Former NASCAR driver John Wes Townley ‘attacked’ ex-wife, man with a hatchet before he was shot, police say

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NS John Wes Townley shot dead According to Athens-Clark County Police, the incident was the result of “an altercation” in the Athens Five Points area on Saturday between Townley and a 32-year-old man from Dunwoody.

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Police said Townley, 31, arrived with an ax at the residence occupied by his ex-wife, Laura Townley, and Zachary Anderson.

Townley “attacked Mr. Anderson and Miss Townley with an axe,” the police report said, “and Mr. Anderson fired several shots with his gun.”


John Wes Townley and Laura Townley were both shot. Police said John Wes Townley died in hospital and Laura Townley, 30, was taken to hospital with “serious” injuries. Police said Laura Townley is expected to survive.

Police said they were in contact with Anderson on Sunday. The charge sheet had not been filed till Monday. The investigation is on, the police said.

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Police said John Wes Townley and Laura Townley had recently finalized their divorce. John Wes Townley filed the petition in February.

In 2019, John Wes Townley was charged with three misdemeanors, including family violence battery, after he threw his wife on the floor and put her in reasonable fear of the safety of his life, according to court documents. John Wes Townley pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to 12 months’ probation.

Townley, a Watkinsville native, spent nearly a decade competing in several NASCAR National Touring Series, most notably winning the 2015 Camping World Truck Series race in Las Vegas.

Townley’s father, Tony Townley, is the co-founder of the Athens-based chicken chain Zaxby.

Editor’s note: The Athens Banner-Herald does not usually release the names of domestic violence victims. However, due to the nature of this matter and the public figures involved, we decided to provide this information.

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