Dawon Jacques Wells enters the courtroom at the Aiken County Judicial Center for a retrial. Wells is on trial for the 2016 murder of Denzel Bates. 

A retrial for the suspect in a 2016 murder began Tuesday at the Aiken County Judicial Center.

Dawon Jacques Wells, 21, of Aiken is charged with the 2016 murder of Denzel Bates. 

Bates' body was found in the back of a truck on Sept. 21, 2016, that was parked in the woods on Rushton Road near Wrights Mill Road after the Aiken County Sheriff's Office responded to a suspicious vehicle call.

A joint investigation soon followed with investigators from the Sheriff's Office, the Aiken Department of Public Safety and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. 

A six-month investigation led police to name Wells as a suspect, leading to his arrest in March 2017. 

Wells pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder, two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime and unlawful carrying of a pistol.

During a trial in February 2019, the jury was deadlock twice, and the judge officially declared a mistrial. 

A date was set for a retrial and a new jury was selected. 

The new jury heard from witnesses brought forward by the state to take the stand. 

Former deputy David Smith testified about the night he responded to the call for the suspicious vehicle. 

He told the jury he found the truck still on in the woods with music blaring. 

After approaching the vehicle, Smith said he found Bates unresponsive. 

Several other witnesses were called to the stand including two individuals who pointed out Wells in the courtroom as Bate's murderer. 

Rakish Breon Jenkins, 21, of Aiken, testified a second time that he witnessed Wells shoot Bates outside Wells' home on George Street in Crosland Park.


Rakish Breon Jenkins testified for a second time in the case of Dawon Wells. Jenkins told the court he was present at the time Wells allegedly shot and killed Bates. 

Jenkins was brought in to testify from the Aiken County detention center, where he is being held without bond on three counts of attempted murder, carrying weapons on school property, two counts of unlawful carrying of a pistol and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, according to jail records.

His charges stem from a shooting incident that took place outside South Aiken High School in January 2017, where a gun was fired into a crowd and injured three people.

Jenkins testified that he, Bates and a couple other friends were hanging out at Wells' home on Sept. 20. 

The group had smoked marijuana, played video games and hung out in front of the house, Jenkins said. 

Jenkins said he later witnessed the suspect walk back inside the house and put on a jacket and gloves despite the weather being warm. 

Jenkins said he then witnessed Bates walk to his truck, which was parked in front of the home, to check his phone and was walking back to the house when Wells fired several shots at the victim, eventually killing him and loading the victim into the back of the victim's truck.

Jenkins said he and another witness followed behind Wells who was driving the victim's truck until he parked it off Rushton Road.

Another witness who took the stand said he was inside when the shooting happened and hid behind a couch. 

Roughly 30 minutes later, the witness said Wells returned home, told the witness and another person he had killed Bates, and told them to go home. 

Jenkins told the court Wells took off his clothes and burned them in a grill in the home's backyard. 

The other witness testified that he did not recall Wells burning anything in the grill and Public Safety admitted to never searching the home's grill despite conducting a search of the residence. 

The defense alleged Jenkins was dishonest and was only confessing to receive a lesser sentence for his current charges. 

Both Jenkins and the second witness had confessed to lying to police when they were first asked about the murder earlier in the investigation. 

Wells' lawyer also questioned the witnesses about the victim being a drug dealer who sold marijuana.  

The last individual called to the stand was a digital forensics examiner for the Aiken Department of Public Safety. 

The examiner testified to examining a cellphone SIM card that the prosecution said had been found in the suspect's home. 

Public Safety was able to extract information and discovered the card produced the same phone number as the victim's phone.

The prosecution also said police found a cellphone battery with a bullet hole in the suspect's front yard. 

Presiding judge Courtney Clyburn-Pope dismissed the jury around 4:30 p.m.

The trial continues Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. 

Matthew Enfinger is the crime and courts reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @matt_enfinger