SEATTLE – Jennifer Morrison Espitia had told her husband to take it easy on the alcohol after a recent surgery he underwent last year.
But after a wedding they attended in July 2017, 32-year-old Cameron Espitia was drunk, argumentative and armed with a loaded gun. From the back seat of an Uber ride in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle, he took out his gun and shot his wife in the back of the head.
Espitia was sentenced to 19 years in prison Friday in King County Superior Court in a packed courtroom of tearful family and friends. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Oct. 31.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Berliner struggled to make sense of 29-year-old Morrison’s slaying.
“It’s simply baffling why the defendant made this choice, why he killed his wife,” she said.
Friends and family members who spoke fondly of her at Espitia’s sentencing lovingly remembered Morrison as “Jen,” “Jenny” and “Jens.”
“I spend every day not just remembering who she was, but who she could have been,” childhood friend Ally Jurkovich said.
Morrison’s boss and “second mom,” Stacy Lill, described her as a smart, vivacious and opinionated.
She said Morrison had recently taken time off in the months before her death to care for Espitia as he recovered from surgery.
“We will never understand what happened, but your choice has left a huge hole in all of our hearts,” Lill told Espitia at the hearing.
Bri Ancia, Morrison’s sister, recalled that Morrison had implored Espitia to refrain from drinking in the days before her death.
“We loved you, Cameron. You were our brother, our son,” Ancia said. “You vowed to protect her and instead you took her away from this world.”
Morrison’s father sobbed as his daughter spoke.
The couple had just attended the wedding of Jennifer Morrison Espitia’s high school friends in West Seattle July 1, 2017, and were headed to an after party when they hailed an Uber from the Courtyard Marriott on Westlake Avenue North in South Lake Union, according to Seattle police.
The driver picked them up and would later tell police that the couple immediately argued. Espitia sat in a back seat and Morrison sat in the front passenger seat. While Espitia told the driver to drop him off on Aurora Avenue North, his wife told him to ignore her husband and continue driving.
Espitia reportedly told his wife at one point to “go (expletive) yourself,” reports say.
The driver said he then heard a loud “boom” and saw Morrison’s head slump over, realizing she’d been shot.
Fearing he’d be shot next, he asked Espitia where he would like to go, court records said. Espitia told him to drive and instructed him where to pull over and got out of the car somewhere in Queen Anne.
The driver drove one block and called 911 about 12:03 a.m. July 2.
Medics took Espitia Morrison to Harborview Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 1:50 a.m.
Officers found Espitia in the 2100 block of Queen Anne Avenue North and asked him how he was doing. He reportedly claimed he was “having a bad night” and got into an argument with his wife. He admitted he had a concealed weapons permit and carried a pistol. He also identified his wife.
Cops noted “dirt and debris” on Espitia’s suit, as well as dried blood on his right shoulder, and he claimed that he didn’t recall what happened after he and his wife boarded an Uber, but reported he woke up in some bushes and started walking until he could find a phone to call his wife.
Cops took him to Seattle Police Department Headquarters. Espitia asked how his wife was, without explaining why he had reason to ask about her welfare, and claimed he didn’t recall anything specific about the argument they had.
The gun Espitia possessed that night matched the caliber of the shell casing found in the Uber vehicle, according to Seattle police.
Judge Susan Amini adopted attorneys’ recommendation to sentence Espitia to 19 years in prison. She, too, said she struggled to find something to say about Morrison’s slaying.
Espitia’s attorney, Kevin McCabe, said that since Morrison’s slaying, Espitia has been catatonic, suicidal and severely depressed.
When given the chance to speak, Espitia only said, quietly, “Try and forgive me because I never will.”