Phoenix police are still seeking clues in the murder of the 17-year-old daughter of two prominent Tempe residents.
A local resident taking out trash in an alley near 18th Place and Roeser Road about 9:30 a.m. on Monday spotted what appeared to be a person sleeping and called police. Cops found the body of Brianna Wells. She had suffered "trauma" to the body, police said, and one news outlet reported that she had been beaten.
Wells is the adopted daughter of Dave Wells, a well-known lecturer with Arizona State University's Interdisciplinary Studies Program, and Rochelle Wells, Tempe Elementary School District Governing Board president.
Police don't know whether Wells was killed in the troubled South Phoenix neighborhood where her body was found. It's only a few miles from the college town of Tempe, where she had recently attended Marcos De Niza High School.
Wells had been going through a turbulent time at home before her murder. She chose to live primarily with her father during her parents' divorce last year, court records show. Dave and Rochelle Wells adopted Brianna when she was 7 through the state Child Protective Services' foster program.
A custody plan submitted to family court in October and signed by both parents states that visitation with Rochelle "would be partially dependent on Brianna's decision and can only be implemented if Rochelle feels Brianna is not a potential threat to her personal safety due to past violent outbursts."
Cops said they'd had previous contacts with the teen, describing her as a "chronic runaway" with high-risk behaviors.
Phoenix police Sergeant Trent Crump had a simple plea to the public: "We suspect that people may have some reservations from coming forward, but if you aren't going to come forward in a case if a 17-year-old, when are you going to come forward?"
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Police ask that people who may know something call 602-262-6141 or use Silent Witness.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.