JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT)–A former Marine accused of a deadly hit-and-run reported in Onslow County in 2017 has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and driving while impaired, District Attorney Ernie Lee said.
On Wednesday, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and driving while impaired in Onslow County Superior Court.
Rodriguez was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 13.5 years in for second-degree murder and two years for driving while impaired to run concurrently with the murder sentence.
The evidence shows that on August 17, 2017, Rodriguez was driving his Chevrolet 2500 truck on Queens Creek Road near Jones Road in the Swansboro area around 9 p.m. when he struck 17-year-old Joseph Collins, who was walking on the side of the road.
After striking Collins, Rodriguez continued down Queens Creek Road and went to his residence on West Ivy Bridge Drive.
OnStar immediately called Rodriguez upon the collision occurring.
Rodriguez made only very short statements to the OnStar operator and did not identify himself.
The Onslow County Sheriff’s Office and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol headed to the area to investigate.
Trooper Christopher Cross had Rodriguez perform field sobriety tests and formed the opinion that he was obviously impaired.
Rodriguez was taken to the magistrate’s office to complete a breath alcohol test and the result was a .18.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the North Carolina Highway Patrol Reconstruction Unit assisted with the investigation.
Data from the control module in the vehicle showed that Rodriguez was traveling 65 mph five seconds prior to the collision, braked to 58 mph at three seconds from the collision, and was traveling 52 mph at the time of the collision.
The speed limit for that part of Queens Creek Road is 45 mph.
At the time of the collision, Rodriguez was out on pretrial release for a DWI charge that resulted from his running his vehicle into the ditch in Duplin County in February of 2017, a few months before the collision.
Rodriguez’s license was revoked at the time of this collision for that DWI.
He was convicted of the DWI in Duplin County in March of 2018 and his breath alcohol concentration was .14.
At the time of the collision, Rodriguez was 45 years of age and had served 24 years in the United States Marine Corps.
He was a staff sergeant and was within a couple of months of retirement.
A number of Marines who had worked with Rodriguez spoke with the District Attorney’s Office.
They stated that after the first DWI in Duplin County in February 2017, the Marine Corps had placed Rodriguez in outpatient treatment, and then inpatient treatment to try to work with the defendant to help him deal with his alcohol problem.
Because no one had observed Rodriguez driving during the collision, identifying him as the driver was crucial to the case.
Four of these Marines and Rodriguez’s girlfriend identified the voice on the OnStar call responding to the operator as the defendant’s voice.
Collins’ parents and many of his aunts, uncles, and grandparents were present in court for the plea hearing. He intended to join the Marine Corps upon his graduation from high school.