For Reasons Unknown

Page 2 of 12

Wells' friends visit his grave weekly, to party, meditate and roll dice.
"You want to know how good Dana was?" says Mark Corona, 24, one of his best friends. "Dana was even nice to the fat, ugly girls in high school. Most guys aren't close to that good."

Wells loved aggressive music--Sepultura, the Deftones, Clutch, Biohazard--and liked to stage dive, but his friends and family all say those tastes are misleading. Wells was mellow to the point where one word becomes two, as in mell-oooow, dude.

"Dana would just blast the music in the car. I mean, he would pull up to your house and rattle the windows. But he drove like a Sun City grandma," says Corona.

Wells didn't even get his driver's license until he was 19.
"That's the irony here," says Corona. "He was scared to drive, mainly. Guns, too. We'd go camping and he'd be scared to shoot."

Wells had piercings on his face and wore his long hair in dreadlocks, but at 5-foot-8, 120 pounds, he was hardly a menacing presence. From birth, Wells suffered from sciliac disease, which means, among other things, he couldn't drink beer.

After high school--he came a credit shy of graduating--Wells moved to Venice Beach, California, where he started his own street-wear clothing company and worked as a band publicist. He had a great ear for up-and-coming bands, and hoped to break into the music business as a talent scout.

Wells was visiting Phoenix when he got killed, handling business for his mother's entertainment management firm while she and Cristina were on tour with Sepultura.

He didn't own a car. The green Hyundai belonged to his girlfriend of eight months, Kristin Carneal, who still lived in Phoenix.

A recent weekday afternoon found Carneal baby-sitting for Gloria Cavalera in the north Phoenix home where Dana grew up, two minutes by car from where he died.

Carneal was spending the night at the Cavalera home on the night of the wreck. She remembers Shawn Thomas and Miles Graci coming to pick up Dana. She doesn't remember her boyfriend hanging out with them before. She remembers Graci's car wouldn't start, and Dana borrowing hers. Then she remembers Dana coming home sometime after 1 a.m. on August 16. She says he stayed for 10 or 15 minutes, playing a video game with his little brother Richie. She remembers Shawn Thomas in the house. Richie, now 13, remembers going to the bathroom and tripping over a phone cord. He says Thomas was on the phone, holding a scrap of paper.

Carneal recalls: "Dana came into the bedroom and told me, 'I've got to help these guys get home.' I went to sleep, and then the cops were knocking on the door, and that was it--it was over."

The first police officers on the scene were patrolmen Paul Salefsky and James Neverman, who responded separately and arrived within three minutes of the crash.

Three Phoenix Fire Department units were already there. A crowd of about 20 watched as the firemen worked to extricate the two survivors. One of the firemen told Neverman the driver was dead. Neverman moved the crowd back and strung police tape. Then he looked inside the car and observed:

"The driver hanging/laying upside down in the car. His torso was on the passenger side of the car and his legs were still pinned to the driver's side floorboard. Both front air bags were deployed. I also noticed a 12-pack of Coors beer in the rear passenger area of the car."

The firemen pulled Miles Graci from the car first. Salefsky interviewed him before he was rolled into an ambulance.

"As I spoke with Graci, he seemed coherent and answered my questions about himself," Salefsky wrote. "I did smell a faint odor of alcohol on his breath. An unidentified fireman asked him, 'How much have you had to drink?' Graci replied, 'I don't know.' I then asked him where he was sitting and he told me he was sitting in the front passenger seat. Graci said he had his seat belt on. Graci told me he did not know who was driving."

Both of Graci's legs were broken. He was transported to John C. Lincoln Memorial Hospital.

The firefighters used the "jaws of life" to pry Shawn Thomas from the wrecked Hyundai. It took several minutes, which Thomas spent with Dana Wells' body splayed over him. Witnesses heard Thomas screaming, "Get me out of here." And, "Oh my God, Dana's dead! Dana's dead!"

Thomas was transported to Lincoln Hospital with a broken jaw and facial abrasions.

Dana Wells was pronounced dead at 2:07 a.m.
Twenty minutes later, detective Don Ripley's home phone rang. He was instructed to go to 2300 East Cactus to investigate a traffic fatality.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
David Holthouse
Contact: David Holthouse

Latest Stories