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Legal Proceedings End In Murder-For-Hire Case With 2 Life Sentences

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4) – A man responsible for the murder of his estranged wife and her brother-in-law avoided the death penalty on Thursday in Douglas County Court, and his alleged accomplice did the same.

Chris Wells pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree murder Thursday morning at the Douglas County Justice Center and was sentenced to life in prison without parole for each count.

He did not address the court and was emotionless, looking at the floor during the duration of the sentencing.

The bodies of Amara Wells and Robert Rafferty were found inside Rafferty's home near Castle Rock in February 2011. Amara Wells was living there while she was in the process of divorcing Chris Wells.

Family members of the victims did not hold back their feelings in court.

"I wish with all my heard that Josiah would be executed," said Dorlelie Rafferty, Robert Rafferty's mother.

"There are only two people in love with Chris Wells today. One would be God. One would be Chris Wells. There is only one safe Chris Wells and that is a dead Chris Wells," said Amara's father Dr. Harry Walter.

Wells' attorney read his statement to his daughter -- Alex -- stating that he loved her very much and that she was the best thing that happened to him. The defense also gave the court a DVD of Wells for his daughter to view. The disc contained Wells' message to her. The family agreed to take it for the benefit of Alex to view at a later time. Wells is not allowed to have any contact with his daughter due to a restraining order that is effective until the end of his prison sentence.

"While Chris is rotting in jail, I will experience her [Alex's] life," said Amara's brother-in-law Jack Brown. "I get to walk her down the aisle, be there as she has children. I am so thankful for those things because none of them Chris Wells is capable of."

Brown is married to Amara's sister. The couple has custody of Alex and will raise her.

Josiah Sher carried out the murder after Chris Wells planned the killings from behind bars. Sher agreed to a plea deal in court Thursday afternoon and similarly avoid the death penalty.

Police outside the home in February 2011 (credit: CBS)

During legal negotiations Wells' attorney says his client realized his daughter, 6-year-old Alex, would have to testify if his and Sher's cases went to trial.

"His motivation was purely the love for that child regardless of what you heard here in court today," said Wells' attorney Tina Tussay.

Douglas County DA's Office spokesman Brett Cochran said the family of the victims had no doubt about what sentences the men deserved.

"The family in this case believes that Mr. Sher and Mr. Wells deserve the death penalty," said Douglas County DA's Office spokesman Brett Cochran. "We spared a child from having to testify and we ended the grief of the victims so that they could begin the healing process."

Wells coerced his friend Micah Woody to carry out the slayings with Sher and another man, Matthew Plake. Woody purchased the gun and gave it to Sher to carry out the crimes while Plake waited outside in the car.

Wells and Rafferty were both shot and stabbed in the neck.

Bob Rafferty and Amara Wells
Bob Rafferty and Amara Wells (credit: CBS)

Prosecutors say Alex was in the home and woke up when she heard her mother screaming. She said she saw Sher attacking Rafferty and then ran to a neighbor's house to call 911. Rafferty's wife -- Chris Wells' sister -- was also allegedly an intended target that night. Tammy Rafferty was out of town at the time.

"I stand here as a victim but also as an intended target. My own brother made the decision to have us killed. My own brother. But he has no soul, no conscious, no remorse and for that he has no worth. He's been dead to us for one year and 28 days," said Tammy Rafferty.

Woody and Plake entered guilty pleas to lesser charges earlier this month and both were given sentences of 48 years in prison. Woody said he was using drugs and alcohol at the time and that they clouded his judgement. He told the court he never thought the murder plot would be carried out.

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