DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — A man who pleaded no contest to a charge of second-degree murder for stabbing his co-worker to death last year has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

According to a press release from the State Attorney's Office, Walton County Circuit Judge Kelvin Wells sentenced 27-year-old Jefferson Charles Michael Helton on Thursday.

On Sept. 22, 2016, Helton and the victim, Sandy Berlin, were working on the same construction team in Freeport. While riding home together, they began to argue after Berlin commented about the underage daughter of Helton’s girlfriend, the State Attorney's Office said. 

Berlin then stopped the vehicle and fought with Helton. Berlin struck Helton in the head with a glass bottle and then left him on the side of the road, according to the State Attorney's Office.

After Helton returned home, he and Berlin appeared to have resolved their differences. However, Helton later stabbed Berlin in the stomach several times while he was sleeping. Helton then fled the scene and hid for more than 12 hours while Berlin was taken to a Bay County hospital, where he died.

The Walton County Sheriff's Office issued an alert for Helton. Soon after, he approached a home to ask for cigarettes and water. The resident recognized Helton from the alert and offered him a ride to get cigarettes. But instead of driving Helton to the store, the resident took him to a sheriff’s deputy.

Assistant State Attorney Josh Mitchell prosecuted the case.