Few Think Mom Was Shot by Her Son—Except the Son

Police originally blamed a 6-year-old back in 2001, but now they're not so sure
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2017 11:03 AM CST
Updated Feb 26, 2017 7:03 AM CST
Few Think Mom Was Shot by Her Son—Except the Son
Details lend doubt.   (Getty/enviromantic)

What's not in dispute is this: On March 28, 2001, 37-year-old Jill Wells was fatally struck in the head by a bullet. What's very much in dispute is the original explanation by police: They said Wells' 6-year-old son, Tanner, accidentally shot his mom as they were target shooting in rural Colorado. As 9News explains in an investigation, the story was relayed to police by Wells' husband, Mike, who says his son had asked to use an adult rifle but struggled to control it; the child allegedly turned and the gun went off. The sheriff signed off after being at the scene less than two hours. No ballistic tests, no autopsy, only a cursory interview with Tanner (conducted in the presence of his dad, against protocol). Case closed. Wells' sister never bought the conclusion for a host of reasons, including a life-insurance policy beefed up just weeks before, money problems, and Jill's suspicions that her husband was cheating.

She got police to reopen the case in 2008, and they were stunned to see how shoddy the initial investigation was. Deputy Albert Leach dug into the case and says he looked forward to bringing in Mike to ask, "Why'd you shoot your wife?" Before he could do so, however, Mike died of what appears to be an accidental meth overdose. An exhumation of Jill's body was inconclusive, and the case officially remains open, though nearly everybody involved (including the original sheriff and coroner) now have their doubts about Mike's innocence. Everybody except Tanner. In a letter, he made clear that he believes he shot his mom that day. "When people find out about it I tell people that I don't remember so I don't have to re-live that event in my head," he writes. "But the truth is that in that moment my gun fired in my hands." Click for the full story. (More Longform stories.)

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