What to Know
- The body of 22-year-old Tonie Wells was found in the basement of her Crown Heights brownstone on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017
- Her husband, Barry Wells, was taken into custody about eight hours later, with the help of the New Rochelle Police Department
- Investigators allege Barry Wells strangled his wife after an argument; she had an active order of protection against him at the time
The husband of a 22-year-old woman found dead on the basement steps of her home in Brooklyn two days before Christmas has been indicted on murder and other charges in the young woman's death, prosecutors said Thursday.
Barry Wells has been in custody since the evening of Dec. 27, about eight hours after Tonie Wells was found dead on the steps of her own Sterling Place home in Crown Heights. He had fled the Crown Heights brownstone the couple shared with Tonie Wells' 21-month-old daughter after the slaying and was apprehended with the help of the New Rochelle Police Department on charges of aggravated criminal offense and criminal contempt pending the outcome of an autopsy.
That autopsy found Tonie Wells died of asphyxiation, including compression of the neck, prosecutors said Thursday as they announced murder had been added to the litany of charges against Barry Wells.
Prosecutors say the couple had gotten into an argument in the first-floor apartment of the Brooklyn building the day she died. Tonie Wells' toddler was locked out of the apartment and crying, so a neighbor came and got the child, officials say. After the arguing stopped the neighbor checked on Tonie Wells and found her unconscious in the basement. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Prosecutors say there was an active order of protection against her at the time.
The neighbor who got the baby, along with others, called 911 when they heard the arguing, but law enforcement sources say responding officers didn't get out of their patrol car, and though they were given an address for the couple, they didn't knock on the door. They reported no sign of distress.
Those officers have been suspended as the NYPD investigates their response to the 911 call.
"The entire incident, including any potential communication and response issues are being reviewed by the Department," an NYPD spokesman said in a statement at the time.
In addition to second-degree murder, Barry Wells was indicted on charges of aggravated criminal contempt, first-degree criminal contempt and aggravated family offense. He was ordered held without bail, and faces up to life in prison if convicted of the top charge against him.
“This defendant allegedly killed the woman he purportedly loved," Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement Thursday. "It is critical that we do all we can to combat domestic violence which in this instance escalated, led to a senseless death and left this young mother’s family and friends to struggle with such a tragic loss.”