Final friend pleads in Wells murder
The fifth “friend” of Adam Wells pleaded guilty Tuesday to his part in Wells’ October murder.
Juan Cervantes Jr., 21, admitted before Judge Michael Griffin he was involved in a plan with Danny Shaw and Tyler Cruz to confront Wells, 20, on Oct. 5, for allegedly stealing marijuana from Shaw. Cervantes pleaded guilty to one count of principal to battery with the use of a deadly weapon.
Dressed in a gray suit and with his mother watching from the gallery, Cervantes said he believed he was just going to stand by and make sure no one else jumped into the fight between Shaw and the larger and stronger Wells.
But when he showed up at Shaw’s house, he learned the plot was more ominous.
“Danny and Tyler were showing me weapons and I could see they weren’t in the right state of mind,” he said.
When Wells arrived, Cervantes said he opened the door and let him in.
Shaw allegedly emerged from the bathroom and struck Wells with a bat. Cervantes said he jumped into the fray, pulling Shaw and Wells apart and grabbing the bat.
“Then I saw that Mr. Shaw and Mr. Cruz pulled out guns,” he said. “They basically told me it was in my best interest to leave.”
Cervantes said he left. He never called police.
“I was so naive to think that we were all friends for so long that something like this couldn’t happen,” he said. “I should have called police. I accept responsibility. To this day I question every day why I didn’t.”
Both Cruz and Shaw pleaded guilty to binding Wells in 84 feet of rope, striking him with bats and dumping his body off Sedge Road. It wasn’t until the following day when Shaw’s roommate Malcolm Young told his parents and police that something had happened to Wells that Shaw led police to the body in the canyon.
Young pleaded guilty to concealing evidence. Fred Bechtold, who allegedly helped Shaw and Cruz burn their clothes and bury the weapons, pleaded guilty to accessory to a felony.
In Cervantes’ plea agreement, District Attorney Noel Waters agreed to drop all other charges against him. Waters also stated in the agreement he would ask for probation and 240 days in jail.
“That seems like not much for a violent death,” the judge noted.
Griffin warned Cervantes he did not have to abide by the plea agreement and could sentence him between 40 and 120 months in prison.
“It’s important to me to know what Mr. Cervantes’ actual involvement was, and what remorse he may have had,” he said.
Wells’ parents were not happy with the resolution.
“It’s incomprehensible that he will only spend six months in jail,” Jerry Wells said following the hearing. He and his wife, Donna, have quietly sat through every proceeding since their son’s death.
Though he understands Cervantes left before his son was killed, Jerry Wells said he can’t understand why his son’s friend never called for help.
“Juan had all the tools to stop this, and he just walked away,” he said. “For that I can’t forgive him.”
Cervantes will be sentenced July 14.
Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or (775) 881-1213.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.