Nothing to Live For, Part 1

By May 1941 Alfred Wells had been in trouble with the law for most of his 31 years. In 1927 he was sentenced to from 18 months to three years in Pittsburgh, PA for robbery, and in September, 1934, he was arrested while robbing a gas station in Fullerton, CA. He served five years of a five to life sentence in San Quentin before he was paroled on November 24, 1939. Over the next couple of years he was busted for vagrancy and various other petty crimes, but nothing big enough to send him back to prison.

wells_mug 1935_resize_cropAlfred was neither the brightest guy, nor was he the most articulate, so his go-to behaviors for problem solving were threats and violence. He had learned his people skills at home as a kid. His stepfather used to restrain him while his half-brother, Ray, savagely beat him. He was the perfect size for a punching bag (4′ 10 3/8″ according to his prison records), and he was slightly hunchbacked. He was described as having “very dark brown or black hair, a knot on back just above waist, very pronounced hunchback, limps when walks, leans forward and to left when walks, knife wounds left side of abdomen, left hip and back.” With no report of a traumatic injury to his spine, Alfred’s hump may have been the result of congenital kyphosis. If there was any medical help available for the condition at the time neither Alfred nor his family could have afforded it.

Not long after his parole Alfred moved to San Bernardino. Most of his family lived there and no matter what they had done to him at least they were blood.  He asked his stepmother, Violet Wells Davis, if his 19 year old half-sister, Violet, could work as his live-in housekeeper. She agreed and when Violet went to live with Alfred nobody thought anything of it. None of the family knew that Alfred had become obsessed with Violet and that he immediately coerced her into a sexual relationship. Alfred threatened to kill family members and/or himself if Violet ever left him. The incestuous relationship was kept a secret for nearly a year before relatives finally became aware of what was happening and, without saying a word to Alfred, spirited away the object of his obsessive lust to her parent’s home in Escondido. When he learned that Violet had disappeared, and nobody would admit to knowing where she had gone, Alfred went berserk.

On May 7, 1941Jean Wells, Ray’s wife, their 13 month old daughter, Hester Violet, and a house guest, 17 year old Rose Destree, drove Alfred out to the Devore brush lands, ostensibly for a job at a chicken ranch. When they arrived at a secluded spot Alfred forced the two women from the car  and then confronted them with a gun. He demanded to know the whereabouts of Violet, but neither woman would talk. Alfred then demanded that Jean write a note to Ray–it read: “Honey, Al is holding Rosie and the baby and me. He wants Violet returned to him. I think it is better that you do what he says and go with him, and then you can come to us.” Jean must have sensed she had little time left so she added a postscript: “Don’t forget our slogan, Dear–I love you always.”wells_jean_picAlfred pocketed the note and held the baby in the crook of his left arm. Then he jammed his .32 caliber revolver against Jean’s chest and pulled the trigger. She died where she fell. He turned the weapon on Rose and fired. She collapsed on the hard, sandy ground, just as Jean had done. Altogether Alfred fired four shots, two into each of his victims. He placed Hester on Jean’s chest. Even if she lived through the night, Hester faced a horrible death the next day–the temperatures were expected to reach triple digits.

Satisfied with his handiwork Alfred turned away from his victims, got into the car, and drove away. He was determined to locate Violet.

NEXT TIME: Alfred’s search for Violet, and his deadly rampage, continues.

7 thoughts on “Nothing to Live For, Part 1

  1. This article that you have written seems to be pretty accurate. Hester Viloet Wells is my late mother. She passed away 11years ago. I had heard the stories of my grandparents tragic death and have read newspaper clippings. I teared up at the point where she clinged to her mother. Alfred was a very sick man and deserved the death penalty as he was a threat to society. My heart aches as to that he took her parents lives the way that he did. Yet seemed to have concern for my mother as he left his coat wrapped around her.

    • Darla, thank you for the update on Hester. It was a tragic case and I agree with you that Alfred was a sick man. It is right that he
      paid with his life for the pain he caused. –Joan

  2. Oh what a horrible story, what a horrific way to die, protecting someone you know and probably loved, i pray he on his judgement day gets no mercy what so ever.

    • Teresa – It is one of the saddest stories I’ve ever written about. Alfred paid for his cruelty with his life, and that is justice in this world at least. –Joan

      • Joan,
        this is a part of our family history that was never revealed much to my sisters and I. I am Norman Wells the son of Norman Wells stated at one part in the article. He was Raymond’s brother. Any connections that I may be able to make with hester wells’ family would be appreciated.
        Norman R Wells

  3. Joan, my thanks to you for sharing this story. Ray and Jean were my grandparents and Hester Violet (Joyce Dietz) was my mother. It was no doubt a story that was told to us throughout the years and one that we could not fully comprehend until adulthood. This story does have happy endings. I have read that Alfred did seek Christ before his death as I can only hope and pray it was a true confession and he is now in the Kingdom of Heaven with the Lord. I know that he had brokenness in his life as we all do and sinned greatly as we all do. Death by man reconciles nothing and does not Glorify God. My mother did suffer greatly in the loss and emptiness of her parents and other horrific dark spaces in her life but it was Christ who rescued and adopted her into God’s family that gave her a place she would always call home and a peace beyond all understanding. My father became the love of her life and God blessed her with 7 children in all. She had forgiven much as she had much to be forgiven and she loved the Lord with all her heart and that is the ending she left us. To seek His counsel and teach our children in His ways. Many blessings and love to you.
    Sincerely, Daneta Jean

    • I am the son of Norman Wells, Rays brother. This is a horrific story, yet much good has survived, through this hardship. I am in awe that I have a cousin first removed that I have never met. I also have two sisters that are interested. this was always kept as mostly a secret from us. I dont know if you will see this but please do reply

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