BLAME: The Fear All These Years

He attacked his victims with a hammer — killed four of them and left two others for dead, committed multiple sexual assaults, and then vanished after a crime spree the likes of which the Denver area had never seen. For more than three decades, the unanswered questions lingered. Who? Why? 9Wants to Know — will the cases ever be solved?

  • Chapter 1: Haunted
    • Two women are bound together by family ties –- and by an attack that made no sense when it happened. It still makes no sense, and yet they’re similarly pulled apart by the fallout they’ve lived with over all these years. For them, that snowy night 35 years ago might as well have been yesterday.
  • Chapter 2: Twelve Days
    • After a middle-of-the-night hammer attack left three members of one family dead, anxiety spread through the Denver area — homeowners questioned utility workers in their yards, teachers answered difficult questions from children, and neighborhoods hired private security. But most shocking was the news there’d been other, similar assaults that hadn’t gotten any attention when they happened.

BLAME: Was the Death of Jill Wells an Accident or Murder?

On March 28, 2001, Jill Wells was shot in the head on a remote ranch on Colorado’s eastern plains. Jill’s husband said their 6-year-old son accidentally pulled the trigger — but 9Wants to Know who is really to blame?

  • Episode 1: Accident or Murder
    • Less than 24-hours after Jill Well’s death, the case into her shooting was closed. No one performed an autopsy, no ballistics testing was done and no one conducted formal interviews of the last three people to see her alive, her husband Mike and their 2 young sons. Investigators seemed to accept without question Mike Wells account of the story, that his 6-year-old son Tanner pulled the trigger. For years, dozens of people have carried a nagging doubt about that story, including 9Wants to Know investigative reporter Kevin Vaughan.
  • Episode 2: Nobody Investigated It
    • An unintelligible start to a 911 call begins the short and incomplete investigation of the death of Jill Wells. There are very few official records created in the case. A two-page police report. Crime scene photographs. Several recordings, including the only two interviews with the only witnesses to the crime, Mike Wells and his son Tanner, the 6-year-old boy blamed for shooting his own mother. Mike Well’s interview lasted less than a minute. The interview with Tanner took place with the boy on his father’s lap and lasted 1 minute and 31 seconds. But those who responded to the scene say something that wasn’t recorded that day has lingered with them all of these years. Doubt.
  • Episode 3: An Exorbitant Amount of Life Insurance
    • No fingerprints, no ballistics, no autopsy. And now, 9Wants to Know uncovers several life insurance policies, one taken out just before the shooting. Jill Wells sisters have been asking questions about how their sister died for years but they’ve never heard what we are about to tell them. Investigative reporter Kevin Vaughan walks them through the evidence and the back story he’s uncovered that brings into question Mile Well’s theory that 6-year-old Tanner Wells is the one to blame.
  • Episode 4: He Blew That One
    • What did investigators really know the day Jill Wells died? Did they know enough to definitively put the blame on a 6-year-old boy? We pull the one box of evidence off the shelf of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s department to see what investigators knew and didn’t know. Then, we put a veteran law enforcement officer on the spot, does he think enough was done to investigate the death of Jill Wells?
  • Episode 5: I’m Calling About the Jill Wells Case
    • The three people who accepted Mike Wells account of how his wife Jill died, reflect on the investigation that they left behind 15 years ago. What do they remember about that day? Did they question the story that her son pulled the trigger? Why didn’t they ask more questions? Whose ultimate decision was it to accept that 6-year-old Tanner Wells was to blame?
  • Episode 6: The Ultimate Question
    • They say hindsight is always 20/20. But in this case hindsight could mean the difference between an accident and murder. Years after her death, Jill Well’s sister convinced a new investigator to look into the case. He did all the work investigators didn’t do in 2001. Ballistics. Interviews. And, an autopsy. He was ready to ask his prime suspect “the ultimate question” when the investigation changed forever. What that new investigation uncovered, and what those involved think could still happen to change, who’s to BLAME.
  • Episode 7: For Better or Worse
    • “She was so positive, and that’s why we never knew anything was going wrong”To understand everything that was going on prior to Jill Well’s death her friends say you need to know about who she was and what she talked about in her most intimate moments with friends and family. With her faith playing a more and more important role in her life, those closest to her talk about the chasm forming in a marriage that ended with a gunshot her husband said was fired by the couple’s 6-year-old son.
  • Episode 8: Nobody’s Gonna Charge a 6-year-old
    • If Tanner Wells is to believe he didn’t shoot and kill his mother, he needs to wrap his brain around the fact his own father may be to BLAME. We needed to know if what we were uncovering would be damaging to a young man who had already been through so much. We shared everything we’ve learned about the death of Jill Wells with a forensic psychologist. Should Tanner know about a system that failed his mother? Something we try to answer on this episode of BLAME.
  • Thanksgiving Minisode
    • Eight Episodes into BLAME and we a hearing a lot of feedback from people connected to the case. We want to hear from you too. Who should we be interviewing? Where should we look next? Have we missed something? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page 9Wants to Know or use #BLAMEpodcast.
  • Episode 9: The Aha Moment
    • In every report, every interview about Jill Wells death, her husband said she was prone on the ground, target shooting with her left index finger on the trigger. First responders to the scene say they were shocked to learn that. They’re now talking about what one described as the “Aha” moment. It’s why some of them are now talking about the case at all. Find out why on this episode of BLAME. Join the discussion https://www.facebook.com/groups/590724054462662/
  • Episode 10: You Don’t Have to be a Doctor to be a Coroner?
    • In Colorado, anyone can hold the job of county coroner – you don’t need a medical degree or any special work experience. Just as the family of Jill Wells found out how crucial the coroner can be in a death investigation, so have others in cases around the state – cases initially thought to be accidents or suicides that turned out to be something else.
  • Episode 11: An Immediate Kill
    • Everyone who has looked into Jill’s death has a theory on the case – and on the role her husband, Mike Wells, may have played in an incident that remains shrouded in mystery. For some, the suspicions took hold almost immediately. For others, the initial seeds of doubt were tremors that grew over time.
  • Episode 12: What We Think Happened is Almost Never What Happened
    • At the center of the pursuit of the truth about the death of Jill Wells stands her son, Tanner. He is the only one who knows what he thinks about this pursuit, who knows what he has thought about all these years. Listen as he shares his thoughts on the effort to answer questions about his mother’s death. And as Dr. Max Wachtel, a forensic psychologist, discusses the fallibility of human memory. Is it possible that what Tanner remembers isn’t exactly what happened?
  • Episode 13: Dreams and Developments
    • Nearly a year after 9NEWS began investigating the shooting death of Jill Wells, the potential for new developments is real. Various public officials are discussing what steps they ought to take – if any – to try to answer the most important question in the case: Was a 6-year-old really to blame?
  • Episode 14: We’ve Been Waiting a Long Time for This
    • It’s been three months since we wrapped up an in-depth look at the 2001 shooting death of Jill Wells, a killing her husband blamed on the couple’s six-year-old son. Now, there’s an update — one public official saw our reports and took action and another is back at work, trying to answer the lingering question: Was a boy really to blame for his mother’s death?


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