South Carolina

Facing death: Here is what happened during Day 1 of sentencing in Horry County capital case

Jerome Jenkins Sunhouse case: Here’s how sentencing is going

Sides presented their opening arguments to a jury in the sentencing phase of a capital trial in Horry County, South Carolina. Jerome Jenkins was convicted of murder and robbery in a series of store robberies.
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Sides presented their opening arguments to a jury in the sentencing phase of a capital trial in Horry County, South Carolina. Jerome Jenkins was convicted of murder and robbery in a series of store robberies.

There was no “cooling off” for Jerome Jenkins after he robbed and killed Balla Paruchuri at a Sunhouse convenience store in January 2015. No thoughts of “what did I do?” or “what was I thinking?” state prosecutors said.

“You know what Jerome Jenkins did?” Chief Deputy Solicitor Scott Hixson told a jury on Monday. “Doubled down. Doubled down and executed Trish Stull.”

It’s that second killing prosecutors said is one of the reasons Jenkins should be executed for his crimes. On Saturday, an Horry County jury found Jenkins guilty of murder, attempted murder and armed robbery for the incident that left Paruchuri dead.

A state-mandated “cooling off” period on Sunday prevented further testimony. Monday marked the start of the second phase of the trial as the jury considers whether Jenkins should face the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Hixson said 23 days after Paruchuri’s murder, Jenkins and two other men robbed a Lake Arrowhead Road Scotchman.

Last year, a jury convicted James Daniels of murder and two counts of armed robbery, and he was sentenced to life in prison. McKinley Daniels pleaded guilty earlier this year to murder and armed robbery and will spend at least 45 years behind bars.

Hours after the Scotchman incident, the trio went to an Oak Street Sunhouse where Stull worked.

“Jerome is the only one with a gun,” Hixson said.

Feet from leaving the store after the robbery, Jerome made his move. Hixson raised his finger like a gun and told the jury how Jenkins fired multiple shots killing Stull.

Jenkins sat at a defense table as he heard a recount of the crimes. He held his hands near his mouth or nervously bounced them on the table. His demeanor, much more quiet and reserved than during the first phase of the trial.

During the guilt phase of the trial, Jenkins would joke around or smile. On Monday, he wore all black with a grey tie as he listened to the testimony and watched videos of his crimes.

Jenkins’ attorney Brana Williams reminded the jury of what she said on Saturday, that Monday would be their chance to tell the rest of Jenkins’ story.

She implored the jury to keep an open mind and allow Jenkins a fair trial. She added she would hear about a lost boy and the concept if one person commits a crime that everybody involved is responsible.

“Maybe my client doesn’t deserve mercy, but I’ll tell you what he deserves, justice and he deserves fairness,” Williams said.

Witnesses testify

The state called several witnesses on Monday as part of its case. Horry police officers described their investigation and showed surveillance video. A clerk from the Scotchman talked about the night she was robbed.

Former Horry County police officer Shane Owens detailed how he helped local stores close down as the community was on edge after the first robbery.

The state called several witnesses on Monday as part of its case. Former Horry County police officer Shane Owens detailed how he helped local stores close down as the community was on edge after the first robbery.

On January 23, Owens tried to help Stull close her Sunhouse store, but was called to a domestic violence incident.

“I told her I’d check the building in the back and sides really well and that everything would be OK and she would be all right. That is what I told her,” Owens said.

Two days later, Stull was dead.

Owens said he was helping to close a Dollar General when the silent alarm went off at Stull’s Sunhouse. As Owens raced toward the store, dispatchers said they could not contact Stull on the phone, which increased his fear.

He arrived and found Stull laying face down, and Owens quickly released she was dead when paramedics stopped providing care.

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Alex Lang is the True Crime reporter for The Sun News covering the legal system and how crime impacts local residents. He says letting residents know if they are safe is a vital role of a newspaper. Alex has covered crime in Detroit, Iowa, New York City, West Virginia and now Horry County.


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