Five officers from Lee Correctional Institute, who helped guard Jerome Jenkins for safekeeping while he was at the S.C. Department of Corrections, testified today that they had upsetting encounters with him while he was there.
His behavior was so disruptive there that they put him in death row housing and even took away his sheets. However, an Horry County jury was not allowed to know that he was in death row housing, only that he was in maximum care because Judge Robert Hood and defense attorney Ralph Wilson feared using the words “death row” might influence the jury.
Former officer Bolden said while he was giving out pills to inmates, Jenkins threw an unknown liquid on him before cutting his left arm with some type of sharp object.
The cut resulted in a small scar on the guard’s arm. Someone had taken Jenkins’ sheets the day before and he wanted them back. The confrontation also included Jenkins’ being sprayed with Mace.
Lt. Damon Greene said when he went to take Jenkins for a mental health visit Jenkins told him he was going to kill him. He said Jenkins shoved him into a wall on another occasion.
Officer Jason Fields said on one occasion when he was helping inmates shower, Jenkins swung a piece of metal and hit his right forearm. He said the object was on a rope of some type. Jenkins pulled it back and flung it again that time hitting and cracking Fields’ face shield. He said he was bruised, but there was little blood involved.
Sgt. Vanessa Fox said once while she was picking up trays, Jenkins refused to remove his hand from the food flap in his cell so she could close it. She said he told her if she didn’t move away from his door he was going to throw feces on her, although that isn’t the word he used.
She said they argued about his hand before he threw feces in her face and eyes. She sprayed him with Mace and he threw more feces, that time getting it in her mouth. Capt. Thomas Commander testified that Jenkins once threw a homemade knife and radio at him and hit him with his Croc. When he tried to stop Jenkins, he broke his window and told him if they didn’t “ship him” he was going to kill them all.
But Wilson argued that Jenkins never should have been sent to the Department of Corrections and put in strict detention because it was a violation of his Constitutional rights as a pretrial prisoner.
He said they put him in a situation where this kind of behavior is rife, and it wasn’t his fault that he was sent there. He was sent there for safekeeping because his co-defendants, James and McKinley Daniels had threatened to kill him at the Horry County Detention Center.
The jury found Jenkins guilty Saturday of murdering and robbing Bala Parachuri at the Sunhouse Convenience Store on S.C. 905 near Longs. Although he is also charged with killing Trisha Stull at the Sunhouse on Oak Street and Cultra Road, Jenkins is not being tried for that killing. However, the jury is being told about that case and has seen videos of both killings for purposes of deciding his sentence.
In both killings, the victims gave the men no resistance and turned over all the money they had available. In both killings, the money was about $50. The men also took Newport cigarettes.
Jenkins is also accused of shooting through a restroom door where an employee in the Longs store had fled to avoid the gunman.
Jenkins and the Daniels were also charged with armed robbery of a Scotchman store on Lake Arrowhead Road.
Barbara McDowell was alone in the store when she saw two men “crunch” down behind a bar outside, but she thought they were playing. That’s before they came in with guns. She testified that she gave them all of the money in one register, but had trouble opening the second one. She said one of the men told her he was going to count to three and if she didn’t have the register open by then, he would shoot her.
Because she said she is prepared to die, that actually calmed her.
In response to questioning by Wilson, she said she isn’t still bothered by the incident because she is able to put things behind her.
A friend of Parachuri, Visweswara Cheedipudi told the jury that he had been a friend of Parachuri’s in college in India before they moved to the United States.
He said he looks at Parachuri’s family as his own and visits his widow and children about twice a month.
“They are sad,” he said
He said Parachuri’s son, a 16-year-old Socastee High School student, is a great athlete who plays football and tennis, and his daughter, who is about 12-years-old still misses her father and had recently written on their car window, “I love you dad. I miss you dad.”
He said Parachuri was a good father, whose family and work were first in his life.
He said as he rushed to the convenience store the night his friend was shot, he could see the store on his phone and the friend who had called him said to him, “No more Bala.”
He said he reportedly died within 16 seconds of being shot.
He said his friend didn’t drink or do drugs and had no enemies.
The duo played golf together every Sunday unless one of them was out of town or it was raining.
Parachuri’s wife was in the courtroom, but did not testify. Victims advocate Patty Fine sat with her arm around her during Cheedipudi’s testimony.
Dr. Beverly Wood, the S.C. Department of Correction’s chief psychiatrist, told the jury she met with Jenkins twice, but didn’t find any major mental health problems either time. She said at their first meeting he admitted being anxious so she gave him an anti-depressant.
On the second meeting, she said he told her he had problems controlling his anger so she gave him medicine to help with that.
She said in the past he had been treated for attention deficit disorder and had been on stimulants. She said he also told her he heard voices, but she said that isn’t unusual for people at the Department of Corrections, that stress or lack of sleep can cause people to hear voices or sometimes they hear their own thoughts.
Jane Tyler, a registered nurse at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Conway, said she was sent to check on Jenkins because they wanted to put him on suicide watch after reading a letter that he had written to either his mother or grandmother.
In the letter he said he was considering suicide and had slit his throat, but that wasn't true. She testified that he never gave her a problem.
Christine Snyder with the Horry County Sheriff’s Office read the letter for the jury.
In it he said he had killed “that man and woman”, but he wasn’t sorry about anything that he had done. Still, he said, he wished he could take it back.
He told his mama to tell everybody hello and goodbye for him.
He also referred to his father, Jerome Jenkins Sr., who had spent many years in jail saying, “I can’t see how my daddy did all that time.”
Jenkins told jail officials he wrote the letter because he wanted his family to send him money to use at the prison canteen.
In questioning by the Judge outside of the jury’s presence, Jenkins said he did not want to testify in his trial, but might want to make a statement to the jury after their life or death verdict.
Defense attorney Brana Williams told the jury in her opening statements of the penalty phase of the trial, that Jenkins had been diagnosed with an emotional disorder as a child. She said his father, Jerome Jenkins Sr., spent much of his adult life in jail and the younger Jenkins lived with his girlfriend and baby in a house with no water or heat because they had no money.
She said on some cold nights they had to take their baby to a family member’s house if they thought it was going to be too cold for the baby to spend the night in their house.
Testimony is set to continue Wednesday morning.