Amara's estranged husband, Chris Wells, hired Josiah Sher and two other men to kill his wife, his sister Tamara Rafferty and Rafferty's husband Bob.
By pleading guilty, Josiah Sher is avoiding the possible death penalty. He will serve two life sentences to run consecutively.
Sher, a former member of the U.S. armed forces and a father of six children, stabbed and shot the victims inside the Rafferty home on Feb. 23, 2011. Tamara Rafferty is alive because she was out of town on a business trip during the murders.
Chris Wells pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder Thursday morning. He was also sentenced to two life terms to run consecutively without the possibility of parole.
Two other defendants, Matthew Plake and Micah Woody, pleaded guilty to their participation in the crime earlier and were each sentenced to 48 years in prison.
All four men were formally charged in court in March 2011. Wells was already in jail at the time of the murders, but that has not excluded him from being a suspect.
Chris Wells pleads guilty
Wells made a few requests during this sentencing. He wants to send a short goodbye video to his daughter - whom he will never see again if he is sentenced to life. The family agreed to allow the video to be played for his daughter. Prosecutors say Wells came to them offering to plead guilty to two counts of murder if they took the death penalty off the table.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Brett Cochran told the judge his office worked on the plea agreement with Wells because neither they nor the family wanted to traumatize Wells' daughter by putting her on the stand. Investigators have said the now 7-year-old girl had to step over her mother's body and saw her uncle being killed before running out of the house for help.
Tina Tussay, Chris Wells' attorney, read a statement on the defendant's behalf. The letter addressed Wells' daughter.
"My little pumpkin, I can't tell you how much I miss you and love you," Tussay read. "I want to tell you a few things to remember. Be the kind little girl you are, always try hard in school, be respectful of adults. You are the best thing that's ever happened to me. For now, please know I love you with all my heart."
When Tussay was done reading the statement, a member of the victims' family exclaimed "lies" in open court.
During Chris Wells' sentencing, Amara Wells' father Harry Walter testified. He said the two met on a flight to Washington, D.C.
"Little did she know she'll meet a thief," Walter said. "She also met a manipulator - who manipulated three people who he asked to do a murder. On the flight, she also met a liar. She also met a sociopath. She also met a harasser. I was with her when she got texts maybe a 100 times a day accusing her of things that are not true. She met a sexual deviant, she also met a narcissist."
Walter told the court he was worried Wells was dangerous - even from prison.
"There is only one safe Chris Wells - a dead Chris Wells," Walter said.
Amara Wells' mother also addressed the court. Lovey Walters recalled the time Amara told her about meeting Chris Wells on the flight.
"He's no one I would ever be interested in," Lovey Walters said her daughter told her.
Jack Brown, Amara Wells' brother-in-law, addressed the court in sentencing as well. He says he is now raising Chris and Amara Wells' daughter, who witnessed the murder and ran for help.
Brown told the court his own daughter wrote a goodbye letter to Amara Wells.
"I would hug her and love her forever, I would make the time last and be with her every day," Brown read from his 9-year-old daughter's letter. "I'd say I love her, I would always love her. I would be her extra bodyguard every day. She would fill my heart with joy, I would buy her presents all the time. I wish she'd call one more time and say 'I love you.' You'll always be in my heart. I'd say 'I love you' one more time."
Brown read through tears.
"That morning, she lost her mom in a truly unfathomable fashion," Brown said. "There was an unintended consequence of Chris' actions - she got a real dad. I'm proud to raise her. She's daddy's girl. While Chris is rotting in jail, I get to experience the greatest time of her life. I get to walk her down the aisle, and I get to see the sparkle in her eye when she finds out she's having a family. I get to do all these things, and I'm so grateful for them because none of these Chris Wells would be capable of doing."
When walking away from the podium, he turned to Chris Wells and told him "You'll rot in hell."
Tamara Rafferty also read a statement at Chris Wells' sentencing. Bob Rafferty was her husband. She cried while she addressed the court.
"You're looking at me and wondering what I can possibly say at a time like this, what impact the defendant has made on my life?" Tamara Rafferty said. "I stand here before you as a victim of a horrible crime. My own brother made a decision to have us killed. Everyone in court is in disbelief how a person like this walks this Earth."
Rafferty thanked the detectives and prosecution for their work, hugging the prosecutor after she was done speaking. Rafferty's daughter Maddison spoke as well, calling Chris Wells a "pathetic excuse of a human being."
"Life in prison is a way out in this case. He should be shot and stabbed like my dad and aunt were," she said.
"Life without parole is more mercy that he deserves," Dorlelie Rafferty, Bob Rafftery's mother read on behalf of Karen Rafferty, the victim's sister, who was not able to be in court.
Judge Paul King spoke to the defendant. He mentioned Amara Wells appeared in his court twice before the murder, discussing the protective order that was in place against her estranged husband.
"[You'll live your life] in the world with numbing sameness," King said. "You'll live your life in a violent petty world where grievances are exaggerated."
Wells was taken into custody the day before the murders for violating the terms of a restraining order.
Josiah Sher pleads guilty
Chris Wells promised Sher $20,000 to have his family members killed.
Amara Wells' father, Harry Walter, also addressed the court after Sher pleaded guilty on Thursday.
"I hope for the rest of his life he will hear victims hollering and screaming," Walter said. "May the same demon who escorted you to do this sorry act, escort you to the gates of hell."
Melissa Brown, Amara Wells' sister, said, "I hope and pray he's haunted by what happened that night."
Tamara Rafferty also read a statement to the court during Sher's sentencing.
"Josiah can only be described as a complete monster. Bob made the ultimate sacrifice trying to save this family from the hands of this despicable creature," she said.
"He will live his life in fear and torment," Tamara Rafferty said. "There will be no mercy and regard for his life."
Tamara Rafferty told Sher her husband always took the time to thank members of the military for their service. In court, investigators said he used his training to kill Amara Wells and Bob Rafferty.
"Today he hears my voice, my anguish," Tamara Rafferty said. "I would bet in the coming years when he's tortured, raped, humiliated and beaten, I will bet someday he'll wish Bob would've killed him that night. Like we all do."
Madison Rafferty, victim's younger daughter said, "my dad died a hero."
Sher's public defender said his client knew how "hollow and empty and apology will sound."
"He would like [the families] to know he's truly sorry for the pain and agony he's caused them," the public defender said.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Brett Cochran told the judge Sher used his commemorative knife from "Operation Enduring Freedom" to kill the two victims.
Cochran said Rafferty would've killed Sher had his shotgun not been on safety when he was coming out of his bedroom to see what was going on.
As Amara Wells' 6-year-old daughter saw her mother dying, Cochran said she told Bob Rafferty, "Kill him Uncle Bobby," as she watched Rafferty fight Sher.
During Sher's sentencing, prosecutors said they decided to "make the deal with the devil to spare the innocence of the child," when agreeing to the plea deal. Prosecutors didn't want to re-traumatize Wells' 6-year-old daughter and the rest of the family.
Judge King recounted the injuries and told Sher he killed for money.
"Your days will be a remarkable numbing sameness to them," he said. "You'll have to watch your back for the entire time you're in prison. You will die in prison. You richly deserve the punishment I am about to impose."
Prior to sentencing, the judge read a list of medication Sher is taking, a normal procedure where a person is being sentenced.
Sher is taking pills for depression, nightmares, anxiety and pain.
Amara and Chris Wells were in the process of getting a divorce. They had financial problems but investigators will not give many details, saying it is an active investigation. Investigators have said Amara Wells was living with her sister and brother-law after leaving an abusive relationship with her estranged husband.