‘He had the potential to do great things’: Teachers vouch for man convicted in Sunhouse murders

Jerome Jenkins Sentencing Phase Day 3

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – The jury heard testimony Wednesday from more friends and family of the man convicted in the Sunhouse murders and robberies back in 2015.

Jerome Jenkins’ father and the mother of his children told the jury about the kind of person Jenkins was to them.

Lonnice Grant took the stand and testified about her relationship with Jenkins. She said they have two children together. Grant said Jenkins went to every doctors appointment when she was pregnant.

She told the jury about the kind of father he was to their first child. She said he taught their son how to walk, potty trained him and even when they didn’t have much money, she said he still bought her something for Valentine’s Day.

“Regardless of what other people may see of JJ, I do know that he’s caring and he would do anything and everything for his family,” said Grant, “He also made the comment of, like I said, breaking the generational curse. And he said if it takes him to lose his life so his son doesn’t have to go through what he went through then he would do that all over again.”

Jerome Jenkins Sr., the defendants father, also took the stand Wednesday morning. He testified about the prison time he did and the absence from his son’s life.

Jenkins Sr. said he spent over 20 years in prison for an armed robbery of a convenience store. He said his son was born while he was in prison and he first met him when he was about two years old during a visit.

Jenkins Sr. said he got out of prison in 2015, the same year his son went to prison after being charged with armed robberies and murders at convenience stores in Horry County. Jenkins Sr. said he was able to visit his son and talk to him while he was in prison.

“I think we got a little bit closer because then he could understand the things I did and was actually going through because he was going through the same thing,” said Jenkins Sr., “It was a tragedy and I wish it didn’t happen, but it took place and I can’t change that and I wish they could be lenient if it’s possible.”

The jury learned more about Jenkins’ teenage years and life at school. Some of his teachers took the stand and told the jury Jenkins was a likable person who worked hard.

“After 40 something years, you just sort of know when a child just has a good heart,” said Martha Tennant.

Tennant worked with Jenkins when he was in ninth and tenth grade.

“He was one of them that caught my eye,” said Tennant.

She said she worked with him in the special education program when he was in ninth and tenth grade.

“He was likable. There was this little boyness about him. He was fun, he was smart, he was articulate,” said Tennant.

Another educator who also worked with Jenkins took the stand.

“He had the potential to do great things. We just had to work to try and get the behaviors in order so he could be successful,” said Etta Carter.

Carter said Jenkins would come to her and ask for help with learning.

“He had been incarcerated. He said, ‘I just got out. I want to do something different, I want to show my son something different,’” said Carter.

Jenkins was accepted into a job core programs at Horry Georgetown Technical College,” according to Tennant.

“JJ kept saying, ‘If I get out of here, I’m going to be OK. If I get out of here, I’m going to be OK,’” said Tennant.

She said it was when that program fell through, that she and other teachers saw things start to change.

“That’s when several of us who were teachers, that were really close to JJ, we sort of saw the light go out of his eyes,” said Tennant.

More witnesses are expected to take the stand for the defense Thursday.

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