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Wells pleads no contest to murder charge

CLIFFORD JEFFERY • Apr 21, 2007 at 12:12 PM

GATE CITY - A Dobyns-Bennett High School dropout used the house key given to him by his girlfriend to rob her father of guns that, on Aug. 30, 2003, were used to kill two men in Yuma.

Thomas Allen Wells, 22, entered a plea of nolo contendere - or no contest - to a charge of second-degree murder Friday morning.

Wells later earned a GED while in prison. Now he faces five to 40 years behind bars for the shooting death of Frank Junior Lane, 34.

Wells entered the plea in front of Scott County Circuit Court Judge John Kilgore.

Prosecutor Marcus McClung read a list of witnesses and physical evidence he was prepared to bring to trial to convict Wells.

Lane was shot 16 times. At least some of those shots came from a weapon that Wells admitted to stealing from his girlfriend's father.

Wells had told police at one point that he and Michael Vaughn, 24, of Kingsport, planned to sell the weapons to buy the drug OxyContin.

Vaughn was sentenced last week on two charges of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Vaughn was charged with the death of Lane and Verlin Shelton, 72, of Yuma.

During different interviews with police, Wells changed his story about the events of Aug. 30. He said he had dropped Vaughn off at the Shelton's home in Yuma and later returned to pick him up. He changed his story later, saying he was passed out during the murders. Wells had also said he tried to stop Vaughn from shooting, but was afraid Vaughn may also shoot him, McClung said.

When Wells entered his no-contest plea Friday, the charge against him was reduced from first- to second-degree murder. A second charge of first-degree murder involving Shelton was dismissed.

Wells also pleaded to a charge of use of a firearm during the commission of a felony, which carries a three-year prison term.

Wells is scheduled to be sentenced on May 17 on the charges.

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