Thursday, January 3, 2019

Record suggests Scott J. Wells faced child sexual abuse charges because his ex wife wanted her new husband to adopt girls who became complaining witnesses

Scott J. Wells
(Fifth in a series)

How did four girls concoct stories of child sexual abuse that were so dubious a judge overturned his own guilty verdict in State of Missouri v. Scott J. Wells (No. 31302CF5509) -- a case where the defendant was the biological father of two complaining witnesses, the step-father of one, and the uncle of a fourth? The answer is not 100-percent clear, but the public record suggests the stories of abuse surfaced after Mr. Wells' ex wife, Cynthia Hedrick, informed at least two of the girls that she wanted her new husband to adopt them -- and Scott Wells refused to go along with the idea.

The record also indicates Ms. Hedrick testified falsely about the adoption plans, and Scott Wells' defense attorney -- my brother, David Shuler, of Springfield, MO -- failed to drive that point home to the trier of fact (Judge Don Burrell, who oversaw a bench trial in the case.)

What can happen to a father who refuses to turn his children over for adoption? The Scott J. Wells case -- with my brother providing what a court found to be ineffective assistance of counsel -- suggests such a father can face false allegations of child sexual abuse that bring him to the edge of ruination.

The adoption issue arises at several places in the case file, first when Wells' second attorney (Daniel Dodson, of Jefferson City, MO) sought a new-trial hearing that included testimony about David Shuler's inadequate work as a defense lawyer -- which had his client looking at a likely punishment of five life sentences, plus 55 years.

Following is testimony from Dodson's examination of David Shuler at the new-trial hearing. It begins on page 110 in the third document embedded at the end of this post. (The other documents are Part 1 and Part 2 of Dodson's testimony in the legal-malpractice case.). Dodson asks Shuler to read from a transcript of Cynthia Hedrick's testimony. We begin with Shuler's response:

Shuler: "And isn't it true that you were the one that told Brittanie [complaining witness, Brittanie Wells] that she could be adopted? You wanted your new husband to adopt her, isn't that true? Answer: "No." "Isn't it true that you would adopt her or rather that your new husband, Jeff, would adopt her?" "No." "You didn't tell them that?" "No."

Dodson: Okay. One of the things that you tried to present to the Court as a reason why these girls might be making something up would be to please their mother and her desire to have Scott step out of the picture and allow her new husband to adopt them. Is that correct?

Shuler: Correct.

Dodson: Okay. She basically shot you down at that point and denied that that was the case. Is that not correct, also?

Shuler: That's correct. she denied that, consistently, I believe.

Dodson then turns his attention to a document where Courtney Wells [another complaining witness] states that her mother (Cynthia Hedrick) wanted her new husband (Jeff Hedrick) to adopt Courtney, so that the child would not see Scott Wells again. Dodson's examination of David Shuler on this issue begins on page 112 of the third document embedded at the end of this post.

David Shuler
Dodson: Okay. Is that not an indicator that there had been some previous discussion, and she was aware that the possibility of Jeff adopting her existed?

Shuler: Brittanie?

Dodson: Courtney, in this case?

Shuler: Courtney? Okay, yes.

Dodson: Okay. So would that not have been an opportunity, had you been familiar enough with this document, to call Cindy Hedrick on her denial that she's discussed these issues with the girls by saying obviously, here Courtney knew about that. "Where would she have gotten that idea, for instance?" I believe the transcript part is questioning on Brittanie. I don't know why you didn't question on all the girls but --

Shuler: I don't -- I guess I'm not tracking your -- I don't think she -- I don't think she denied that there was ever discussion of adoption, but I guess she's saying she didn't.

Dodson: Well, you asked -- actually, this is -- isn't it true that you were the one who told Brittanie she could be adopted and then later isn't it true that you told Courtney you would adopt her and your husband would adopt her? Is this not an indicator that at least discussions had been had on that subject?

