Store clerk killer is1st in state sent to death row since 2014

State hasn't executed inmate since 2011because it doesn't have necessary drugs

By Jeffrey Collins
Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina's death row is getting its first new prisoner in more than five years after a jury sentenced a man to death for the shooting of a store clerk during a robbery.

Jerome Jenkins did not dispute he killed Balla Paruchuri at a Conway convenience store in January 2015. But he did ask a Horry County jury to spare his life.

Instead, news outlets report the jurors chose the death penalty Thursday, making Jenkins the first addition to death row in South Carolina since Ricky Blackwell was sent there in 2014 by a Spartanburg County jury for killing an 8-year-old girl to get back at his ex-wife.

Jenkins was only being tried this week for killing Paruchuri, but a few weeks after his death, authorities said he also killed Trisha Stull in a robbery at a different Sunhouse convenience store.

Prosecutors referenced both killings and Jenkins' two co-defendants who have already pleaded guilty throughout their case. Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said video from the stores show Jenkins was a cold killer who got the money and everything else he demanded and then turned around and fired as he left.

"They done had the money. They done had the money. And they killed them anyway," Richardson said.

Prosecutors also emphasized a letter Jenkins wrote his mother from jail. "Before I take my life, I want you to know I love you Mama, and I did kill that man and that woman. I ain't sorry for what I did, but I wish I can take it back," Jenkins wrote.

Officials did not report any attempt by Jenkins to take his life.

Jenkins' lawyer asked the jury for mercy because of an upbringing that included living in a trailer without electricity or running water and a father who spent long stretches in prison.

Defense attorney Ralph Wilson said every man in Jenkins' life was either dead or in prison. "If you spare his life, maybe, his son won't appear in front of 12 people," Wilson said.

Jenkins' ultimate fate is up in the air. He is the 38th person - all men - on the state's death row, which was moved to Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia in 2017.

But South Carolina hasn't executed an inmate since 2011 because the state doesn't have any drugs to carry out the punishment and pharmacies have refused to sell them.

Attempts to switch the execution method to electrocution or add a firing squad haven't made it through the Legislature the past few years.

Many prosecutors have begun accepting pleas to life in prison without parole in exchange for a defendant agreeing not to appeal. A man who admitted killing seven people in Spartanburg County and a man who killed a Forest Acres police officer in Richland County each accepted those types of pleas in cases where prosecutors used to typically seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors are trying to send a second man to death row this month. In Lexington County, Timothy Jones Jr. is standing trial for killing his five children in August 2014.

Published: Mon, May 20, 2019