Former friends testify against suspect in 2016 murder as trial begins
A trial began Wednesday for an Aiken man facing serious time for the murder of 21-year-old Denzel Bates.
Bates’ body was found in the back of a truck on Rushton Road in September 2016.
Dawon Jacques Wells, 21, is charged with murder, two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime and unlawful carrying of a pistol, according to jail records.
He also faces an attempted murder charge stemming from a separate July 2016 shooting incident at a Graniteville apartment complex.
The state brought forward several witnesses, including two former friends of Wells, to take the stand Wednesday.
Rakish Breon Jenkins, 20, of Aiken, testified that he witnessed Wells shoot Bates outside Wells’ home on Rushton Road on Sept. 21, 2016.
Solicitors played a video for the jury of Jenkins telling investigators his version of what happened on the night Bates was killed. However, he claimed in court Wednesday that he lied about some of his statements in the video.
Jenkins claimed to have been standing by Wells in the driveway when the shooting occurred, going as far to say Wells shot Bates multiple times to “make sure he was dead.”
He said he started crying after the shooting, claiming he had “never seen nothing like that before.”
Jenkins was brought in to testify Wednesday directly from the Aiken County detention center, where he is being held without bond on the charges of three counts of attempted murder, carrying weapons on school property, two counts of unlawful carrying of a pistol and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, according to jail records.
Jenkins is the main suspect charged in a shooting incident that took place outside South Aiken High School in January 2017, where a gun was fired into a crowd and injuring three people.
Dr. Janice Ross, a board approved forensic pathologist, also testified on Wednesday. She performed the autopsy on Bates’ body following the murder.
Ross said she was able to determine Bates died because he bled out after being shot multiple times, with one of the bullets hitting his heart and a main artery.
The last witness to testify against Wells on Wednesday was an 18-year-old former friend.
This witness claimed to have come over to Wells’ house on Sept. 21, 2016. He said he was inside the house on the couch when he heard gunshots from outside.
“I took cover,” the witness said. “I then went outside to see what was going on and I saw nothing. No cars. No people.”
After around 30 minutes, Wells returned to the house and told the witness, and a few others, they shouldn’t have been there that night. Wells then allegedly admitted to shooting and killing Bates.
On Sept. 21, 2016, Aiken Public Safety officers responded to Rushton Road near Wrights Mill Road, where Bates’ body was discovered in the bed of a Dodge truck.
A joint investigation into the murder by both Aiken Public Safety and the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office led to the arrest of Wells in March 2017; the investigation also led to the arrests of Tiffany Nicole Grimes and Johnny Renard Frazier – both of whom were charged with accessory after the fact of murder, records show.
Well’s trial will continue Thursday morning at the Aiken County Courthouse on Park Avenue in downtown Aiken. The jury will hear any final witnesses from the state and then the defense will move forward with any witnesses they want to take the stand.