Local News

Suspect charged in Wendell teen's hit-and-run death

Posted September 23, 2014
Updated September 24, 2014

— Keith Jones Jr. used his speed to convince Darrell Thomas to let him join the Knightdale Dragons, a Pop Warner football team.

He was one of the smaller players on the team, but his quickness almost paid off in a recent football game where Jones nearly scored his first touchdown. Jones, the team’s running back, was knocked out of bounds at the one-yard-line.

“He had more heart than anyone out there,” said Thomas, Jones’ head coach.

Thomas was among dozens who remembered Jones, who was killed in a hit-and-run incident Tuesday morning.

The team was supposed to practice Tuesday evening. Instead, they came together and prayed.

"We lost a brother today. And we lost a friend,” said Amanda Cartwright, Football Commissioner for the Knightdale Dragons, while holding back tears. “A mother lost a child. I don't have the words. I don't have the right words, I don't know what to say."

Jones, 13, a student at Wendell Middle School, was waiting for a school bus outside his Edgemont Road home in Wendell Tuesday morning when he was hit by a 1989 burgundy Ford Crown Victoria.

Authorities said the driver never stopped.

Jones' mother, Marie, was leaving for work when she saw his book bag on the ground.

"I picked up his book bag," she said. "It was somewhat damaged like it had been ripped off of him. That's when I knew something was not right."

Marie Jones then found her only child lying face-down in a ditch. She administered CPR.

"To know that he had been hit and hurt and lying in a ditch, that was the hard part," she said. "Trying to save his life was easy."

Efren Vences, 28, of 186 Jack Road in Clayton, surrendered to the state Highway Patrol Tuesday afternoon and was charged with felony hit-and-run and no operator’s license. He was later charged Tuesday night with misdemeanor death by a motor vehicle.

Vences posted a $50,000 bond early Wednesday and was due to make his first court appearance Wednesday morning.

Vences' fiancée, who identified herself only as Kaitlyn, said Tuesday afternoon that he was driving down Edgemont Road like he does every morning and thought he hit a deer. When he learned about the child’s death, he immediately surrendered, she said.

"I want everybody to know it wasn't his intention to leave a crime scene. He would never do that," Kaitlyn said. "He's a good guy. He's a father at that. He would never do that to a child intentionally."

At Tuesday’s practice, Thomas, the football coach, walked away from the gathering several times to keep his emotions from his players.

"Those are my…those are my boys," he said. “It hit me kinda hard.”

Jones' heart will be donated. He will be buried wearing his football uniform.

Family and friends have set up a fund to help defray funeral expenses for Keith Jones.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • babylaceycarpenter Sep 24, 2014

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    I still wait for your answer to my question Jessica. WHY does he have no driver's license? Since you are such a close friend, you must know the answer.

  • edits Sep 24, 2014

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    SAVE IT...you are ridiculous. I have a license but I have broken the law while driving, I speed sometimes, are you saying that you are perfect and follow the law to a T? If so then congratulations! You are one of few that do while driving.

  • Todd Singleton Sep 24, 2014
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    "Also, purposely driving without a license is not a representation of one's character".

    That is where you are absolutely wrong and exposing your character. What part of "illegal" is confusing you?

  • Todd Singleton Sep 24, 2014
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    Why face a murder charge when you face a felony hit and run and misdemeanor death by motor vehicle carrying a max. of 2 years?

  • Todd Singleton Sep 24, 2014
    user avatar

    For the first time ever I've had a comment posted by moderators and then removed. I suppose WRAL doesn't like the liability of posting comments calling out lawmakers for failing to do their jobs. Can't increase penalties for a growing number of felony hit and run cases but our esteemed legislators can certainly make sure sea level won't rise and no women will be at a beach topless. You know, the realistic and important issues.

  • jackaroe123 Sep 24, 2014

    I got a ticket for an expired license once. It had expired on my birthday about 3 weeks earlier. I hadn't made time to renew it and I thought I had a month's grace period. I was wrong, and I got a ticket. I don't think that is an indication that I'm a bad person. I goofed. I was wrong. It doesn't mean I am a bad person.

    Mr. Vences made a horrible mistake. We should exercise humility, grace, and self-control in limiting our responses to that.

  • jessicaddy Sep 24, 2014

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    1. It would be irrevelant if I said that he is not a criminal because he has children of his own. That isn't what I said.
    2. Sure, maybe you'll never know, but maybe if I am defending him, someone will give a second thought. Maybe not. It's the very least I can do as his friend. Also, purposely driving without a license is not a representation of one's character. I speed sometimes to get to work, and I'm sure you have done the same, along with many others. That does not mean we are bad people; that means we have to get to work to make ends meet. I do not want to fight with anyone here. I'm not saying he was right or that he made no mistake; I'm just saying he is not the heartless, drunk, illegal immigrant that so many people are making him out to be. That is what I am defending.

  • Cabe Merritt Sep 24, 2014
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    Most DUI's will run and hide until they are sober.

  • A cold, hard dose of Hans Sep 24, 2014

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    Leaving this poor boy to die alone in a ditch tells me ALL I need to know about his character!

  • Lightfoot3 Sep 24, 2014

    "I see it all the time.I work at a restaurant that has a bar in it and the AMERICAN people leave there hardly not knowing if its day or night and get under the drivers seatIng have a customer that has had 3 DUI tickets since November and still drinking and driving." - babygurl324

    I suggest you and your employer do a little research on lawsuits and such in which bars have been held responsible for their drunk drivers. If you know people leaving drunk, and you're serving known drunk drivers, you're setting yourself up for a liability lawsuit.