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One month later, still no charges in fatal shooting of former NASCAR driver Townley in Athens

John Wes Townley

By Joe Johnson

No charges have been filed in the month since former NASCAR driver John Wes Townley was fatally shot during what police said was an apparent domestic dispute at the Athens home of his estranged wife in which another man shot Townley during an altercation.

“The investigation is still open,” Athens-Clarke County police Public Information Officer Lt. Shaun Barnett said on Wednesday. “One aspect of the investigation is reviewing lab test results of items that were sent to the (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) Crime Lab.

“No final determination will be made until investigators have reviewed all of the relevant evidence, to include GBI Lab test results,” Barnett said. “Until that time, the case will remain open.”

According to police, Townley was killed the night of Oct. 2 when shot by 32-year-old Zachary Anderson of Dunwoody. Police said that Anderson was in the Morton Avenue home of Laura Townley when her husband showed up there with a hatchet.

“Shortly after Mr. Townley arrived at the residence, there was an altercation between Mr. Townley and Mr. Anderson involving a hatchet,” police said in a statement following the incident. “At some point during the altercation, Anderson fired several shots from his firearm.”

A police incident report indicates that when Anderson fired his gun, he struck John Townley in the chest and Laura Townley in the abdomen.

The Townleys were transported to the hospital, where John, 31, subsequently died and Laura, 30, was treated for serious injuries.

Anderson was interviewed by detectives but not charged.

Barnett said at the time, “We are not ruling out that this was potentially a self-defense case related to a domestic violence type incident; however, the investigation is still ongoing.”

The incident occurred while John Townley, married to Laura in October 2018, had a divorce case pending in Clarke County Superior Court. The police incident report erroneously stated that the divorce had been finalized earlier in the week of the shooting.

John Townley filed for divorce on Feb. 3, on the grounds he and his wife had been living in a state of separation and their marriage was irretrievably broken, according to court records.

Less than a year after the couple married, in August 2019, John Townley pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in a plea bargain that dismissed battery charges for a domestic violence incident in which he threw his wife to the ground, according to court records. He was sentenced to 12 months on probation and ordered to complete a Family Violence Intervention Program.

According to court records, Laura Townley was residing at 240 Morton Ave, while John Townley reportedly had been living with his parents in Oconee County. The former racer’s father, Tony Townley, is co-founder of the Zaxby’s chain of fried chicken restaurants.

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