By IVY BROWN and COURT TV STAFF
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Court TV) — A Florida jury deliberated for a little more than an hour before deciding not to sentence a man to the death penalty after he was convicted of murdering his pregnant 16-year-old niece.
Johnathan Quiles, 38, was accused in the presumed death of Iyana Sawyer and her unborn child. Sawyer was last seen Dec. 19, 2018. Prosecutors said that day, Sawyer left her high school and went to a salvage yard where her uncle worked. She was five months pregnant, and her remains have not been found. Investigators said Quiles was the father of Sawyer’s child.
The jury took less than one hour to convict Quiles on all charges in the initial trial, and nearly one hour and fifteen minutes in the penalty phase.
At Quiles’ trial, which began Sept. 14, multiple witnesses testified to the alleged relationship between the defendant and his niece. Sawyer’s grandmother, Winella Haynes, testified she saw them in a “full embrace” during Thanksgiving 2018, reported WJXT. Sawyer’s sister testified she witnessed “inappropriate touching, kissing and sexual encounters.” She also reportedly claimed Quiles wanted Sawyer to get an abortion.
Prosecutors introduced wiretapped conversations between the defendant and others in jail after he was charged with Iyana’s murder, as well as testimony from jailhouse informants who said Quiles confessed to them.
Quiles’ defense claimed Sawyer may still be alive, and there is no crime scene or DNA evidence that ties their client to the alleged crime. He was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of sexual battery.
Quiles faced a potential death sentence for the murders of both Sawyer and her unborn child. The jury deliberated for more than an hour before recommending a sentence of life without the possibility of parole on both murder counts.
After a meeting on Sept. 28, sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 2.
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