Shuler: Yes --

Dodson: And --

Shuler: -- it is.

Dodson: Somewhat of value in impeaching Cynthia Hedrick in her denial that there was any motive that could have caused some untruth on the part of the complaining witnesses?

Shuler: Somewhat, yes.

Was that the last time the adoption issue came up in the Scott Wells matter? Nope. It arose again when Wells brought a legal-malpractice case against David Shuler. At that point, Daniel Dodson was serving as an expert witness for Wells, and he had plenty to say about Shuler's failure to pursue impeachment of Cynthia Hedrick on what might have been the single most important issue in the criminal case.

(To be continued)

Previously in the series:

* Court finds Missouri lawyer David Shuler provided ineffective assistance of counsel (11/13/18)

* Missouri attorney David Shuler took no action at trial . . . (11/27/18)

* David Shuler, unable to react to false testimony that Scott J. Wells had scars on his penis . . . (12/4/18)

* Expert testifies that Missouri lawyer David Shuler did not believe in his own client . . . (12/10/18)


Anonymous said...

What a great choice. A father can willingly give up his kids or get falsely accused as a child abuser. Lovely.

Anonymous said...

Boy, injustice can take many forms. Awful stuff.

legalschnauzer said...

@12:04 --

Yep, I never run out of story ideas on the injustice beat. Someone's always trying to cheat someone else.

Anonymous said...

Maybe David Shuler didn't pursue this line of questioning because he didn't care about his client and he didn't care about justice.

Anonymous said...

No offense meant, Schnauzer, but your brother sounds like he's dumb as a rock. All of these obvious questions, and he can't think to ask any of them.

legalschnauzer said...

@2:18 --

No offense taken. David isn't dumb. In my view, he is morally and ethically compromised and probably has been from the moment he stepped into the legal profession.

Anonymous said...

Pretty alarming that someone could cause kids to make up abuse stories and get away with it.

legalschnauzer said...

@8:09 --

Agreed. Our justice system is broken as it is -- mainly because of crooked judges, lawyers, and prosecutors -- but it falls apart if witnesses feel free to pull stunts like this.

Anonymous said...

Good to see your focus is bashing your brother instead of highlighting the tragedy of this dysfunctional family and the effect of the parents’ behavior on their children.

legalschnauzer said...

@9:18 --

Here is a suggestion: Check out the title of this blog. Since you apparently haven't noticed, it's "LEGAL Schnauzer." It's about legal issues, justice issues. It's not about, to borrow your term, "dysfunctional families" or "parental behavior."

My brother was central to the legal issues in the Wells cases. A court found he provided "ineffective assistance of counsel." That was not my finding. You think his performance as a defense attorney was fine and dandy? If so, please explain.

Thanks to David Shuler's lawyering, his client was looking at a punishment of five life sentences, plus 55 years -- for something the record shows the client did not do. You're OK with that? You'd be fine if that happened to you?

Anonymous said...


No, I don’t seek to defend the apparent shortcomings of your brother’s legal services. He sounds like a total dolt as a lawyer, at least as described by you and the excerpts of trial transcripts. My point was that your incessant desire to call out those who you claim have fucked you and your wife over sometimes misses the real tragedy of the “story.” And the real tragedy of this story (at least from my perspective) wasn’t what a crappy lawyer your brother is, but the suffering of the children in this family, irrespective of potential criminal behavior.

Write what you want, with whatever spin or take you want. I will respond however I want. My opinion is just as valid as yours.

legalschnauzer said...

As expected, you failed to digest my first response. This blog is not about "tragedies" or "dysfunctional families," or "bad parenting." As its title makes clear, it's about legal issues. Even you seem to admit my brother was a central figure in this legal story, so I'm not sure why you have a problem.

As for validity of your opinion, it would have a lot more if you put your real name on it. As it is, you are hiding behind a wall, firing spitballs. Maybe that's all you are capable of.