Crime

‘A good heart’: Witnesses testify for Horry County man facing the death penalty

Jerome Jenkins Sunhouse case: Here’s how sentencing is going

Sides presented their opening arguments to a jury in the sentencing phase of a capital trial in Horry County, South Carolina. Jerome Jenkins was convicted of murder and robbery in a series of store robberies.
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Sides presented their opening arguments to a jury in the sentencing phase of a capital trial in Horry County, South Carolina. Jerome Jenkins was convicted of murder and robbery in a series of store robberies.

A former special education teacher described Jerome “JJ” Jenkins as a good person trying to beat the odds.

“After 40-some years, you just sort of know when a child has a good heart,” said Marsha Tennant, an ex-Horry County educator.

Jenkins called several witnesses on his behalf Wednesday as the sentencing phase in his death penalty trial moved into its third day. Last week, an Horry County jury convicted Jenkins of murder, attempted murder and armed robbery.

This week that same jury is hearing evidence on whether Jenkins should face the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The state rested its case on Tuesday.

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. In January 2015, Balla Paruchuri was shot and killed at a Sunhouse store.

Weeks later the trio committed two more robberies, including at another Sunhouse store where Trish Stull was shot and killed.

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.

Several family members and educators testified about Jenkins’ during Wednesday’s proceeding.

“He was fun. He was smart. He was articulate. He would talk to me about his goals and wanting out of the area,” Tennant said.

She also recalled when Jenkins came to visit her and her husband during a break in class work. The group talked about their grandmothers and Jenkins started to sing old Baptist hymns. Tennant said Jenkins had a “beautiful voice.”

There was also a time where Jenkins stood up for his teacher after a student made threats, Tennant recalled.

“JJ was one that stood up and said ‘Enough you ain’t gonna mess with her,’” Tennant said.

Horry County educator Etta Carter taught Jenkins’ brothers, but JJ would still visit and ask her to teach him. Jenkins had the potential to do “great things,” Carter said, but they needed to get his behaviors under control so he could be successful.

Carter visited the family’s home and described the neighborhood as one with drug and alcohol use. She said people had to show others that they were “the man.”

“You grow up fast and you almost had to,” Carter said.

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Alex Lang is the True Crime reporter for The Sun News covering the legal system and how crime impacts local residents. He says letting residents know if they are safe is a vital role of a newspaper. Alex has covered crime in Detroit, Iowa, New York City, West Virginia and now Horry County.

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