Jury delivers verdict in first phase of death penalty trial
It took an Horry County jury a little more than an hour to find Jerome Jenkins guilty of robbery and murder at a Sunhouse convenience store in January 2015 and now he faces a potential death sentence.
The decision came with little surprise or suspense after the defense admitted to the crimes during its opening statement.
The same jury will hear arguments about whether Jenkins should face the death penalty or life in prison. The second phase of the capital trial is expected to start on Monday and last for several days.
“It was efficient, it was brutal,” Chief Deputy Solicitor Scott Hixson said of the killing. “There is no doubt.”
Jenkins — along with McKinley Daniels and James Daniels — robbed convenience stores in the Conway area. Investigators believe the trio killed Balla Paruchuri in January 2015 at a Sunhouse convenience store on S.C. Highway 905.
Prosecutors during Jenkins’ trial focused on the Paruchuri killing and didn’t present evidence on other incidents.
The jury during Jenkins’ trial saw surveillance video of the robbery and shooting. Two men enter the store with handguns. One goes behind the counter as Paruchuri steps aside and into a corner. About a minute later, as the men leave the store, they fire several times at Paruchuri, who falls to the ground dead.
Officially, Jenkins is now guilty of murder, attempted murder and armed robbery for that incident. Hixson said Jenkins was involved from the beginning in the robbery and murder plan.
Defense attorney Brana Williams reiterated the defense admitted Jenkins’ role in the spree. She added the jury’s role becomes more significant in the next part of the trial.
“JJ is not saying he is not guilty of those three indictments,” Williams said.
Later in January 2015, the Daniels and Jenkins team robbed the Scotchman on Lake Arrowhead Road and the Sunhouse store on Oak Street, where clerk Trish Stull was shot and killed. Prosecutors say Jenkins and McKinley Daniels entered the stores and robbed them while James Daniels served as lookout and driver.
The community was on edge following the shooting, and officers visited shops at night to help employees safely close their businesses.
Last year, a jury convicted James Daniels of murder and two counts of armed robbery, and he was sentenced to life in prison. McKinley Daniels pleaded guilty earlier this year to murder and armed robbery and will spend at least 45 years behind bars.