Two state prisoners – who were already serving life sentences for murder – have been charged in the alleged killings of four other inmates on Friday at one of the state’s maximum-security prisons.
Denver Jordan Simmons, 35, and Jacob Theophilus Philip, 25, are facing four counts of murder each, according to a news release by Thom Berry, spokesman for the State Law Enforcement Division. The arrests were announced just after midnight on Saturday.
Simmons and Philip are accused of luring John King, 52; Jason Kelley, 35; Jimmy Ham, 56; and William Scruggs, 44, into a cell on Friday. That’s where Simmons and Philip either strangled, or attacked their fellow prisoners with a broomstick and strangled them, according to the arrest warrants. Ham was also allegedly stabbed with the broken broomstick.
Autopsies performed Saturday morning confirmed all four died of strangulation, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said. They died between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Friday.
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Some parts of the alleged attacks were caught on surveillance video, but the warrants did not elaborate with further details. Both men also confessed to killing their fellow prisoners, the warrants said.
Philip was arrested in 2013 for the killings of his 26-year-old girlfriend and her 8-year-old daughter in Berkeley County, according to reports by WCIV. He pleaded guilty in 2015 as part of a plea agreement in exchange for life without parole, according to clerk of court records.
In a separate and unrelated incident, Simmons pleaded guilty in exchange for two life sentences for the 2007 killing of 45-year-old Sheila Dodd and her 13-year-old son in Colleton County, according to reports by The Post and Courier during his sentencing hearing in 2010.
The four men Philip and Simmons are accused of killing were found dead around 10:35 a.m., on Friday at Kirkland Correctional Institution by corrections officers of the S.C. Department of Corrections. The agency’s czar, Bryan Stirling, called on SLED to lead the investigation into the suspected killings. Stirling later thanked SLED for “their rapid response, resources and for leading the investigation.”
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts had not released the official cause of death as of the early morning hours of Saturday. SLED agents were assisted in the investigation by Watts’ office and the corrections department’s police services division.
Kirkland Correctional Institution is one of the state’s high-security facilities. It includes a maximum security unit, where the most dangerous and violent prisoners are housed. Kirkland is part of the Broad River Complex off Broad River Road in the Harbison area.
There have been previous incidents of violence reported at Kirkland. In 2015, the death of an inmate was attributed to blunt force trauma not due to a fall. There also was an incident in which two inmates took two nurses as hostages with homemade knives, after they forced themselves into a nurse station.
In 2016, the agency announced three of its former officers were facing attempted murder charges for allegedly stabbing an inmate who was handcuffed in his cell. A corrections officer also was fired the same year for allegedly hitting a handcuffed inmate in the face.
About Kirkland Correctional Institution:
- About 15,000 offenders are received yearly for classification and assignments.
- One of the state’s high-security prisons for men
- Includes the state’s maximum security unit, for most dangerous and violent prisoners
- Also houses, separately, inmates who want to harm themselves
- Opened in 1975
Source: S.C. Department of Corrections