BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Two former Southern Regional Jail guards were on bond on Thursday, November 2, 2023, after each pleaded guilty to conspiracy in United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia earlier today.

In court, 20-year-old Steven Nicholas Wimmer and Andrew Fleshman, 21, each admitted their role in a conspiracy that left 37-year-old Quantez Burks of Beckley dead on March 1, 2022.

There was sobbing in the gallery from members of the Burks family, as U.S. District attorneys told the court that a group of guards, including Wimmer and Fleshman, handcuffed Quantez Burks and led him around Southern Regional Jail, where they took turns beating him.

Fleshman, who is accused in a separate civil case filed in September of beating another incarcerated man, told the federal judge he is in psychiatric treatment for anger management. He admitted to the judge that he participated in beating Burks and, at one point, stomped on Burks’ ankle.

Fleshman entered the federal courthouse with an infant carrier.

Wimmer told the judge he was present while Burks was being beaten.

The two admitted they conspired with a number of other guards to beat Burks, because Burks allegedly tried to push past officers inside his pod.

Burks died on March 1, 2022.

Burks’ mother, Kimberly Burks, and his fiancée, Latasha Williams, both of Beckley, released photos of Burks’ severely injured body earlier this year. Kimberly Burks said officials with the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation have never notified her of her son’s death or returned his personal belongings.

As the judge read the sentencing guidelines on Thursday, just before Wimmer and Fleshman pleaded guilty, their family members could be heard sobbing.

After the hearing, Kimberly Burks said she believes her son would’ve never been beaten in such a manner “on the street.” She said she thinks about her son’s last hours “every night.”

“When he was crying and when he was asking for help, not one of them said, ‘Stop. He’s had enough.’ He was handcuffed and he was beaten to death by them. And not one of them said, ‘He’s had enough,’” said Kimberly Burks. “But Wimmer and Nicholas went home to be with their wives and their kids.”

Williams said the victim’s family was going to his gravesite after the hearing.

“They get to walk out with their family,” said Williams, referring to Wimmer and Fleshman. “They need to be thanking God for that. Because what we gotta do, we about to head to the graveyard, sit there on the cold and cry and tell my baby we got some kind of justice.”

Kiera Cooper of Ohio, Burks’ daughter, pointed out that a number of families of those who have died at SRJ have said they believe jail staff withheld information about their loved ones’ last hours.

“We’ll always be here, to the end,” said Cooper. “There’s so many people that have went through this, and they’ve gotten away with it. But this time, they chose the wrong family, and we’ll never give up. We’ll be here until the end.”

Kimberly Burks said she hopes her son’s death can help save the lives of others incarcerated at Southern Regional Jail.

“If we can save one life from the {corrections officers} at SRJ, then I would say that we did a good job,” she said. “He died for one person to be saved. Because it will happen again, if they don’t change their staff, change their everything.”

Wimmer and Fleshman each face up to ten years in federal prison, up to $250,000 in fines, three years’ post-release probation, plus a $100 special assessment fee and restitution payments to the victims.

They are ineligible for parole during the prison sentence, and each waived his right to appeal the sentence, as long as the sentence falls within sentencing guidelines.

They are scheduled to be sentenced on February 22, 2024.