beaufort — One of the most recent high-profile criminal cases in the county came to an end Wednesday when Joseph Steven Jimenez, of Newport, pleaded guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a Morehead City man.
Judge Ken Crow sentenced Mr. Jimenez, 39, to two-and-a-half to four years imprisonment for killing Jason Emory Quillen, 21.
The maximum sentence allowed under the state’s system was 34-41 months.
The two got into a fight in Atlantic Beach on Jan. 31, 2009, and Mr. Quillen died the following day at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville as a result of a head injury he sustained.
Nearly 40 friends and family members of Mr. Quillen were present in the courtroom for the sentencing and many of them addressed the court.
“I wake up every day and ask why?” said Mr. Quillen’s best friend, Kameron Gwynn of Morehead City.
With poignant pleas, they asked the judge to give the maximum sentence the law would allow.
Mr. Jimenez also addressed the court and apologized to the family, though still claimed innocence in the case. He said that although he did not kill Mr. Quillen, it was his desire to plead guilty and spare the family from more pain.
He also gave his version of what happened the night of the fight that he alleges took place among himself, Mr. Quillen and several other individuals.
“I did not kill Jason Quillen,” he said. “But, I do not see the need to keep the family in pain and I do not want to wait for a trial.”
Mr. Jimenez, who has a prior criminal record, has served 17 months in the Carteret County jail while awaiting trial.