Sunhouse robbery and murder trial begins
On Jan. 25, 2015, James Daniels was part of a “well-oiled” robbery scheme and a Conway convenience store worker lost her life in that plan, the area’s solicitor contends.
“The evidence will be Trish Stull lost her life in a hail of bullets over a cash drawer, some cigarettes and her purse,” Solicitor for the 15th Judicial District Jimmy Richardson said Tuesday.
He outlined the state’s view of what happened on Jan. 25, 2015, as part of his opening statement for the trial of James Daniels.
Richardson painted a case of planned robberies, including a murder. The defense says Daniels’ co-defendants — McKinley Daniels and Jerome “JJ” Jenkins — are the evil parties.
“But you won’t see them sitting down with James,” defense attorney Barbara Pratt said, moving two empty chairs next to Daniels and labeling them for the co-defendants. “You don’t see a plan, and you don’t have the ability to look them in the eye and see their character.”
Tuesday marked the first day of Daniels’ trial for two counts of armed robbery and one count of murder, mainly related to an incident at an Oak Street Sunhouse convenience store in Conway.
The trial does not include charges in connection to an armed robbery and murder at a S.C. Highway 905 Sunhouse store earlier the same month. McKinley Daniels and Jenkins also face charges. While their cases are active, they are not part of the trial.
Daniels wore a blue plaid shirt and looked at the jury and his attorney as they delivered the opening statement.
Daniels served as the getaway driver of a 9 p.m. robbery of a Scotchman store on Lake Arrowhead Road, Richardson said. No one died in that crime.
Shortly before 10 p.m., Daniels also is seen in the Oak Street Sunhouse store talking to Stull. Richardson said he was scoping the business for McKinley Daniels and Jenkins.
Stull was on edge because of the other robberies and murder earlier in the month, the solicitor said.
“She was there to close up,” Richardson said. “She was nervous — everybody was nervous.”
Daniels purchased an item and left and provided the car during the robbery, Richardson said. Daniels drove the car to another location and then returned to the store as part of a plan, Richardson said.
“This is planned out. This is murder. This is armed robbery,” Richardson said.
While Daniels didn’t shoot Stull, Richardson said he faces murder charges because he played a part in the crime.
“Every store clerk that saw him, talked with him, flirted with him, sold to him, was dead in a half hour by the hand of his brother McKinley Daniels and JJ,” Richardson said.
Several police officers and a clerk at the Scotchman testified on Tuesday. Horry County Police Lt. Peter Cestare leads the agency’s crime scene section and responded to two stores on Jan. 25.
During his testimony, video surveillance from the Scotchman and Conway Sunhouse was shown. Both videos show two people enter the store and rob it. Cestare noted that in each robbery, one suspect wears red pants, a grey hooded sweatshirt, blue bandana and shoes with a metallic marking.
In the Sunhouse surveillance video, Stull is forced back into the store by the suspects. They then go behind the counter to the register. At one point, Stull tells the suspect she can’t unlock something behind the counter.
“I can’t open that, I have no keys,” she said.
The suspects leave the counter, Stull follows and is shot and killed.
Several of Stull’s family members present for the trial excused themselves from the courtroom while the surveillance video played.
Cestare also told the jury about how he saw a silver Chevy Malibu on surveillance video before both the 905 and Oak Street Sunhouse robberies. The car drove in and out of both parking lots several times in the minutes before the robbery.