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Man sentenced to 10 years after hit-and-run wreck kills teen

YORK -- The man police say fatally hit a Rock Hill teen last June as he walked along S.C. 322 started serving a 10-year prison sentence Thursday.

Jimmy Ray Pickens Jr., 25, of 4875 Percival Road in Rock Hill pleaded guilty to felony driving under the influence involving a death and leaving the scene of a collision that resulted in a death.

Kenneth "Scooter" Encinas Jr., 18, a former South Pointe High School student, who aspired to drive NASCAR race cars and fly airplanes, died at the scene on June 1.

"I don't believe Mr. Pickens set out to kill anybody," Judge Michael Nettles of the 12th Circuit in Florence said before sentencing. "At the same time, he did drink voluntarily. For that, he will be held accountable."

Nettles handed down a 10-year sentence and a $10,000 fine for leaving the scene. Pickens also received 10 years and a $10,000 fine for felony driving under the influence. The latter sentence will run concurrent with the first.

"He let him off easy," said Kenneth Encinas Sr. "Hopefully, he makes the changes he needs to."

Pickens' family declined to comment. Attorney John Rhea spoke on their behalf. "There are no winners," he said. "This case is tragic for both families."

On June 1, Encinas left a friend's home and walked down the side of McConnells Highway toward his parents' home.

Earlier that day, Pickens drank six beers at a lake and two more at the Kicking Pig on Cherry Road, according to court testimony. He stopped for beer at two stores around 10:45 p.m., he said.

"He was so intoxicated, so messed up that they refused to sell him beer," said 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett, who asked Nettles to impose the maximum 25-year sentence.

The night of the incident, Pickens traveled along McConnells Highway. In front of him were two motorists, including a man, Brackett said.

"He heard the sound of glass breaking and looked back," Brackett said about the man, who drove along McConnells Highway until he reached his driveway. "As the truck passed him, he saw it only had one headlight."

The next morning, Encinas' body was discovered near his home by two children riding their bikes. Authorities also found some parts unique to an F-150 truck.

That same day, Pickens picked up his sister so the pair could clean churches, Rhea said.

"She saw the damage to the truck," Rhea said. "He told her he hit a deer.

"Jimmy continued to drive around afterwards," Rhea added. "He drove the truck to work that Monday."

On Thursday, Pickens cried in court. So did his mother, Linda.

"I know the hatred you feel for our son," she told the Encinas family. "He would never intentionally hurt anything or anybody. He has a heart of gold."

Across the way, Jeremy and Sarah Encinas cried for their lost brother.

"I wish he (Pickens) would have stopped to see what he hit," said Sarah, 14.

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