As he awaits a September 13 sentencing date for a string of 2019 armed robberies including one in Roanoke Rapids, Jacob Austin Evans said in a letter to the presiding judge the death of his brother sent him on a downward spiral.
His case file contains other letters written to United States District Judge James C. Dever III.
In December Evans, 24, of Gates, entered a guilty plea to two of the counts lodged against him — the robbery of the Kangaroo Express on Sunset Avenue in Rocky Mount which occurred on July 12, 2019.
His accomplice, Jequayves Demondre Britt, is scheduled for arraignment before Dever on August 31.
When Evans’s sentencing was set for last month, a date later continued, his federal public defender, Kyana Givens, presented a sentencing memorandum which states she plans to present her client’s letter, five other letters of support, verification of a scholarship he noted in his letter as well as his college transcripts.
Evans waived indictment and pled guilty to the superseding criminal information charging him with two counts of aiding and abetting the use and carrying of a firearm during a crime of violence.
Prior to the federal charges, Evans had one criminal history point for possession of marijuana paraphernalia. “His points result in a criminal history category I,” Givens noted in the memo. “Unfortunately, as a result of the penalties for the crimes charged in the criminal information he is subject to consecutive mandatory minimum sentences of 5 years and 10 years — or a total mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years.”
Givens noted there are no guideline disputes in the case and the parties agree restitution is owed.
In his letter to Dever, Evans explained his parents are both military — his mother a veteran and his father on active duty.
“I struggled my way through a rough childhood and eventually ended up in a military academy,” he wrote. “In this environment I thrived. I turned my life around. I was accepted into the colorguard; I was top of my class; I was always first or close to first in all the activities we participated in.”
Because of those efforts, he was awarded a full-ride scholarship to North Carolina Wesleyan in Rocky Mount and decided to major in computer information systems.
He worked at the campus gym, worked on construction teams and eventually landed a job at a car wash. “Later I transferred to another car wash where I was appointed assistant manager which paid a little more and I was able to get my first apartment.”
Life was going well.
Then his brother was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma.
“It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he wrote. “My brother went through the harsh chemo treatments and took his medication with a determination to live and never once did he ever stop smiling or being his fun-loving self.”
After many months of fighting “it finally seemed like he had won, and the cancer had gone into remission. He went to work and started the recovery process.”
About a month later, however, he felt sick and went in for a routine checkup. The cancer had returned “ten times worse. The cancer ate through his flesh and bone with a vengeance, and the chemo seemed to have little to no effect on slowing it’s progress.
“Tumors spread over his body, destroying the brother that had become my best friend. And still he smiled whenever he had the strength. Several hard months later he passed away in his room …”
That’s when Evans wrote his life spiraled out of control. “My focus was gone so I couldn’t perform my duties as manager so they had to let me go. I wasn’t allowed to graduate and walk the stage because a mistake in calculations left me three credit hours — one class — short of completing my major.”
He lost his apartment and his girlfriend of three years. “I ended up turning to drugs to compensate for the grief of my losses, which was my downfall. I ended up addicted to methamphetamine as well as marijuana.I also took to drinking while on these substances.
“My drug problem led me to unsavory people, and I fell in with a bad crowd. The combination of my grief-stricken state, my addiction to drugs, and the company of bad people led me to make choices that I would never have made any other time — choices that I will regret for the rest of my life.”
He wrote, however, that he made the choices and, “I take full responsibility for the part I played in committing the crimes. While I may not have been of sound mind I was not forced and still chose to participate; therefore making me just as guilty.”
He said in the letter to Dever he is willing to apologize to the victims. “I never wanted to hurt anybody and I am deeply sorry for my actions. I am not the type of person that enjoys or wants to break the law or cause people misery. I want to be a help to the community and be there for my family.”
As he awaits sentencing next month, he said, “My time in jail has given me the opportunity to see what my life would be like if I continue doing bad things and breaking the law, and I don’t want to live a life like that. I’m going to take the time I’m given and better myself.”
He now eyes getting certificates in welding and HVAC and finishing his college degree. “I had plans to join the military before all this, and if time and circumstances allow I’d still like to join. I want to be a better person and do good for my life. I don’t want to be the type of person who is a leech or isn’t beneficial to the community.
“I know I made a mistake and regret everything I did. I just want to turn my life around and make something of myself. Any mercy would be greatly appreciated. I just want to be a good person.”
Evans and Britt were originally named in a 24-count indictment, reflecting robberies committed in six counties.
The Roanoke Rapids robbery occurred around 9:30 the evening of July 16, 2019, police said at the time.
A person entered the store wearing a mask and showed a weapon. An undisclosed amount of money was taken. There were no injuries.
The robber fled the store on foot and a canine track indicated the person traveled north toward the apartment complex behind the business.