Three teens convicted in Hanover student’s murder

Posted at 5:00 PM, Oct 23, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-23 22:19:28-04

HANOVER, Va. (WTVR) - Three teens have been found guilty of first-degree murder  in the shooting death of a 16-year-old Atlee High School student.

The verdict came down just before 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The three teens, 19-year-old De’von Byars, Kevin Drayton Jr. and Xavia Highsmith, were found guilty of first-degree murder, malicious wounding, conspiracy to commit murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

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 says that all three defendants carried out an elaborate plan to rob Wells inside his home on Verdi Lane and steal approximately 4 ounces of marijuana. 

Commonwealth’s attorney Shari Skipper argued that all three chipped in to buy a gun, exchanged text messages and arranged a get-away car. “Each defendant had a responsibility and each defendant played a part,” Skipper argued.

Skipper 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 maintained 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.  All three defense attorneys say the gun was not displayed until the scuffle. 

Outside the courthouse, defense attorney Bill Viverette argued “I don’t think any of them went in with any intention to use a firearm or commit any type of murder.”

On Tuesday, Kevin Drayton, the only defendant to testify, said that Highsmith was hysterical when he got into the car after the shooting and exclaimed “He wouldn’t let go, he made me do it.”

A judge will sentence all three defendants on February 25.