A son allegedly murdered his mother in a vacant Evansville, Indiana, home and unfriended her on Facebook weeks later, on the same day the victim was identified by name for the first time in local news story, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Jaron Anthony Michael Wells, 28, was arrested Monday in Harrisburg, Illinois, after a warrant was issued that day in the murder of 45-year-old Shanay Michelle Hunt.
Hunt, a woman “known to stay in abandoned houses,” was last heard from on July 8 and she was found dead in a residence on 1009 Harriet Street on July 14 by a man who said he used to live there, the Evansville Police Department said.
The man told cops he was upset his daughter was in the ICU at a hospital nearby, so he went out and walked to his former residence and happened to notice a “foul odor coming from the home” at the back of the property.
“He stated that he opened the window on the back side of the home and went inside. As he walked in, he observed the deceased lying on a mattress covered in maggots. He stated that he felt unwell and ran out of the home,” the affidavit said. “He did not have a phone so he went across the street to Aurora [which assists the homeless population] to have the employees call authorities.”
Authorities said that when they got to the scene, they could smell that Hunt had been decomposing “for some time.”
“The home was in a complete state of disarray with trash all over the place and several holes in the floor and walls. The deceased was in a middle room on a mattress,” the affidavit said. “She was laying on her back, covered in maggots.”
By July 17, investigators had confirmed that Hunt had been shot in the head and that the bullet was a “very particular and seldomly used type of ammunition”: a .45 GAP (Glock Auto Pistol) round.
The next day, detectives spoke with an employee of a nearby gas station. According to the affidavit, the employee said she knew Hunt and knew that she “frequented the gas station with her son,” but that she did not know the son’s name.
Cops were then able to track down Jaron Wells’ ex-girlfriend after speaking with an Evansville Inn and Suites employee who recognized Hunt, the affidavit said.
The ex said she and Jaron had broken up “due to the ‘weird’ situation between Wells and his mother.”
Detectives said that Hunt’s friend Donna later revealed that last spoke with her on July 8, after Shanay had an argument with Jaron.
“She stated that Shanay told her that she would be okay and would call her again later. Shanay Hunt never called her again,” documents said.
The friend asked her son to reach out to Wells by Facebook Messenger, and when he did, the suspect allegedly said that following of Hunt: “[S]he said some foul stuff about my dead father and that was the last time I seen or spoke to her.”
On July 31, Wells’ sister Kayleigh Reeves told cops her brother and mother had a “rocky” relationship.
“She stated that she knew something was wrong with her mother when she suddenly stopped posting on Facebook,” the affidavit said. “She stated that she knew Jaron and her mom were living together in Evansville. She stated that she knew they were homeless and would bounce around between vacant homes.”
Reeves described her brother as a violent, controlling, “bum” with anger issues.
After the call with Reeves ended, she called back to say Wells messaged her that their mother was dead. But he claimed to have nothing to do with that, saying he had been in Texas for the last month — even though cell phone evidence allegedly proved that was not the case.
What was the suspect actually doing in the days and weeks after Hunt’s death?
Frantically scouring media outlets’ and the Evansville Police Department’s Facebook pages for updates, cops said.
Detectives said Wells “never searched for any news organization through his Facebook page” from June 1 to July 7, but starting on July 8 — the day of the alleged murder — those searches were in the dozens.
“I began to count and found that after Hunt’s murder he searched over fifty times for different news media in a nine-day period,” documents said,.
The evidence further showed, authorities alleged, that Wells unfriended his mother on Facebook on July 28, the day local NBC affiliate WFIE reported that Shanay Hunt was found dead in the home.
Notably, cops claimed to find additional Facebook messages from June where Wells talked to a woman about wanting to use a “45” in an act of revenge against a boss.
“In the messages, it is obvious that he is angry with his boss over not getting paid money that he states he is owed,” cops said.
Those alleged messages were: “[R]eally thinking about going up the road and blowing his s— back with my 45”; and “I had to unload my pistol I was gonna go up there and talk to him in person but I knew that would have ended badly for him his dad and everyone else at the job my hands are sweating I am scared for this man.”
Jaron Wells did not go to his mother’s funeral, Reeves said, and he never once reached out to authorities to ask about his mother’s death, according to the affidavit.
Hunt’s obituary said she was survived by her son, daughter, and a granddaughter.
“Shanay had a passion for life and carried a profound love for God in her heart. Her life wasn’t always easy but she found a way to always keep pushing forward with a resilient smile on her face,” the obit said.
Wells was booked into the Saline County Jail in Illinois, where he awaits exradition to Indiana.
Read the affidavit here.
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