Michael A. Quinones was drifting across the country in October 2008 when he broke down in Spokane. Before he left town for Missoula, he left a bludgeoned young mother in his wake and a grieving family void of answers.
Quinones, 29, pleaded guilty as charged today to first-degree murder in connection to the strangulation death of 28-year-old Jennifer L. Siria. Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno sentenced Quinones to 25 years in prison as part of the agreement between attorneys.
“This was not a planned thing,” Quinones said. “Frankly, I don’t remember half of it. I’m not a brutal savage. This just got out of hand that night. I’m sorry it occurred.”
According to court records, the killing on Oct. 6, 2008, followed a dispute over $20.
Quinones and Matthew T. Shope, who was 17 at the time, were looking for a place to stay. They agreed to give Siria $20 to stay in her apartment at 537 E. Hawthorne Road.
But the two men apparently later decided to leave and attacked Siria because they wanted their money back.
Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Sam Palmer picked both Shope and Quinones up near the scene. Palmer took Shope back to juvenile detention, but released Quinones not knowing that Siria has just been killed.
Quinones was apprehended two weeks later at a homeless shelter in Missoula just minutes before he was set to leave town.
Deputy Prosecutor John Love said Shope had agreed to testify against Quinones, who was the main culprit in the killing. Love said he currently has a tentative agreement with Shope to plead guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the slaying.
At the hearing today, Moreno pressed Quinones about what happened. He said the incident involved a lot of alcohol and drugs before his defense attorney, Richard Sanger, brought the topic to a halt.
“An act like this with the loss of life _ the loss of a child _ is something that is absolutely horrible,” Moreno said. “I hope you understand the devastation you caused on a lot of people.”
Siria’s parents, Darrell and Patricia, who adopted their daughter’s son, Dillon, both spoke about how their lives have changed.
“How can two people do such a vicious act to another human being?” he said. “Dillon said, ‘Why did they have to kill her. Why. Why.’ How do you give a reasonable answer? You don’t.”
Darell Siria said Quinones now must pay the price for his “selfishness and stupidty.”
“You would have been better off to never have been born,” Siria said.
Quinones said he’s got daughters, ages 4 and 7, in South Carolina who ask the same questions about why he now must go to prison.
“This tragedy has affected my family as well,” he said. “I’d do anything to give back her life.”
To the victim’s family, he said: “I hope they have room in their hearts to forgive me and find peace in their lives.”