It's been eight weeks since Tupelo police signed capital murder warrants for Jaylen Antwan Wells, 17, of Tupelo, on July 28, four days after two men and a woman were gunned down outside a west Tupelo house. Wells has evaded law enforcement since that date.
Wells is described as a Black male, 5 feet, 3 inches tall, with a weight of 120 pounds. He should be considered armed and dangerous.
It is believed the 17-year-old has been receiving help to avoid the law enforcement officials and arrest. If convicted, Wells will face life in prison, but anyone found guilty of helping the youth could face up to 20 years in a state prison themselves, depending on the level of assistance given.
The Mississippi Code says that the crime of accessory after the fact to capital murder carries a sentence of up to 20 years in a state prison. The lesser charge of hindering prosecution — which could be anything from giving a suspect money or lying to police about his location — carries a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.
“The two statutes are very similar,” said District Attorney John Weddle. “The key element is someone has to have knowledge that the suspect committed a crime to be charged with either.”
Accessory after the fact occurs when one person helps another person who has committed a crime, knowing that the person has committed a crime, with the intention to help that person avoid arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment. To be convicted, the state must prove the person had intent to help the suspect and that their assistance actually helped the suspect.
Someone who drove the suspect out of town or provided a place to stay and avoid the law could be charged with accessory.
The threshold to prove someone hindered prosecution or apprehension in Mississippi is much lower than trying to prove accessory. If someone conceals a suspect or warns them that the law is looking for them, the person could be charged with hindering. Someone can also be charged with they give a suspect money, transportation, a weapon or a disguise to elude capture.
“We tend to go after the more serious charge, especially if the culpability was higher,” Weddle said. “If it turns out they offered less help, there is an option for them to plead down to the lesser charge.”
Tupelo police responded to 215 Maynard Drive around 11:45 p.m. July 24. Officers found three people with gunshot wounds at the residence one block south of the West Main Walmart. Norahs Coleman, 21, was pronounced dead at the scene. Jessica Pannell, 21, and Robben Wilson, 22, died at the North Mississippi Medical Center early the next morning.
Two days after the shootings, police arrested Javion Clifton, 16, of Tupelo, and Shamar Carroll, 17, of Tupelo. The following day, U.S. Marshals arrested the third suspect, Taquon A. Garth, 18, in the Jackson area.
The suspects are all charged as adults with three counts of capital murder but only Garth could face the death penalty. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court banned capital punishment for crimes committed by those under 18.
Anyone with information about Wells' location or information about additional suspects to contact Tupelo police at 662-841-6491, Crimestoppers of Northeast Mississippi at (800) 773-TIPS or email tips to TPDRecords@tupeloms.govInternet Explorer Channel Network