Pair told to appear before grand jury
COLFAX – For the first time since the September slaying of University of Idaho football player Eric McMillan, the two men suspected in his death will be in Idaho.
Matthew and James Wells, who are being held in Washington for a trial on felony eluding charges, will be transported across the state line next week for a grand jury investigation.
Prosecutors in Latah County, Idaho, would not say why they convened a grand jury, but it is likely to further investigate the death of McMillan, who was shot Sept. 19 in the doorway of his Moscow apartment. According to the two-page subpoena filed in Whitman County Superior Court, Matthew Wells, 27, and James Wells, 25, both of Seattle, have been called to testify on Wednesday.
Several people who heard gunshots from the parking lot next door said they saw two men flee in a newer white BMW. Following up on the witnesses’ descriptions, police in Washington spotted a BMW headed north and west out of Pullman. That started a pursuit that hit speeds of up to 110 mph and lasted four hours, say police reports. The suspects, Matthew and James Wells, were stopped by the Washington State Patrol about 150 miles away, in Vantage.
Now the brothers face attempted eluding charges in Washington and murder charges in Idaho.
On Friday, the Wells brothers’ attorneys argued that requiring the pair to travel to Idaho to be questioned in a closed investigation in which they are likely the chief suspects violates their civil rights,
The Idaho judge is asking the court to send a man to a secret inquiry without representation in a place where he is charged with murder, said Steve Martonick, Matthew Wells’ attorney.
But Judge David Frazier said he had no information on the record that the Latah County grand jury investigation was looking at the criminal actions of the Wells brothers. He also noted that they are named in the subpoenas as necessary and material witnesses and that the law requires them to appear. Frazier released them to go to Idaho, but required that they be in the custody of an officer for the duration of their one-day visit.
Because grand jury proceedings are secret, Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson would not discuss the Wellses’ subpoenas, but did say that any witness in a grand jury investigation could request court-appointed counsel. Whether he got one would be up to the judge, said Thompson. He also said that under Idaho law, attorneys are not allowed to accompany witnesses into the grand jury room, but could wait outside if their clients wanted to step out and ask a question.
Both of the Wellses’ Washington attorneys plan to be at the courthouse in Idaho to provide counsel to their clients, even though they’re not representing the Wells brothers on the Idaho murder charges.
Attorney Mark Monson said he will advise James Wells not to answer the grand jury’s questions, on the grounds that he might incriminate himself in both the Idaho murder case and the Washington eluding case. “They’re not going to learn anything,” he said. “Certainly not from my client.”
Under the Idaho subpoenas, the Wellses are immune from their Idaho arrest warrants and cannot be detained there after the grand jury is through with them. They should travel there and back to jail in Washington the same day. More details about the Idaho homicide may come out the week of Nov. 15 in the Wellses’ Washington trials, as Prosecutor Denis Tracy plans to use evidence from the murder case in the felony eluding charges.
Tracy said the case against Matthew Wells, the alleged driver during the pursuit, simply requires proof that he knew he was being pursued and didn’t stop.
But the charge of being an accomplice to felony eluding against James Wells, the passenger, is more complex. Tracy plans to tap into information about the crime in Idaho to show that James Wells had an interest in eluding the police. That information might include items officers said the passenger threw from the car during the pursuit.
The Washington trials may be buying time for Idaho investigators, who have not revealed if they have a motive for the homicide and have not yet reported finding the murder weapon.
It doesn’t appear that McMillan, who moved to Moscow from California, and the Wells brothers, who grew up in Seattle and went to college out of state, had a prior connection.