Jury gives Sunhouse killer the death penalty for deadly 2015 armed robberies

Updated: May. 16, 2019 at 6:37 PM EDT
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CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – A jury has sentenced Jerome Jenkins to death after he was found guilty in the deadly 2015 Sunhouse armed robberies.

Jenkins has 10 days to appeal the sentence. An execution date will be determined by the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

Thursday’s closing arguments in the penalty phase were preceded by more than three days’ worth of testimony, where witnesses on both sides talked about the type of man Jenkins is before a 12-person panel decides whether he spends the rest of his life in prison or is sentenced to die.

Correctional officers at Lee Correctional Institution portrayed Jenkins as a menacing presence, testifying that he made threats to kill them and threw bodily waste at one officer.

“You heard so much about Jerome Jenkins. I killed that man and that woman and I’m not sorry for what I did," said Solicitor Jimmy Richardson during his closing argument Thursday afternoon.

“They’re hurting, their families are hurting. And Jerome caused that pain," said defense attorney Ralph Wilson Sr.

Family members painted a more sympathetic picture of the defendant, saying he’s been a loving father to his two children and that his own father was in prison when he was born.

The defense called witnesses to the stand throughout the trial in an effort to outline the life Jenkins lived as a child and throughout high school.

“He’s still trying to function in a world that he’s not equipped to deal with," said Wilson.

Witnesses testified to the mental health obstacles Jenkins worked to get over. One doctor who analyzed Jenkins said, though, she didn’t find his mental health state had any correlation to the crimes he committed in this case.

“I wish I could tell you that he had a normal childhood like most of us,” said Wilson, "That his parents were loving. That they cared about him, that they took care of him, but it ain’t true.”

“Here’s the real truth: In Bala Paruchuri’s murder and in Trish Stull’s murder, they done had the money. They done had the money and they killed them anyway,” said Richardson.

Last week, a jury found Jenkins guilty of the armed robbery and murder of 40-year-old clerk Bala Parachuri at the Sunhouse convenience store in Longs on Jan. 2, 2015.

He was also charged in another armed robbery of a Sunhouse store on Jan. 25, 2015, which left 30-year-old clerk Trisha Stull dead, as well as the armed robbery of the Scotchman store on Lake Arrowhead Road the same day.

Earlier this year, co-defendant McKinley Daniels pleaded guilty to murder and armed robbery, and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

McKinley Daniels also faced the death penalty, but the court found him intellectually disabled and ordered he not be prosecuted under the death penalty because it was not a possible punishment in the case.

Last August, another co-defendant, James Daniels, was found guilty for his role in the robberies and murders, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“It’s been a long hard fight as we have been dealing with three defendants in this case. It’s gratifying to know both of the victim’s family can sleep well tonight,” said Scott Hixson, 15th Circuit Chief Deputy Solicitor, who with Richardson prosecuted the cases.

Richardson and Hixson each thanked officers with the Horry County Police Department for their dedication in bringing these cases to justice.

“These men each acted together and played roles in one of the most violent crime sprees our citizens have experienced in recent history,” Richardson said. “We are glad that the Paruchuri and Stull families were able to get justice for the loss of their loved ones.”

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