Horry County police have charged three people with murder related to recent convenience store armed robberies and killings in the area — including one man who was jailed on Monday.
Police announced the arrests in a press conference Friday, and said the captures were the result of work by a task force of officers from various departments. The charges stem from incidents at three convenience stores last month.
Charged are McKinley Daniels, 33, of Loris; James Daniels, 27, of Nichols; and Jerome Jenkins, 20, of Loris. Each is charged with two counts of murder, three counts of armed robbery, three counts of using a firearm during a violent crime, and one count of attempted murder, according to Lt. Raul E. Denis of Horry County Police.
Records from the State Law Enforcement Division indicate that McKinley Daniels was charged on Monday with possession of a stolen vehicle and five misdemeanor charges, including failure to stop for blue lights. His bail for those charges is $11,277.50.
The circumstances of Monday’s vehicle stop were not detailed Friday.
No bail has been set for the suspects on charges connected to the robberies and murders.
Denis said task force members worked around the clock on the cases and one of the leads they received led them to a home in Loris where a person of interest was arrested.
Police said evidence found at the home connects the person to the death of Bala Paruchuri during an armed robbery at the Sunhouse convenience store on Highway 905 in Longs on January 2; the armed robbery of the Scotchman convenience store on Lake Arrowhead Road; and the slaying of Trisha Stull during the armed robbery at the Sunhouse convenience store on Oak Street in Conway on January 24. Dennis would not say how the evidence links the person to the crime.
Denis said police aren’t sure if the suspects are connected to any other recent area robberies – at least 75 have been reported since October – but stated the public should now feel safe walking into a convenience store.
Paruchuri was gunned down while the suspects were leaving the store after demanding money out of the register. Surveillance video shows Paruchuri putting his hands in the air and cooperating with the robbers when he was shot multiple times, police said. Stull had only worked at the Sunhouse store for a few weeks before she was shot twice; she hit the store’s panic button to silently alert police something was wrong inside the business, police said.
Stull was pronounced dead inside the store.
“We pray to god there won’t be any more armed robberies,” Denis said.
Denis said police could not give more details about the investigation because it’s “ongoing.” He would not say whether additional arrests related to the crimes are likely.
Jimmy Richardson, 15th Circuit Solicitor, said he hasn’t determined whether to seek death sentences for the suspects.
Agencies on the task force that investigated the crimes included Horry County Sheriff’s Office, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, South Carolina Highway Patrol, 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Drug Enforcement Unit, Myrtle Beach Police Department, Conway Police Department, U.S. Marshalls Service, Williamsburg County Sheriff’s Office, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Both McKinley and James Daniels have prior felony convictions according SLED records. McKinley Daniels was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2005 for three felony charges, including kidnapping and strong arm robbery, according to SLED records.
James Daniels’ criminal history includes a sentence of five years in prison in 2005 for convictions on the same three felony charges as McKinley Daniels. In 2009, he was sentenced to 261 days in jail for possession of a weapon during a violent crime, according to SLED records.
News of the arrests Friday made 2015 more tolerable for Galyon Melvins, Sunhouse convenience store liaison, he said. He said he hasn’t stopped celebrating yet.
“It’s a happy day,” Melvins said.
Sunhouse stores are currently being equipped with better safety measures and brighter parking lot lighting to reduce the number of robberies and help customers feel at ease, Melvins said. He declined to explain any improvements in particular.
He said every agency and officer involved in the weeks-long investigation deserves applause.
“They all need to get a raise,” Melvins said. “They did such an excellent job.”
Paruchuri and Stull, were hard workers, Melvins said. When asked about his reaction to the arrest, Melvins teared up.
“Bala ran that store. That was his store,” Melvins said through tears. “Trisha was a hard worker and a human being, and they will always be in our hearts and prayers.”
Richardson, 15th Circuit Solicitor, said the suspects could be tried in capital cases, meaning they’ll receive the death penalty if found guilty. A death penalty case requires a murder charge plus another charge, so the suspect’s cases qualify, he said.
“We certainly don’t use the death penalty as a threat,” Richardson said. “Once we look through all the evidence, we’ll make a decision.”
Paruchuri’s wife hopes prosecutors decide on a capital case, according to K.P. Maganti, Sunhouse owner and friend of the Paruchuri family.
“When I told Bala’s wife they arrested the suspects, she started crying,” Maganti said. “The only thing she asked me, the only thing she wanted me to do was to make sure the prosecutors go for capital punishment.”
“There should not be people like this in the world,” he said. “I hope justice will be brought to the families.”