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Witnesses testify in second day of Wells trial

Robert Wells and his defense attorney, Ray Smith, listen to testimony Wednesday in the second day of the jury trial at the Washington County Courthouse. (Photo by Michele Newbanks)

A long day of testimony was heard from eight witnesses Wednesday during the second day of the jury trial of a man who allegedly led law enforcement on a chase through the Beverly area.

Robert Wells, 40, of 3491 E. State Route 60, McConnelsville, was arrested in December and charged with breaking and entering, grand theft, felonious assault and failure to comply with a signal from law enforcement.

He allegedly stole an F-350 from Decker Drilling and led law enforcement on a chase through the Beverly area.

Lt. Bryan Lockhart, Det. Steve Roe, Det. Eric Augenstein, Major Troy Hawkins and Det. Robert McKee of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office testified, as did Officer Glen McClelland of the Marietta Police Department, and Janetta Long, who used to date Wells.

Lockhart, head of the detective bureau, told the court he was watching the truck for four or five hours. He told the court he saw a “skinny, white male with a scruffy beard” start the vehicle. There were road units stationed at both ends of the horseshoe road into the trailer court to try to block the truck. This description of the driver came up in testimony on more than one occasion.

Instead, the driver of the truck took the vehicle through a yard toward the river. Lockhart said the truck couldn’t get onto Ohio 339 because of a guardrail, so it turned around and ended up hitting Det. Ryan Zide’s cruiser.

Lockhart said he and Zide were trying to stop the vehicle.

“The truck had a wide open lane to the left,” he said. “He chose to ram into Zide’s car,” he said.

When the cars made their way onto Ohio 60, they were traveling at speeds of 60 to 70 mph when the “back tire came off the rim” of the pickup, Lockhart said.

There was oncoming traffic and he thought there would be a head-on collision, he said.

He also told the court BCI usually tests DNA, but didn’t this time because they would have had to test it against every employee who has driven the truck.

There was no video of the chase or of the truck

On cross-examine, Lockhart said the only vehicles with dash cams are task force vehicles. He said he hasn’t asked the sheriff’s office for dash cams.

Lockhart told Defense Attorney Ray Smith that the DNA wasn’t sent to the lab for testing.

“This is a serious case, correct? A felony one felonious assault of an officer?” asked Smith.

Augenstein, Hawkins and McKee testified as to their actions during the chase and what they were able to see in regards to Zide’s cruiser getting hit.

Zide said he was trying to park his cruiser perpendicular to Ohio 339 to block the exit. He said the driver could have stopped or gone around him. He was stationary when his car was hit.

“I saw it coming at me,” he said.

In a kennel in his vehicle was K9 unit Rita.

“She’s not buckled in,” he said, noting he doesn’t often get in pursuits because she gets jostled.

“(The collision) was pretty hard on her. She got thrown around.”

McClelland and his bloodhound, Lulu, were called in to help with the foot pursuit. He is a licensed trainer and certified instructor of K9 units.

He said Lulu was trained for “tracking and trailing.” He said he had Lulu scent the driver’s seat of the truck, then let her follow the owner’s scent. McClelland said once they reached Ohio 83, a drone took over the search.

A woman who used to date Wells, Janetta Long, was called to the stand and said she was present at the trailer when the search warrant was executed. Long said she saw him leave in a brown truck. She noted Wells told her there was an undercover police officer in the area and to be careful.

During McKee’s testimony, he said there was no search of the totaled pickup truck the day of the chase, but when it was searched, they found a piece of mail with Wells’ name on it. He verified to Smith there was no other mail addressed to Wells in the truck.

After Assistant Prosecutor Jim Schneider rested the state’s case, Wells did not take the stand. Smith then rested the defendant’s case.

Final arguments and deliberations start at 9 a.m. today in the courtroom of Common Pleas Judge Mark Kerenyi.

***

At a Glance:

¯ The second day of Robert Wells’ jury trial ended with both sides resting.

¯ Final arguments and deliberations begin at 9 a.m. today.

¯ He was charged with felonious assault, breaking and entering, theft and fleeing and eluding.

¯ He allegedly stole an F-350 from Decker Drilling and led law enforcement on a chase through the Beverly area in December.

Source: Washington County Court of Common Pleas.

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