GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – A Greenville man will serve at least five years in state prison for killing his girlfriend last year.
Joshua Kreger was sentenced this morning in Pitt County Superior Court after pleading guilty to the reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Ariana Hagen was found dead in the couple’s Legacy Court home on August 15, 2021.
The woman died from asphyxiation and prosecutors said they were never able to determine a motive in the death.
The judge sentenced the 26-year-old Kreger to serve between 5-1/2 years and 7-1/2 years in prison.
Monica Garrow, a longtime friend of Hagen, says the verdict is a far cry from what it should be.
“He can go on to have a family or do whatever it is he wants to do in this life, and she does not have that option to see her family. He has the option,” Garrow says. “It’s just not fair. They did nothing.”
Chief Assistant District Attorney Valerie Pearce says she understands that the sentence for Kreger seems light, but says going to trial felt like too big of a risk.
“It’s possible that, even if we went to trial, voluntary manslaughter would have been the best verdict that we could get on the case,” Pearce says. “We were able to give a guarantee, and had we gone to trial, there would have been no guarantee.”
The chief assistant district attorney says the reason for that is because even though Kreger showed a note to police saying he killed Hagen, it may not have been enough to legally prove murder.
“A confession is not sufficient to prove someone’s guilt. You have to have other evidence that corroborates their evidence,” Pearce said. “Sometimes people say things that may or may not be true. You have to have other evidence that proves that what they said was true.”
Defense Attorney Christopher Congleton agreed to the plea deal with Pearce.
Garrow, while frustrated, says she doesn’t want the court case to overpower Hagen’s memory.
“Her love was unconditional,” Garrow says. “There were times in life that I was not a good person, and she would always be there for me.”
The note Kreger showed to police was several pages long, but Pearce says it included statements like “I believe I’ve been possessed,” and “I sold my soul to the devil within.”