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Four Prisoners Murdered at South Carolina Facility

On April 7, 2017, four minimum-security prisoners at the Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina were found dead in a cell. A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigation revealed that John King, 52; Jason Kelley, 35; Jimmy Ham, 56; and William Scruggs, 44 were strangled after being lured into the cell by fellow prisoners Denver Simmons and Jacob Philip. Two of the victims were also beaten and stabbed with broken broomsticks. The attacks were partially captured on surveillance video.

Simmons, 35, and Philip, 25, were charged with four counts of murder; each was already serving a life sentence for unrelated double homicides, and both may now face the death penalty. Authorities were unclear as to the motive for the killings or how Simmons and Philip tricked the men into entering the cell. The Department of Corrections will conduct an internal investigation into the murders after the criminal investigation is finished, DOC Director Bryan Stirling told the Associated Press

The Kirkland facility operates a specialized housing unit for prisoners considered the state’s most dangerous, as well as an assessment and classification unit, and a 24-bed infirmary. In 2015 the prison was the scene of previous violence when two prisoners held a pair of nurses hostage for seven hours; one nurse had her throat cut with a homemade knife but survived. And last year, three Kirkland guards were fired after they were accused of plotting to kill a prisoner, stabbing him while he was handcuffed. They were charged with attempted murder and misconduct in office.