Hanover teens sentenced in Mechanicsville murder

Posted at 1:25 PM, Feb 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-25 20:29:50-05

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - Three teenagers who killed Atlee High School student Brett Wells were each sentenced to 27 years in prison.

De’von Byars, 19, Kevin Drayton Jr., 18, and Xavia Highsmith, 18, received identical sentences:

    • 25 years with 10 years suspended on the 1st degree murder charge
    • 20 years with 16 years suspended on the malicious wounding charge
    • Five years on the use a firearm in commission of a felony charge
    • Three years on the malicious wounding with use a firearm charge
    • Five years with five years suspended on the conspiracy to rob charge

"I’m just happy that it’s over and that his family [the Wells family] can get some peace from this," De’von Byars' mother Karima said.

Andrew Parks, a friend of Brett Wells, was disappointed with the sentences.

"It’s not enough. A 16-year-old kid gets his life taken and they get 25 years out of theirs. It’s not right," Parks said. "You can’t expect to take someone’s life and get a slap on the wrist, it’s not fair."

The teenagers shot and killed Wells  at his Mechanicsville home in January of 2012. The teenagers went to Wells' home to steal marijuana from the teen.

Judge Walter Stout called this case an "enigma" and "unusual" because the teens who killed Wells had no real history of trouble, a point character witnesses for the defense reiterated during Monday's sentencing hearing. The judge said the teens got themselves in danger by getting into drugs and guns.

"I do agree, they are smart kids, they were getting good grades in school but something, somewhere along the line things went terribly wrong," Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Shari Skipper said after the sentencing. "Brett Wells was a 16-year-old boy and everything that he had, everything that his parents had is taken away. His family, his friends, and his community will live with that for the rest of their lives.  So while the defendants are very young and I can see why the judge gave the sentence that he did it’s certainly not what the Commonwealth was hoping for."