Father pleads for answers in death of Hopewell taxi driver

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - A grieving father opens up in an emotional interview in a plea for answers into the mysterious death of a Hopewell taxi driver. 26-year-old James Wells was last heard from in Hopewell -- then authorities discovered the Navy veteran's body in a burned-out minivan in Hanover. Now his father is planning a funeral and questioning what happened to his son.

"Everybody describes everybody as a great guy, but he really was," said David Wells.

He is filled with grief as he tries to make sense of his son's death.

"I think right now everything is just numb. You tell people 'I know what you're going through' or either you tell them 'I have no idea' but there's no way to know," he said.

Friday night, his son James was working in his taxi cab after picking up a customer in Hopewell. They were heading to Hanover. But for hours - no one could reach the 26-year-old driver. The next morning, deputies found a burned minivan with a body inside near the Richmond National Battlefield Park at Gaines Mill.

Monday there was a memorial next to a burned tree with flowers and a photo of the beloved taxi driver.

When Wells ended up at the scene of his death, he was more than 20 miles away from where he started in Hopewell. As soon as his father got word James was missing, he began searching the interstate looking for clues.

"I assumed if he went from Hopewell to Mechanicsville, he took 295 so I drove up there, kind of rode around Mechanicsville a little bit…Maybe he's broke down somewhere or his cell phone is not working and he's broke down. You're trying not to think bad things," he said.

But it didn't take long for authorities to confirm the family's worst fear.

"Sure did break up our peace and quiet," said Jack Raybourne who lives near the scene.

He saw a wrecker hauling off the burned minivan.

"It was pulled on backward so the front part was the only part that was really visible at all and the hood was partially open and burned out, but that's all you could tell," Raybourne said.

Hanover investigators are awaiting word from the chief medical examiner regarding the manner and cause of death - as a grieving father prepares to lay to rest a young man he calls his best friend.
"He was 26. There's no reason I should be doing an interview with you right now or making funeral arrangements for my son," he said fighting tears.

NBC12 reached out to James Well's employer, but the taxi company has not responded yet.

Wells' funeral will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at Calvary's Love Ministries in Hopewell.

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