Two charged with killing man in downtown Kinston parking lot get plea deal with time served

KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) – Two men indicted by a grand jury with a downtown murder nearly three years ago in one Eastern Carolina city pleaded guilty to lesser charges this morning and walked out of the Lenoir County courthouse having served their time.

Jeffrey Hill was severely beaten in a West Gordon Street parking lot on May 2nd, 2021, and died several days later.

Clinton Christmas and Joseph Hughes were both originally indicted for first-degree murder.

This morning a judge accepted a plea deal where both men were sentenced to time already served in jail.

“Releasing people back onto the streets that’ve done what they’ve done doesn’t speak highly of the county we live in,” said Hill’s sister, Jennifer Rouse. “Who will be next?”

Documents say the 44-year-old Christmas pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to a minimum of a year and nine months in prison. He was given credit for 692 days in jail which means he has served his time.

Hughes pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and was given an eight-month sentence. The judge gave him credit for 1,062 days in jail which also means he has served his sentence.

Jennifer Rouse was opposed to the plea deal. Monday afternoon she said, “Justice hasn’t been served from day one. We pretty much have been told from day one that this wouldn’t go to trial.”

She also went on to say, ““We weren’t treated fairly so we will be pursuing other avenues in this case.”

Last week she told WITN that handling the death of her brother, Jeffrey, was one of the most difficult things she’s done.

“I have to live with it every day,” Rouse said. “I’m not asking for too much except that justice be served.”

Rouse says her brother was attacked by the two men after leaving a bar then called “The Office” now known as “The Proof” on North Herritage Street.

“We were pretty much told that this was the way it would be, that the grand jury didn’t matter, and that they would have lesser charges,” Rouse said. “For the time served they’ll be getting out.”

Hill left behind two children as well as other family and friends who loved him dearly.

Rouse believes letting the two men accused of his death out of the Lenoir County Jail is unacceptable.

“What are we saying for this community when you’re letting people go that’ve killed somebody, who was born and raised in this community,” Rouse said.