

Detective: "I want to know who did this, and I think you can help me."
Wells: "I don't have any idea. Why would I have any idea?"
Detective: "Do you know who hurt your family?"
Wells: "No, I do not."
Detective: "Did you ask anybody to hurt your family?"
Wells: "No, of course not."
Detective: "Did you pay anybody to hurt your family"
Wells: "I don't have any money sir. I have $5,000 in my bank account in my business. I have $100 in my personal."

THE MONEY

But Garth Willson - the man police interviewed three times during their murder investigation - told them Chris Wells had given him $75,000 about seven months before the murders.

Chris Wells called Willson his best friend during his taped interview with investigators.

Willson told police he worked with Wells and $75,000 wasn't a loan, it was still Wells' money, according to recorded interviews taken at the sheriff's office.

9NEWS obtained a copy of those taped interviews.

Willson: "I'm going to tell you July 2010, [Chris Wells] gave me $75,109 and change. 'Put it in your account and just hold it.' I put it into an account and invested it into stock trades and some stocks."
Detective: "What was the conversation prior to him giving you the $75,000, was it hide this? Was it 'hang on to this?'"
Willson: "He told me 'so Amara couldn't get it.'"

Willson told investigators he lost some of that money in the stock market but had about $40,000 left.

Willson: "I'd like to give it to his daughter - the accounts that I got. I want to build it back up back to the $75,000, go into her name or into a trust in her name."

9NEWS wanted to ask Willson where the money he wanted to give to her daughter went, but his attorney declined an interview.

Willson was never named a suspect or a person of interest in this case.

He is giving Chris Wells $300 once a month while Chris is in prison, according to the Department of Corrections.

"I don't feel safe especially when I was able to find out that he is receiving money," Rafferty said. "So he's in prison doing life sentences for murder for hire, and he's receiving money from someone every single month."

As of the end of July, Wells has $3,567.67 in his DOC bank account.

"He's close to having the $5,000 that he had on my head," Rafferty said. "He's close to having that now. He's in contact; I'm sure, with people that are going to be paroled. He's a master manipulator. He'll use all means to control, whether it's blackmail, whether it's being able to pay them off, that's what he does. It's a huge concern for all of us."

The people who worked on this case tell 9NEWS they're concerned as well.

"I believe Chris Wells is a very dangerous man," Sgt. Weaver said. "He's shown through history and different instances that he wants what he wants when he wants it. I'll think he will go to any measures to do that."

"I think anybody who crosses that threshold of putting a price on a human life, hiring another person to extinguish a family, I think someone is always going to be capable of that evil," Gallo said.

It is not illegal for inmates to have money in their DOC bank accounts. There are no deposit limits and no limits on how much an inmate can save. Inmates can get a money order but can't write a check.

"It's absurd that somebody who could be tied to using large sums of money to wreak havoc on a family can then have large sums of money at their disposal," Gallo said.
"I give an analogy of allowing a pedophile time alone with a child. It doesn't add up, it doesn't make any sense," Rafferty added. "Those are laws I feel very adamantly have to be changed."

DOC sat down with 9NEWS for a very candid, open interview about how DOC bank accounts work.

The agency tells 9NEWS our story identified an issue it's considering changing. But it's doesn't plan to limit inmate bank accounts.

Due to the significant size of this investigation, 9NEWS has split the complete report in to two parts. The first section will air Tuesday at 9 and 10 p.m. The second part will air at 9 and 10 p.m. on Wednesday.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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