Mix-up leads to teen suspect’s release

Published 7:18 pm Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A convenience store robbery Tuesday would have perhaps never have happened if it hadn’t been for an apparent mix-up in paperwork that allowed the teenage suspect to be released from jail.

Clanton police officers and Chilton County sheriff’s deputies continue searching for Timothy Jake Wells Jr., 19. Warrants have been signed for his arrest in connection with Tuesday night’s robbery of the B.P. Station near McDonald’s, according to Police Chief Brian Stilwell.

A white man entered the store with a handgun around 7:30 p.m., demanding money and making off with the cash register. The suspect fled in a white Chevy pick-up truck.

According to court records, District Court Judge Rhonda Hardesty signed an order Sept. 3 revoking the bond of Timothy Jake Wells Jr., but Sheriff Kevin Davis said the county jail never received the mandate.

Wells was first arrested July 1 for allegedly trying to steal a 4-wheeler from Action Motorsports in Clanton. He posted bond July 9 and was released from jail.

The Verbena resident was arrested again Sept. 1 on several charges, including robbing the Shell Sunny Foods Store on July 14.

After the second arrest, Assistant District Attorney Jessica Sanders asked that Wells’ bond from the initial burglary and theft charges be revoked.

Hardesty granted the request the same day, Sept. 3, requiring that Wells be held without bond on those charges until a Sept. 17, according to court records.

Before the hearing could take place, Wells was released from jail Sept. 8, after posting bond on charges in connection with his second arrest, according to Chilton County Circuit Clerk Glenn McGriff.

The mix-up apparently happened somewhere in getting paperwork from the circuit clerk’s office to the county jail.

McGriff said he didn’t know why the message didn’t get communicated.

“It was a breakdown in communication,” said McGriff. “He was released and should have been kept until a hearing to revoke his bond before Judge Hardesty.”

Davis said his office never received an order to keep Wells in jail.

“We never received an order to hold him. Every charge he has been booked for at the Chilton County Jail, there was a bond for,” Davis said. “Once the bond is paid, I have no right to continue to hold him … I can only act on paperwork I receive.”

Wells never showed up for that hearing, according to court records. He knew prosecutors were asking that his bond be revoked because Sanders had already served him a copy of the request given to Hardesty.

Had the hearing taken place, prosecutors would have asked that Wells’ bond be revoked until trial, which Hardesty could have agreed to or not.

District Attorney Randall Houston said bond is set in almost all cases. Prosecutors can ask that no bond be set, but that is usually only done in capital cases, Houston explained. Instead, the state more commonly asks that bond be revoked on previous charges for repeat offenders. That’s what happened in Wells’ case and that’s why he had a bond set for his second arrest.

Wells has been charged with a rash of break-ins and robberies this summer.

From his previous arrests, Wells faced two counts of first-degree robbery, seven counts of third-degree burglary and nine counts of theft of property.

Stilwell said his department’s main goal now is to get Wells off the streets.

“We really want to get him off the street before somebody gets hurt. We don’t want him to hurt himself, a store clerk or a police officer,” Stilwell said.

The Chilton County Sheriff’s Office is assisting with the case, Stilwell said.

Anyone with information about the case should call Clanton detectives Freddie Mayfield or Keith Maddox at 755-1194. Tips may be left anonymously.