Testimony will continue Tuesday in the trial of a Jacksonville man accused of impregnating and killing his niece in 2018.
Quiles, 38, was indicted for the first-degree murder of his niece, 16-year-old Iyana Sawyer, and her unborn baby, believed to be his child, in addition to having sex with a minor because Sawyer was only a teenager at the time.
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Quiles’ defense is arguing that prosecutors don’t have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he murdered his niece, or that she is dead at all — because her body has never been found. Quiles was married to Sawyer’s aunt and they are not biologically related.
The defense says the state can’t prove that Quiles was indeed the father of Sawyer’s unborn child and there is no blood or crime scene. They said that DNA evidence that will be presented by prosecutors does not prove Quiles is the killer.
The state was expected to play a two-hour recording Monday between a jail informant and Quiles, but the defense argued there were inaccuracies with the transcription given to jurors. They said Quiles wasn’t properly identified by the state in portions of the recording. In the end, the transcript will be allowed, and jurors will possibly hear the audio recording on Tuesday.
Jurors could also hear from a firearms expert and possibly even Quiles’ own brother. Detectives believe that after killing the teen, Quiles admitted it to his brother.
Former boss testifies
Monday’s testimony brought Quiles’ former boss at Ace Pick-A-Part to the stand. General Manager Gary Lindros testified that on Dec. 19, 2018, the day Sawyer was reported missing, Quiles clocked in at 8:08 a.m. and out at 5:09 p.m. On Dec. 20, 2018, he clocked in at 8:02 a.m. and out at 2:48 p.m. His time card shows he did not leave the premises on those days.
But the jury was shown surveillance video from the business and Lindros confirmed a red minivan left the lot around 11:17 a.m. on Dec. 19, 2018, and came back around 12:30 p.m. Quiles drives a red minivan.
Lindros said he did not give Quiles permission to leave, and Quiles did not clock out. Sawyer was last seen leaving Terry Parker High School on Dec. 19, 2018, around 11 a.m.
Lindros also testified that Quiles had access to unrestricted areas of the company property and to a large commercial dumpster.
During opening statements last week, prosecutors said Quiles made these statements related to the murder:
“I have to get rid of the body.”“The dumpster is at my job. I control what gets dumped.”
The general manager also testified that on Dec. 19 or Dec. 20, he saw Quiles carrying duct tape, even though there is no typical duty on the company property that would require duct tape.
Quiles’ attorneys questioned Lindros, making the argument Quiles’ actions on Dec. 19 and 20 were not anything out of the ordinary.
Teen’s family testifies
Last week, several of Sawyer’s family members took the stand, including her mother, her grandmother, her aunt and her sister.
Sawyer’s mother, Kimberly Mobley, testified about her daughter’s pregnancy, Sawyer’s relationship with her uncle and her disappearance.
Mobley said the unborn child was a girl and her name was going to be “Hazel Michelle Mobley.” She said she found out Sawyer was pregnant just 16 days before she was reported missing.
During cross-examination, the defense had witnesses admit Sawyer never told anyone Quiles was the father. But Mobley said her daughter told her someone named “Jose” was the father.
Sawyer’s sister, who took the stand late Friday afternoon, testified that her sister was in love with Quiles and that he was “Jose.”
Her sister described the inappropriate touching, kissing and sexual encounters she said she witnessed between Quiles and Sawyer. She said she kept the secret about her sister and Quiles for at least two years to keep a good relationship with her sister.
She said she wanted to protect her and got emotional talking about her last interactions with her sister.
Sawyer’s sister said Sawyer and Quiles’ wife, who is their aunt, were both pregnant by Quiles at the same time and that Quiles wanted Sawyer to get an abortion. Sawyer refused, her sister said.
She also testified that Quiles gave her sister pills to try to prevent the pregnancy.
Sawyers’s grandmother testified that during Thanksgiving 2018, she saw Quiles intimately hugging Sawyer.
“He was hugged up, full embrace, when they seen me it startled him…Not a hug an uncle would give,” Winella Haynes recalled.
Haynes said she told Mobley to not let Quiles around her kids and to her knowledge she did that.
One of Sawyer’s close friends said the day Sawyer went missing, she told them she’d be going to stay with Quiles for two weeks.
Disappearance and investigation
It has been almost five years since Sawyer disappeared. On Dec. 19, 2018, Sawyer was seen on surveillance video at Terry Parker High School. She was never seen again, and no trace of her has been found.
Court records reveal Sawyer was on her way to Quiles’ job at a salvage yard on the north side the day she vanished.
Police believe Sawyer, who was five months pregnant at the time, was shot and killed, then placed into a dumpster and taken to the Otis Road Landfill. Investigators looked through more than 5,000 tons of trash but never found her remains.
A former CSI detective and former K-9 officer testified last week about the 16-day search at the Otis Road Landfill that turned up items related to the case, but no human remains. The general manager of the landfill testified Monday, describing the police search as looking for a needle in a haystack.
The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
Quiles could face the death penalty if he’s convicted of Sawyer’s murder. A new 2023 ruling now allows a death sentence with only an 8 to 4 vote by the jury instead of the 12 to 0 previously needed.