Cops: Former NASCAR driver fatally shot after hatchet attack at ex-wife’s Athens home

John Wes Townley, shown during a 2014 news conference, was killed Saturday in a shooting in Athens that also injured his ex-wife. According to police, Townley attacked the gunman with a hatchet before he opened fire.

Credit: AP

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John Wes Townley, shown during a 2014 news conference, was killed Saturday in a shooting in Athens that also injured his ex-wife. According to police, Townley attacked the gunman with a hatchet before he opened fire.

Credit: AP

Former NASCAR driver and Georgia native John Wes Townley attacked a man with a hatchet before he was fatally shot Saturday at his ex-wife’s Athens home, authorities said.

New details were released Monday in the double shooting that killed Townley, 31, and injured his ex-wife, 30-year-old Laura Townley. According to Athens-Clarke County police, the woman was in serious condition Monday but expected to survive.

In a newly released report, police said John Townley went to his ex-wife’s home on Morton Avenue upset about their divorce, which had been finalized earlier in the week. He began attacking 32-year-old Zachary Anderson, police spokesman Lt. Shaun Barnett said in a statement.

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John Wes Townley was shot Saturday at this home in Athens.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

John Wes Townley was shot Saturday at this home in Athens.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

caption arrowCaption
John Wes Townley was shot Saturday at this home in Athens.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

The relationship between Anderson, who is from Dunwoody, and Laura Townley was not disclosed.

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

John Townley was shot in the chest, and his ex-wife was shot in the abdomen, according to the report. An initial investigation ruled that Laura Townley was “accidentally struck” by the gunfire.

John Townley later died at a hospital. No charges have been announced in the case, and an investigation is ongoing.

Townley, a native of Watkinsville, raced eight seasons and made 186 starts in the Xfinity and Truck series, NASCAR’s two lower national divisions. His victory in the Truck Series at Las Vegas six years ago Sunday was the only national series win of his career.

Townley drove a car owned by his father, Zaxby’s co-founder Tony Townley. The chicken restaurant chain was the vehicle’s primary sponsor.