AP NEWS

Trial for Aiken man charged in 2016 Bates murder draws to close, jury set to deliberate Friday

February 22, 2019

The murder trial continued Thursday for an Aiken man charged in the shooting death of 21-year-old Denzel Bates in 2016.

On Sept. 21, 2016, Aiken Public Safety officers responded to a call on Rushton Road near Wrights Mill Road, where they found Bates’ body lying in the back of a truck.

An investigation led police to arrest Dawon Jacques Wells, 21, in March 2017.

Wells is charged with murder, two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, attempted murder and unlawful carrying of a pistol, according to jail records.

The attempted murder charge stems from a separate July 2016 shooting incident at a Graniteville apartment complex.

A jury heard from state witnesses Wednesday and Thursday, which included Wells’ former friend, 18-year-old Markel Brown.

Brown testified to being at Wells’ home on George Street in Crosland Park on the night of the murder, claiming to have heard gunshots outside the residence while he was inside on a couch.

After taking cover, Brown said he went outside and noticed everyone was gone, including their vehicles.

Brown’s testimony informed the jury of Bates’ presence at Wells’ home on the night the incident took place. However, after hearing the gunshots, Bates went missing and was never seen alive again.

Brown said Wells reportedly returned to the house around 30 minutes later and told him, along with a few others, that he had killed Bates.

Brown, who was 16 at the time of the incident, said the whole situation disturbed and startled him, and he immediately left Wells’ house with his friend Rakish Jenkins, another state witness.

After Bates’ body was discovered in the bed of a Dodge truck on Sept. 21, 2016, the Aiken Department of Public Safety and the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office launched a joint investigation into the murder.

Following Wells’ arrest in March 2017, police issued warrants for the arrest of Tiffany Nicole Grimes and Johnny Renard Frazier. Both were arrested and charged after evidence was found that connected them closely with the case.

Grimes and Frazier are both charged with accessory after the fact of murder, records show.

On Thursday, the jury heard testimony from several members of law enforcement who investigated the case and other witnesses.

Once the state seated its final witness, the defense announced they would not be bringing forward any witnesses and would rest.

Second Judicial Circuit Judge Doyet A. Early III, who is presiding over the case, said Thursday the state and the defense would give their final arguments Friday morning and then the jury will begin deliberation.

After hearing all the witness testimony and the closing arguments, the jury will discuss the case to ultimately determine whether Wells is guilty or not – and the jury must base its final decision solely upon the evidence presented during the trial.

The trial will continue at 10 a.m Friday at the Aiken County Courthouse on Park Avenue in downtown Aiken.