Arrests made in Hanover homicide case

Posted at 11:02 AM, Jan 23, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-01 08:12:33-05

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - Hanover County’s first homicide of the year was Brett Wells, a 16-year-old Atlee High School student.

The shooting is under investigation by Hanover Sheriff's deputies.

In less than 48 hours from the shooting, three individuals were arrested, said Hanover County Sheriff's office. All three, none of them juveniles, have been charged with first-degree murder,use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and aggravated malicious wounding.

Investigators arrested Da’von T. Byars, 19, of the 1400 block of Mechanicsville Turnpike in the City of Richmond; Kevin M. Drayton, Jr., 18, of the 8300 block of Rollins Lane in Mechanicsville; and, Xavia S. Highsmith, 18, of the 2000 block of N. 28th Street in the City of Richmond.

All three are being held at Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover.

When deputies arrived, they found one male who had been shot dead and another man who suffered from a gunshot wound. The other victim, Aaron Evans, was taken to VCU Medical Center.

Chad Herndon, pastor at New Song Church--where Wells' vigil will be held--said that Evans was shot in the hand and that a full recovery is expected.

Investigators said they responded to the 7300 Verdi Lane at 10:45 p.m. Saturday night for reports of shots fired at a home.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, officials said that the preliminary investigation reveals that the shooting occurred over an alleged marijuana transaction.

The suspects were at the house to purchase marijuana, although their intention was to steal it, said police. This led to a physical altercation and Wells was shot in the chest.

The suspects fired an additional shot as they fled the scene, and this is when Evans was hit.

A vigil will be held for Brett Wells on Monday night at 7 p.m. at New Song United Methodist Church in Mechanicsville.

"It’s a time to experience grief and support one another," said Pastor Herndon.

Herndon is making last minute preparations for Monday night’s vigil. He expects standing room only as the Mechanicsville community mourns the death of Wells.

"It really does rattle your sense of what you expect in your own backyard," said Herndon.

Diego Salinas, a sophomore at Atlee High School, like Wells, was surprised to hear the news—which he found out about through Facebook.

He feels “shock and disbelieve that someone else had gotten shot in Mechanicsville because it’s usually such a safe town,” he said. “It feels so unreal, as a teenager you feel so invincible, and then something like this happens and it really rocks your world.”

Pastor Herndon said that the recent events in Mechanicsville don’t reflect the spirit of the town, a county of one or two murders a year.

In a district where the first homicide last year didn’t occur until late July, area residents have been shocked that the last two homicide victims in Hanover have been juveniles. Adding to the shock is that both murders have occurred within just five weeks of one another.

On December 18, 2011, Jyreffe Clark, 17, of the 6000 block of Sandy Valley Road in Mechanicsville, died of a gunshot wound. Clark’s body was dragged outside the home where he was shot, and left near a fence.

Investigators have not released any information about a possible suspect in the shooting.

"And just when we start a new year we were hoping to pick up the pieces and move forward when this happens," said Pastor Herndon.

A close family friend of Wells recalls that he was a bright student, a gifted guitar player and active in the Bethlehem Lutheran Church community in Richmond.

Atlee students have been expressing their condolences on Facebook and many feel it will take time to heal from another painful loss of a young life.

Deputies ask anyone with information to contact the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office at (804) 365-6140 or the Metro Richmond Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.