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A grand jury in Georgia decided this week not to indict a teenager accused of shooting his abusive father to death last year.
The 15-year-old admitted to shooting 66-year-old Wesley Jordan Wells in the head with a rifle, according to local Augusta station WJBF. Gales was found dead on the family’s back porch in rural Appling.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call from the rural home in October of 2020 in what was initially reported as a CPR in progress, according to NBC-affiliate WRDW News. A second call came in from an individual who said that there was blood everywhere.
When deputies arrived, they separated the minor from his mother. They also said that they heard indications that the victim had been shot by his son, according to a sheriff’s office release cited by WRDW.
Gales had a history of violence. According to sheriff’s office records, he was arrested on March 11, 2020, on charges of battery/family violence and cruelty to children, as reported by WRDW. Deborah Gales, his wife, claimed her husband had drunk alcohol and engaged in a verbal altercation. During that incident, Gales threw a DVD player down the hallway. When the son went to pick it up, Gales screamed profanities, ordering the boy to leave it where it landed.
Deborah Gales told authorities her husband punched her in the face and eye before dragging her down the hallway in front of their son, WDRW reported. She said she became dizzy and fell. While on the floor, Gales kicked her in the forehead.
“[The son] would come to school with bruises on him,” a friend told WJBF. “He never talked about his dad.”
After the teenager admitted that he’d shot his father with a .22 caliber Marlin semiautomatic rifle, authorities charged him as an adult, according to WJBF. The following day, Superior Court Judge J. Wade Padgett signed a signature bond ordering for the immediate release of the boy pending a possible trial.
The suspect told investigators that he shot his father because “he had enough of his father abusing his mother,” according to records cited by the local station.
Friends and community members quickly came to the boy’s defense and a GoFundMe page was created on behalf of Deborah Gales. Supporters claimed more should have been done to protect the teen and prevent the shooting.
“The police visited the home multiple times since 2011,” the GoFundMe page stated. “No action was taken to remove this family from the danger in the home. He pleaded for help on multiple occasions, and the system failed him.”
The mother of one of the suspect’s friends said that he deserves widespread support in Appling.
“For a 15-year-old boy, that situation seems hopeless, and he felt that he had to take matters into his own hands. And our hearts are breaking for him," she said. “I think our community needs to rally around him and show him how much he’s loved and to not be ashamed.”
On Wednesday, Columbia County District Attorney Bobby Christine said that a grand jury representing “the combined wisdom of our community,” decided there was no cause to indict the minor.
When contacted by Oxygen.com, Christine noted that he took office after the 2020 homicide.
"A decision needed to be made," Christine said. "The jury has spoken."