Teen charged with murder of Iraq war vet in Lake Cyrus

Teen charged with murder of Iraq war vet in Lake Cyrus
Mike Gilotti. Source: Family photo
Mike Gilotti. Source: Family photo
Hoover Police Captain Gregg Rector says they’re here to get justice for Mike Gilotti. Source: Rick Journey/WBRC
Hoover Police Captain Gregg Rector says they’re here to get justice for Mike Gilotti. Source: Rick Journey/WBRC

BESSEMER, AL (WBRC) - Authorities have charged a teenager with the murder of a man killed in Hoover's Lake Cyrus subdivision last week, and said they expect to arrest more suspects in the case.

Charleston Everett Wells, 16, of Bessemer has been charged as an adult with the murder of Mike Gilotti, authorities announced in a 3 p.m. news conference on Friday, Jan. 15.

Gilotti, a 33-year-old husband, father and Iraq war veteran, was shot to death in front of his home while leaving to go to the gym just before 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

Police recovered a stolen truck connected to Gilotti's shooting in Tuscaloosa, where more car break-ins were reported.

Four black male suspects were seen walking away from the truck and getting into a dark-colored Jeep Cherokee. Investigators previously said they believed the suspects had ties to the Bessemer area.

Hoover police announced Friday that U.S. Marshals captured Wells in a car in the Bessemer area on Wednesday, Jan. 13 and took him into custody without incident. He has been held in the Tuscaloosa County Jail since then.

Police said Wells was someone they were aware of early in the investigation.

"Today's just the first step, we still have a ways to go in this case. We said from the beginning that we're determined to find justice," Hoover Police Captain Gregg Rector said.

More arrests in the case are coming, Bill Veitch, the chief assistant district attorney of the Jefferson County Bessemer Division, said.

"These groups of predators, gangs, whether they're gang members, wanna-be gang members, or individuals robbing and shooting people, when you can't go get a cheeseburger or come out of your house to go work out without getting robbed or shot, it looks like…they have declared war on us," Veitch said.

"One of the purposes of the news conference is to tell you, we are declaring war on them, right now, today," he added.

Guy Higgins, Mike Gilotti's father-in-law, thanked law enforcement for their hard work that led to an arrest in the case.

"On behalf of my daughter and my two precious grandsons, we want to thank the Hoover, Bessemer, and numerous other law enforcement personnel who have been working so diligently to apprehend those suspected of murdering my beloved son-in-law, Mike Gilotti. My daughter wants me to tell you she is grateful and relieved to be able to tell her traumatized 5-year-old son that the guys involved in murdering his daddy are now behind bars," he said.

Captain Rector described the suspects as common street criminals who "break into cars, use drugs, sell drugs, it's their lifestyle, it's what they do," he said.

Rector said in this case, they took it one step further and law enforcement officers are not going to tolerate it.

Rector pointed to photos of the victim, saying, "This is the reason that we're here today, this is Mike Gilotti, Iraqi war veteran, Mike Gilotti, 33 years old, minding his own business, he's a hard-working guy, he's got a family, he's got two small boys."

"He's simply getting up early in the morning, getting ready to go for a work out, then off to his job, he runs into a group of car burglars who instead of running and fleeing like you would expect...these individuals obviously turned on him, shot him, he dies in front of his house and we're determined to seek justice for Mike Gilotti's wife, for his kids and for his entire family," Rector said.

Authorities are still investigating three other suspects in connection to Gilotti's murder and other crimes in the Birmingham metro area. All of the suspects are between 16 and 20 years old, Rector said.

Several of the suspects who are likely involved in the Hoover case are in custody in various jurisdictions in the Birmingham metro, but have not yet been charged with Gilotti's murder, Captain Rector said. He said they are "high on their list" of suspects.

Rector would not comment on whether or not they had found the murder weapon or who they believe is the shooter, citing the ongoing investigation.

During the news conference, Captain Rector was asked about the kind of message they are sending by announcing an arrest 10 days after the murder.

"I hope it sends a message to the others involved in this case that they're next," he said.

Authorities also spoke about the importance of knowing what's going on in your own neighborhood and the effectiveness of neighborhood crime watch groups.

"The important thing to remember is it's every community. These people are very mobile, they move quickly as you can see, from Tuscaloosa through McCalla to Hoover, back. So I want to encourage people to be vigilant," Veitch said.

Veitch added that they have also been getting assistance in the investigation from schools in the area.

"Everybody seems to be waking up to this problem," he said. Veitch added that it "might be safe" to say that Wells attended Bessemer High School at some point.

Hoover police said 15 law enforcement agencies have been tirelessly helping them with the investigation. They specifically thanked the Bessemer Police Department, Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office, Jefferson County District Attorney's Office - Bessemer Division and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force.

You can read the entire statement from the Hoover Police Department below:

One suspect was formally charged today in the January 5th shooting death of Lake Cyrus resident Jonathan Michael Gilotti. Mr. Gilotti was killed as he was leaving his home at 4:55 a.m., on his way to the gym for his daily workout. The victim encountered suspects who were in the act of breaking into multiple vehicles on Park Side Circle.

Hoover investigators, along with several partner agencies have worked non-stop since this senseless crime occurred. Possible suspect names emerged very early into this investigation and it became apparent that all of them had ties to the Bessemer area. We also learned very early that these suspects were the same individuals who broke into numerous cars and stole a truck in Tuscaloosa, just prior to coming to Hoover.

Law enforcement agencies throughout the Birmingham area have also recovered four stolen vehicles in the past 10 days, all affiliated with these suspects. This group is also being investigated for their involvement in other crimes in nearby cities. Detectives and Crime Scene investigators have been processing numerous pieces of evidence that will link them to our murder case. Today, we are announcing formal charges on the first suspect. He is currently in jail in Tuscaloosa County on charges related to a stolen Ford F-250 pickup and several car break-ins. The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office, Bessemer Division, issued the following arrest warrant this morning:

1. Charleston Everett Wells16 years old Bessemer, Al
• MurderNo Bond ***Charged as an Adult

Wells was captured by the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force on Wednesday, January 13th in Bessemer. He has been in custody in Tuscaloosa County since that time.

The arrest of Charleston Wells is just the first step in holding each suspect accountable for his actions in this senseless crime. Detectives continue to gather and analyze evidence and link it to those who participated. The first phase of this investigation will be complete when every suspect who was involved is safely behind bars. We fully anticipate additional arrests.

There have been approximately 15 law enforcement agencies that assisted the Hoover Police Department, thus far, during the course of this investigation. Four of those in particular we want to mention at this time, for their assistance, and their tireless work and effort on this case. The Bessemer Police Department, Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office, The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office (Bessemer Division) and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task force have all been crucial to getting us to where we are today.

The Hoover Police Department remains committed to bringing full resolution to this case. Mike Gilotti's wife and kids deserve justice, as does the Hoover community.

There are still individuals who have information about this case who have not yet come forward, and they are still encouraged to do so. If you have information that you believe might be helpful, please call Sergeant Keith Czeskleba at 205-739-6795 or the Hoover Police Department at 205-822-5300.

If you wish to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward you may contact Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama at 205-254-7777.

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