Trial starts in Horry County Sunhouse death penalty case
A few jurors wiped away tears as Visweswara Cheedipudi described his friend Balla Paruchuri – it was six days of family and work and one day of golf.
“We even put a sand wedge in his casket,” Cheedipudi said.
Balla Paruchuri was gunned down during a robbery at Sunhouse convenience store in January 2015. One of the men convicted of his killing, Jerome “JJ” Jenkins, now faces the death penalty.
Cheedipudi said he got a call from a friend who told him about the robbery. He was watched store surveillance video from his phone and saw his friend lying dead on the floor.
Jenkins, McKinley Daniels and James Daniels were all convicted for their role in a robbery spree that resulted in two murders and left the community on edge. 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.
Cheedipudi was one of the final witnesses for the state as Horry County jurors consider the death penalty or life in prison for Jenkins.
The state contends that weeks after the Paruchuri killing, the trio committed two more convenience store robberies including one at the Oak Street Sunhouse where Trish Stull was shot and killed.
Once the state rested its case on Tuesday, Jenkins’ defense attorneys started to present evidence to show why Jenkins should not be executed.
State solicitors called several witnesses to show how Jenkins remains a danger to guards while in prison custody. Department of Corrections Psychologist Beverly Wood said she evaluated Jenkins and did not diagnosis him with a major mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. She did prescribe an anti-anxiety medication.
During cross-examination, Wood said she couldn’t rule out if Jenkins suffered from a serious condition, but she only spent a brief time evaluating him.
Prison nurse Jane Tyler also testified about how Jenkins wrote a letter to family member threatening suicide. Prison staff intercepted the letter and Tyler checked on Jenkins to find him in good health.
She added she believed the letter was Jenkins’ attempt to get money from relatives for his canteen.