McKinley Daniels, James Daniels, and Jerome Jenkins — the three men charged in connection with three armed robberies and two deaths at convenience stores in January 2015 — tried to escape the J. Reuben Long Detention Center shortly after being captured for the crimes, The Sun News has learned.
The three devised an escape plot that authorities said led to their relocation to a maximum security facility until they face trial.
“We intercepted some correspondence that dealt with their escape plan and after that we did an investigation, and there was an informant inside the jail who was able to corroborate the plans,” said Tom Fox, J. Reuben Long Detention Center director.
McKinley Daniels, 34, James Daniels, 28, and Jenkins, 21, are all charged with murder and armed robbery in the deaths of Bala Paruchuri, 40, and Trisha Stull, 30, who were each killed in two separate Sunhouse store robberies in January 2015.
Fox, who has been working at the county jail for nearly 17 years, said he can only recall two other instances where inmates were moved from the facility, with the last time involving a violent inmate who made multiple attacks on J. Reuben staff about seven years ago.
“We take pride in how we operate our facility and the design of it, but sometimes you just have to seek out assistance,” Fox said.
We take pride in how we operate our facility and the design of it, but sometimes you just have to seek out assistance.
Tom Fox, J. Reuben Long Detention Center Director
Additionally, Jenkins was involved in the “violent assault” of another J. Reuben inmate and allegedly stabbed the inmate with a pencil, Fox said. The inmate suffered only superficial puncture wounds, “but the nature [of the assault] and the fact that he used a weapon escalated the threat,” Fox said.
The violent nature of the charges the three face was taken into account, along with their criminal histories, and the group was moved to Lee Correctional Institution, which is the largest maximum security facility in the state, Fox said.
After the assault and rumors of the escape plot were investigated, the three faced a judge and an order was issued authorizing their relocation to the Lee Correctional Institution, authorities said.
Horry County Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said the men likely won’t face any additional charges in connection with the alleged escape plot because the three already face serious charges.
“It would be like we have a 150 years [sentence] plus five years,” Richardson said.
He said it’s seldom that inmates are moved prior to trial for safekeeping.
“I’ve never done that before,” said Richardson who has been with the solicitor’s office since 1998. “That degree of it was very rare.”
Jenkins’ attorney, Ralph Wilson, said he didn’t know about the escape plot and said he objected to Jenkins being moved to the facility, which is about two hours away from him, making it difficult for him to get to his client. But a judge ordered that the men be transferred despite his objection.
Neither of the other two defendants’ attorneys could be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
At the maximum security prison, the men are on a 23-hour-a-day lockdown and are unable to communicate with other inmates, Fox said.
The trio is housed at the maximum security facility under the state’s “Safekeeper” program, which allows county jail officials to transfer inmates who are high escape risks, exhibit violate behavior or should be removed for their own protection, according to the S.C. Department of Corrections website.
Fox couldn’t elaborate on the details of their alleged escape plot, but said moving them decreases the potential for local people to aid their escape or harbor them.
McKinley Daniels and James Daniels, who are brothers, and Jenkins, who is their cousin, revealed they have family ties in the area at a Feb. 7, 2015, bond hearing before magistrate Judge Margie B. Livingston. At that hearing, bond was denied because it was held at the magistrate level and a circuit court judge must set bond for murder charges.
The men each told the judge their significant others were expected to have children soon. Jenkins said he has two children and his fiance was expecting a baby. James Daniels said he has a 4-year-old daughter and his girlfriend was pregnant. McKinley Daniels said he had two children on the way.
“We didn’t want to take the risks of them attempting to escape and being a risk to the community,” Fox said.
We didn’t want to take the risks of them attempting to escape and being a risk to the community.
Tom Fox, J. Reuben Long Detention Center Director
Richardson’s office served a notice to seek the death penalty for McKinley Daniels and Jenkins recently, and said the escape plan didn’t come into play when considering the maximum penalty for the two men, but said that information will come out at the trial.
The solicitor’s office has not served notice to seek the death penalty in James Daniels’ case.
The death penalty is being sought because the alleged crime spree involved two murders and three armed robberies, Richardson said.
On Jan. 2, 2015, Paruchuri, 40, was shot and killed inside the Sunhouse store at 7406 S.C. 905. He was gunned down while the suspects were leaving the store after demanding money out of the register, police said.
Surveillance video shows Paruchuri putting his hands in the air and cooperating before he was shot multiple times, authorities said.
Stull, 30, had only worked at the Sunhouse store at 2697 Oak St. in Conway for a few weeks before she was shot twice. She had hit the store’s panic button to silently alert police something was wrong, police said.
The mother of two was pronounced dead inside the store. At the trio’s Feb. 7, 2015 bond hearing, family members told the judge Stull was engaged to the half-brother of McKinley and James Daniels.
McKinley Daniels told the judge that he knew Stull and would not have hurt her.
Police later said that the robbery at the Scotchman on Jan. 25, 2015, and the robbery and Stull’s death at the Sunhouse store were connected and involved the same suspects.
In the Scotchman store robbery, two men went into the business at 9 p.m. Jan. 25, 2015, pointed a gun at the clerk and demanded money, police said. The men wore hooded sweatshirts, and one had a dark cloth mask covering his face, while the other man had a white cloth mask over his face.
No one was hurt during that robbery, according to authorities.
Both McKinley and James Daniels have prior felony convictions according SLED records. McKinley Daniels was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2005 for three felony charges, including kidnapping and strong arm robbery, according to SLED records.
James Daniels’ criminal history includes a sentence of five years in prison in 2005 for convictions on the same three felony charges as McKinley Daniels. In 2009, he was sentenced to 261 days in jail for possession of a weapon during a violent crime, according to SLED records.
The men will likely go to trial in about a year, Richardson said.