(Sardis, MS) Fifty-five year old Jimmy Whitten left the Panola County Courthouse in chains after pleading guilty to the 2011 death of his girlfriend.
A plea deal will put Whitten behind bars for 20 years for leaving the scene of an accident that caused injury or death.
Family of the victim, 24-year-old Sarah Jones, says they’re relieved their ordeal is over.
”I’m at a loss for words. I’m obviously very happy that everything worked out and our family can have a break and we can move on and start over again,” said Jones' sister Dalkin.
The Jones family called Whitten a predator who used drugs and a bail bond position to corral young women into his influence.
He’d already served 18 years on drug charges before and faced new charges after the rainy night he reportedly ran down Jones with his car as she tried to flee him on a bicycle.
Intent to murder Jones proved hard to pin down.
”Because of the weather conditions the night this happened it would have been very difficult to prove an intentional act so we went with what we thought was the best decision,” said District Attorney John Champion.
He wanted Whitten behind bars no matter what ”The intent was to make sure this man did jail time?” “That was absolutely the intent from day one”.
His conviction proved prophetic for the Jones family.
”She had said to me twice in the last week she was alive that if anyone could take Jimmy Whitten down it would be her. She would probably be dead but a lot of things would be out and a lot of people would be saved” said Jones' mother Melissa.
Whitten still faces the more recent drug and weapons charges.