On Nov. 12, a group of nearly 20 attorneys agreed: There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. The setting was a book club discussion featuring Dr. Jerid Fisher, forensic neuropsychologist, and attorney James Nobles as they shared insights regarding Fisher’s new book about Timothy Wells, the RIT professor who killed his wife in 2009.
“Upside Down: Madness, Murder and the Perfect Marriage” was released by Pelican Publishing just a few weeks ago, and the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys selected it for the November book club.
“Having the author available to meet with us always generates an extra intrigue,” explained Elaine Cole, chair of GRAWA’s Book Club. “With this book and this author, we had perhaps the largest group ever at book club. Of course, when we read Jane Austen, she never shows,” she joked.
Fisher and Nobles led the discussion with introductions of themselves and how they got involved in the investigation of why Timothy Wells killed his wife, Christine Sevilla, and attempted to kill their dog, Riley. As part of the presentation, Fisher played a portion of the 911 call Wells made at 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2009.
What sort of disassociated state of mind had Wells been in that day? He was seen holding hands with his wife at 10:40 a.m. on Nov. 30 when they left the Pittsford YMCA. By 11 a.m. he had strangled his wife, suddenly acting on a decision to kill himself, his wife and the dog.
Loading his wife’s body into the trunk of the car didn’t break the giddy mood that Wells was in. After driving around all afternoon and evening with the dog, he headed to Mendon Ponds Park for the final resting place of the pack. By now, he’d consumed at least a bottle of wine and was undoubtedly fatigued.
He had to go off script when he couldn’t find the knife he planned to use to kill the dog and then himself. Perhaps in the brutality of hitting the dog in the head with a large rock, Wells’ mind jolted back to reality.
Several of the GRAWA members in attendance have worked with Fisher, as he is a nationally known forensic neuropsychologist, with special training in the diagnosis of brain injuries and brain damage. His evaluations and expert testimony have been used in both civil and criminal trials
Sharon Kelly Sayers shared a story about a custody case where Fisher was consulted regarding the mental state of the child’s father. Sayers was alone in her office with the child’s father when Fisher called with his evaluation, warning her to avoid being alone with the man.
Nobles and Fisher are both still in touch with Wells, who ultimately pled guilty, and is serving time in Clinton Correctional Facility, up north, west of Plattsburgh. Nobles was hired by Wells’ family although Wells himself still maintains a much more serene description of the murder than the physical evidence tells.
They report that Wells seems fairly content in confinement. As a highly educated man, he is perhaps a bit of a celebrity among his peers. While he was in the Monroe County Jail, he was a model prisoner.
This wasn’t the first time that Nobles worked with Fisher. In fact, the two teamed up to speak at a workshop for the National Academy of Neuropsychology in San Diego in October.
In his general discussion of the human brain, Fisher noted that the brain is impulsive, and that the frontal lobes serve as “brake pads.” Who knows what set of circumstances could create brake failure even for a minute or two in anyone. That’s all it takes to change the rest of your life.
Some set of facts and emotions led Wells to embark on a plan that clearly changed the rest of his life and the lives of many around him just four years ago.