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Clayton man pleads guilty in fatal 2014 hit-and-run

Posted April 8

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— A Clayton man pleaded guilty Friday to a pair of misdemeanor charges more than a year after a hit-and-run crash killed a 13-year-old Wendell boy.

Efren Vences, 28, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor hit-and-run and misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in the Sept. 24, 2014, death of Keith "KJ" Jones Jr. Vences was given a suspended sentence and placed on probation for 24 months.

The 13-year-old Wendell Middle School student was waiting for a school bus outside his Edgemont Road home in Wendell when he was hit by a car that didn't stop and wound up dying in a roadside ditch.

KJ's visibly emotional parents addressed the court Friday as Vences wept. Family members described the teen as a bright, intelligent, athletic boy who aspired to go to Notre Dame for college.

"I just want you to know that the one thing that keeps me standing is my God," Keith Jones St. told Vences.

"Your actions that day were despicable as a man, as a person, as a driver," said D. Marie Jones, the boy's mother, "but I can look you in the face and say to you I thank you. I thank you so much for coming forward. I thank you for that."

After his initial court appearance in 2014, Vences said he was on his way to work in Virginia around 6:30 a.m. when the collision happened.

"It was dark, so I couldn't really tell what it was," Vences said at the time. "Once somebody called me and told me that this was on the news, I pretty much contacted the dispatcher right away, and I told him I was on my way back ... and where the vehicle was."

State Highway Patrol troopers said Vences cooperated after he learned he hit and killed KJ. He came back from work after his cousin called him and said authorities were looking for a vehicle that matched his 1989 Crown Victoria.

In court on Friday, attorneys for the state said there was no evidence of texting or impairment at the time of the collision, and Vences was driving between 43 and 52 mph on the rural road.

As part of his sentence, Vences will spend 12 days over the next two years in the Wake County jail, including KJ's birthday, the anniversary of his death, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother's Day and Father's Day.

Vences also was ordered to not drive a vehicle for the duration of his probation and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, paid to the Keith "KJ" Jones Athletic Memorial Foundation, which was set up by Jones' family.

"My heart does not harbor any hate or malice. I won't waste my energy on hating you," Marie Jones told Vences. "I will spend all my energy on loving our 13-year-old child."

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