Crime & Courts

Four inmates killed in SC prison were strangled to death, autopsies show

(From the left) John Tely King, Jason Howard Kelley, Jimmy Ham and William Bradley Scruggs were found dead inside a dorm on Friday at Kirland Correctional Institution.
(From the left) John Tely King, Jason Howard Kelley, Jimmy Ham and William Bradley Scruggs were found dead inside a dorm on Friday at Kirland Correctional Institution.

The four inmates who were killed at a maximum-security prison in Columbia on Friday were strangled to death, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said Saturday.

Autopsies were performed on the victims Saturday morning. Hours earlier, two prisoners already serving life sentences for murder at the Kirkland Correction Institution were charged in the killings.

Jimmy Ham, 56, died from asphyxiation due to manual strangulation, Watts said.

William Scruggs, 44, died from asphyxiation due to strangulation and mechanical compression of the chest.

John King, 52, died from asphyxiation due to strangulation with an electrical cord.

Jason Kelly, 35, died from asphyxiation due to strangulation.

All four died between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Watts said.

Denver Jordan Simmons, 35, and Jacob Theophilus Philip, 25, are facing four counts of murder each in connection with the killings.

Simmons and Philip are accused of luring the four victims 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.

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.

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