Murder suspect pleads guilty to lesser charge

SURRY COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) – A man charged with murder in a Surry County teen’s shooting death accepted a plea deal for a lesser charge Tuesday.

WAVY News’ Jason Marks was in the courtroom as Ronnie Wells pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

About 250 people were at a graduation party along Alliance Road in 2012 when a fight broke out. Deputies say Wells and several others fired guns into the crowd and Ty’Quan Johnson was hit and killed while running for cover.

Johnson had a bright future ahead of him as an honor student with a football scholarship to North Carolina Wesleyan. For two years, his parents have fought for justice for their son, and they feels as if justice still hasn’t been served.

“I can’t even talk, that’s how upset I am,” said Johnson’s mother, Katina White. “I just don’t understand the charge, because he had first-degree murder and now he’s ready to walk for killing Ty’Quan.”

Special Prosecutor Isle of Wight Commonwealth’s Attorney Wayne Farmer told the court the evidence of the shooting was very limited. There were a lot bullets fired that night, and many of the witnesses have chosen to stay silent.

One witness, however, saw Wells firing a gun. Deputies found a .40 caliber casing where Wells was seen shooting. They also found a box for a .40 caliber gun at his home. The gun wasn’t recovered, but a .40 caliber bullet was pulled from Johnson’s body.

Even with that testimony, Farmer thought it was best to make a deal and avoid trial.

So on Tuesday, Wells told the judge he didn’t want to chance the case going before a jury and pleaded guilty, meaning he’ll receive less jail time.

“Even if they couldn’t charge murder one [in a trial], even with the multiple charges that [Wells] had, he would have got more than four years,” said Leon Johnson, Ty’Quan’s father. “That’s just a chance I would have been willing to take.”

In total, seven men have been charged in connection to Johnson’s death and most have accepted plea deals for lesser charges in exchange for their testimony against two of the defendants. Wells was the last of the suspects charged with murder; he will be sentenced for involuntary manslaughter in July.

The last defendant in the case, Robert Rose, still faces a trial on a charge of attempted murder.

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