CASTLE ROCK, Colo., Aug. 25, 2011 -- Details of a gruesome murder-for-hire plot in rural Colorado came to light in pretrial hearings for co-defendants Christopher Wells, Micah Woody, Josiah Sher and Matthew Plake Tuesday and Wednesday in Douglas County District Court.
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The lead investigator in the case revealed previously sealed details of the brutal Feb. 23, 2011, murders of 39-year-old Amara Wells and her brother-in-law, 49-year-old Robert Rafferty Jr. Douglas County Sheriff Sgt. Jason Weaver testified Tuesday and Wednesday, describing horrific new details including the horror lived out by Amara and Christopher Wells' 6-year-old daughter Alex.
Weaber testified that the young girl watched a man who she said "looked like a ninja" shoot her mom in the back. Alex told investigators she had to step over her dead mom's body and go upstairs only to witness the murder of her uncle Robert. She said that's when the suspect saw her and chased her through the house. She hid in her room and then ran out the garage to her neighbor's home, Weaber testified.
Douglas County Sheriffs Office got the 911 call from the neighbor's home and responded to the Rafferty house. Weaver described the gruesome scene he found upon arriving at the house. Weaver testified that he entered the home and found teeth scattered on the main floor that lead to Robert Rafferty's body. Weaver told the court that he found Rafferty in a pool of blood, shot in the chest, beaten and stabbed in the neck multiple times.
Weaver went on to testify that he then found Amara Wells' body covered in blood near the stairs. Weaver told the court at first that he couldn't see any gunshot wounds because there was so much blood. He did however see a knife wound -- her neck was slit open.
In a taped interview with suspect Josiah Sher the day of his arrest on charges of first degree murder, Sher explained the slit neck:
Weaver asked Sher, "Why did you slit her neck?" Sher replied, "To finish her."
The videotaped interview at the Douglas County Sheriff's office was shown in open court only after Sher's attorney objected to the viewing, saying that showing this video in open court could now "taint the jury pool." The other defense attorneys did not agree and argued that the video should be shown. After hearing the arguments, Judge Paul King ruled the video would be shown in the open court pretrial hearing.
The more than two-hour interview between Weaver and Sher revealed what Sher claimed was the truth of what happened the night Robert Rafferty and Amara Wells were killed. During the interrogation, Sher admitted he was the one who killed Rafferty and Wells. He said he was approached by co-defendant Micah Woody about a week before the murders with an alleged offer from Christopher Wells to kill his wife, Amara, brother-in-law Robert and Well's blood sister, Tamara Rafferty.
Sher told Weaver in the February interview that Woody offered him $10,000 for killing Amara, $5,000 to kill Robert and an additional $5,000 to kill Tamara. Sher said he never met Christopher Wells or spoke with him. He told Weaver he only knew that Wells allegedly wanted this done because Woody claimed Wells had asked him to do this.
Weaver asked Sher if he had any illegal drug problems. That's when Sher stated that he had done cocaine in the hours before Amara and Robert were killed. Sher also told Weaver he'd been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after his recent deployment to Iraq and that he had been medicated and was seeing a therapist for the PTSD.
In the taped interview, Sher told Weaver how he entered the home, went downstairs and found Amara's room. Weaber asked him if he went into Amara's room and shot her with a revolver. Sher said he did, and then said he tossed the gun. At that point Sher said Amara got up and tried to run. That's when he said he fired a gun, with one bullet going through the wall. Weaver then told Share it landed next to the bed of Amara's sleeping 6-year-old daughter Alex. Sher said in the interview he then stabbed Amara at the bottom of the stairs.
Weaver testified to the court today that in the Douglas County coroner's autopsy report, Amara suffered a gunshot wound to the face and had her neck slit open.
As the videotaped interrogation of Josiah Sher continued, the court learned more about what happened the night Amara and Robert were killed.
Sher told Weaver that after he killed Amara he went upstairs and found Robert Rafferty standing at the top of the stairs with a shotgun. Sher told Weaver he was hit a couple of times by Rafferty. One of the hits left a mark on Sher's forehead in the shape of an elk. Weaver testified to the court Tuesday that Rafferty was found wearing a ring with an elk in the same shape on it.
Sher said he punched Rafferty, causing a number of his teeth to be knocked out. Sher said that's when the fight ended up with him on the ground and Rafferty on top of him. Sher said his military training kicked in and he was able to grab his gun and shoot Rafferty in the chest. Weaber asked Sher in the interview if he then stabbed Rafferty, he said he did.
Tamara Rafferty, the blood sister of Christopher Wells and the wife of Robert Rafferty, was not home at the time of the murders, Weaver testified that Tamara was in Minnesota the that night. In the taped interview, Sher said he was only going to make $15,000 for the murders instead of $20,000 because Tamara was not there. He said he was never told to kill 6-year-old Alex.
Sher told Weaver in the interview that he was not alone at the Rafferty home. After more than an hour of Weaver asking Sher who that person was, Sher finally admitted it was now co-defendant Matthew Plake who helped him first scout out the Rafferty home the weekend before the murders, and he alleges it was Plake who drove him to the home and away from the home after the murders.
Wednesday morning in Douglas County Court, the prosecution showed the sheriff's taped interview of Matthew Plake. For the first hour of the February interview, Plake adamantly denied he was near the Rafferty home in the early morning hours of Feb. 23.
It wasn't until the investigators offered Plake the opportunity to write a confession and a letter to the youngest victim thatPlake changed his tune.
"Then we're gonna let you write and apology letter to the 6-year-old girl who watched her mother die," said the investigator to which Plake replied, "Oh Jesus."
After that statement, Plake started telling what he said is the truth after apologizing to the investigators."I am sorry for lying, I was scared, I was scared ****less, I damn near p***ed myself," said Plake in the taped interview. "I want to tell you guys the truth, I will tell you everything I know. I did not know he went in there to do that, I thought he was gonna just try to make some money."
Plake told investigators there were moments he didn't know what was going on but he'd known Sher since he was 13 or 14 years old. "I've always followed Josiah," Plake said to investigators. "Josiah says to do something, he's always looked out for me, he's always been there for me."
"I probably said what the ... a couple of times," said Plake. "He (Sher) said don't worry about it you're not part of this."
In more of the two-hour plus taped interview with Douglas County Sheriffs Plake eventually told investigators that he did drive Sher to the Rafferty home in the early morning of Feb. 23. He said when they got to the Rafferty home; Sher got out of the car and entered the front door.
Plake said that's when he turned the car around so it was in the driveway facing the street. He then told investigators Sher came running out of the house and said, "We gotta go." Plake continued to tell investigators he had no idea what happened inside the Rafferty home.
"This is the biggest ... mistake I've ever made in my life," said Plake to sheriff's investigators. "The military won't take me back after this. ... All I want to do was get my degree and go back into the military. I wasn't thinking and I wasn't questioning him (Sher)."
Wells is faced with 27 different charges, including first-degree murder and solicitation of first-degree murder. Plake is being held on 13 charges, including suspicion of felony murder, Woody is charged with 19 counts, also including suspicion of felony murder. Sher is charged with 18 counts, including two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Amara Wells and Robert Rafferty Jr. The pretrial hearing is scheduled to last until Thursday evening in Douglas County, Colorado. Tina Tussay, Wells' defense attorney, tells ABC News none of the suspect have made public statements at this time.