Jacinto Jimenez sentenced in fentanyl murder trial

Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 3:24 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2023 at 8:42 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Judge Jeff McKnight handed Jacinto Jimenez a 45-year sentence in the 30th District Court on Sept. 28, 2023. He will be eligible for parole in 22 and a half years and will receive credit for 385 days served. Yesterday, the jury found him guilty of murder related to the July 2022 fentanyl overdose of Andres Diaz.

According to police records, Diaz arrived at the United Regional Emergency Department in the early morning of July 15, 2022, and was pronounced deceased minutes later by an ER physician. A Wichita County Justice of the Peace ordered an autopsy of his body to determine his cause of death, which was ruled to be caused by the toxic effects of fentanyl.

The woman who brought Diaz to the hospital, Leigha Smith, said she and Diaz had purchased Percocet pills from Jimenez through Facebook Messenger. She told police in the emergency room that she swallowed one pill while Diaz crushed and snorted another. He passed out soon after ingesting the drug and would not regain consciousness, so she transported him to the hospital.

Prosecutors began today’s punishment phase of Jimenez’s trial by first calling a sheriff officer to the stand. The officer recalled a traffic stop he initiated on SH 277 last year. He identified Jimenez as the driver of a red pickup in which he found a Percocet pill similar to the one sold to Diaz and an AR-15 assault rifle.

Defense attorney Michael Valverde cross-examined the officer to confirm that Jimenez and his passenger had been forthcoming during the traffic stop, and the officer answered yes.

Prosecutor Matt Shelton then called an undercover officer from yesterday back to the stand and asked how a warrant, such as the one issued for Jimenez on June 29, 2022, is handled. The officer explained they brief SWAT and utilize them because they have more experience in those situations.

According to Jimenez’s affidavit, WFPD executed a search warrant for Jimenez’s apartment that day, where they found a fentanyl pill that resembled the Percocet Diaz ingested. Jimenez admitted to police that the drug was his and said he sold fentanyl to pay for his own habit.

Shelton called another undercover officer to the stand and asked how they use informants to assist them in building cases. The officer explained fentanyl became more popular as the pandemic ended.

Next, the prosecution called a WFPD sergeant to the stand, who talked about how he started seeing fentanyl overdoses pop up in late 2021 and early 2022. The sergeant said he had seen the sale of fentanyl drop since the arrest of dealers and fentanyl deaths in the area.

Valverde called Jimenez’s older sister, Yesana Jimenez, to the stand, who explained how Jacinto’s childhood might have caused him to turn to drugs to cope with reality. She testified that her father used to beat her mother, causing Jacinto and herself emotional and mental pain.

Yesana said Jacinto was a good student through elementary and junior high but changed when he got to high school when he really quiet and had social anxiety. She said he started smoking weed, then turned to Xanax. Their family tried to help him, but he moved to harder drugs. The defense ended by asking her if she would be there for her brother when he got out of prison. She answered, “We will always be there for him.”

Shelton then began the closing arguments by telling the jury that he always asks himself, “What is a life worth?” in trials that involve dead bodies. He said that Diaz had his own demons, and Jimenez took advantage of those demons for $30. Shelton then showed the jury pictures of Jimenez’s nephews and asked the jury how those kids were affected by Jimenez.

The prosecution then ended their closing statements by telling the jury, “Mr. Jimenez has earned every minute of time behind bars he is going to get.”

The defense started their closing statement by telling the jury that they “can’t close their eyes and just turn away from the main problem.” Valverde said that his client had a drug problem, and he was hurting for Percocets. He then told the jury they couldn’t lock up every person who does drugs and then look away. He finished his closing statement by saying, “I ask that you give him 25 years but don’t give him life.”

Shelton returned, held up the AR-15 confiscated from Jimenez during the Apr. 28 traffic stop, and said, “Ask yourselves why someone who sells drugs needs to be rolling around town with this?” He then told the jury they could take a stand against fentanyl.

Shelton ended his statement by saying, “You have the world’s attention right now; give him life. Please send the right message.”