Teens plead not guilty to murder of Hanover student

Posted at 7:35 PM, Oct 22, 2012

HANOVER, Va. (WTVR)--The first-degree murder trial for three men accused in the shooting death of a 16-year-old Atlee High School student is underway in Hanover County.

Police say Brett Wells was killed inside his Mechanicsville home on the night of January 21, after a planned drug deal went astray.

The prosecution alleges that 19-year-old De’von Byars and 18-year-olds Kevin Drayton Jr. and Xavia Highsmith carried out an elaborate plan to rob Wells inside his home on Verdi Lane and steal approximately 4oz of marijuana.

They all pleaded not guilty.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney says Wells was shot in the chest when he tried to stop Byars and Highsmith after they grabbed the drugs and attempted to flee out the front door.  Before being shot, police say Wells blocked the door and yelled to his friends “get these guys!”

Well’s close friend, Aaron Evans, was shot in the hand outside the home after prosecutors say he attempted to stop the suspects.  Evans testified Monday that he ran inside the home after another friend yelled, “Brett has been shot!” 

Evans says he turned Wells onto his back and noticed he was “white as a ghost.”  He says he attempted to perform C-P-R on his friend until paramedics arrived.

In both shootings, the prosecution alleges that Xavia Highsmith was the triggerman.

While the defense maintains the defendants were armed and intended to steal marijuana from Wells, they say the shootings were not pre-meditated.  They say the murder and shooting injury occurred in a scuffle after Highsmith panicked because he was being confronted.  The attorneys claim the shootings were in self-defense.

The prosecution called several witnesses to the stand Monday, including investigators and two of Well’s friends who were inside the home the night of the alleged murder. 

A medical examiner also testified that Wells died after the barrel of the 9 mm gun was pressed against his body and fired, sending a bullet directly into Well’s heart and spine.