COLD CASE: Still no arrest 7 years after teen’s body found in Phoenix alley

The 2014 murder of Briana Wells has never been solved.
The 2014 murder of Briana Wells has never been solved.(Arizona's Family)
Updated: Aug. 18, 2021 at 10:45 AM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A Tempe teenager who loved animals and dreamed of becoming a K-9 police officer had those dreams cut short when she was murdered almost 7 years ago. The case has never been solved.

Brianna Wells, just 17 years old, was found dead on Dec. 29, 2014. Her body was discovered at around 9:30 a.m. in an alley near Mobile Lane and 18th Place in Phoenix. Police say Briana had been shot multiple times.

“It’s just scary that someone can take the life of a 17-year-old girl and get away with it,” said one of Brianna’s friends, who was also a teenager at the time of the murder. “I remember waking up that morning and going on Facebook, and that’s how I found out because no one told us. I remember seeing it and thinking it was a joke, or that someone was playing a prank at school.”

“I remember walking over in the alley and seeing Brianna’s body there,” said Phoenix officer Michael Coddington, who was a homicide detective at the time Brianna was killed. “I remember seeing a 17-year-old, lying in the alley. Left for dead.”

Brianna's body was found in this alley.
Brianna's body was found in this alley.(Arizona's Family)

Brianna was a junior at Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe. Her friends say she liked sleepovers, Chinese food, ‘80s movies, and hanging out with pals at local parks. Kiwanis Park was her favorite. Photos show Brianna as a laughing, light-hearted teen.

Brianna was described as protective, loyal, goofy and playful. Her friends say she loved journaling. But her biggest passion was animals, especially horses and the family dogs. The teen volunteered at an animal shelter and wanted to someday become a police K-9 officer.

Her friends say Brianna loved to hang out with them at parks.
Her friends say Brianna loved to hang out with them at parks.(Arizona's Family)

Brianna was also part of a supportive Quaker community of Tempe Monthly Meeting, and was a camper at Mountain Friends Camp for three years where her leadership skills began to emerge.

Police say they can’t understand how someone could have brutally murdered a teenage girl who seemed to have such a promising future. “It’s sad,” said Officer Coddington. “It’s an alley. It’s where trash is at. I’m disgusted that somebody would do something like that.”

Police interviewed neighbors, searched for clues and followed up on countless leads, but the killer was never found.

Coddington says he still thinks about Brianna and her family.  “They’re never going to get Brianna back. But you hope that you can at least give them some closure, knowing who was responsible for her death.”

Brianna loved animals and volunteered at a shelter.
Brianna loved animals and volunteered at a shelter.(Arizona's Family)

Unfortunately, the family has not been able to get that closure. The case remains unsolved and is posted on the Silent Witness website, with a reward being offered. If you have any information about the case, please call Silent Witness at either 480-WITNESS (948-6377) or 1-800-343-TIPS (8477). Spanish speakers may call 480-TESTIGO (837-8446). You can remain anonymous and you could be eligible for a cash reward.

This case has drawn the attention of Los Angeles filmmaker Dan Brown, Jr. who is working on a documentary about her murder. “Girl Forgotten: What Happened to Brianna Wells?” is set to premiere in 2022.

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