Solectron murder suspect attempts suicide - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Solectron murder suspect attempts suicide

Theodore Davis, Jr. Theodore Davis, Jr.
Ron Finklea Ron Finklea
Walter Sykes Walter Sykes

(Lexington County) August 9, 2003 - The two men accused of killing a security guard at a Lexington County plant, returned to the Midlands Friday afternoon. One of them is on critical but stable condition after attempting to kill himself.

Officers brought Theodore "Junior" Davis, 26, and Ron O'Neal Finklea, 29, back to Lexington County after their arrests in Alabama earlier this week.

Around 3:00pm Friday, Finklea and Davis arrived at the Lexington County Detention Center.

Sheriff James Metts says Finklea talked with officers on the seven-hour trip, "He was kind of joking with our officers. He wouldn't talk about the case and he gave no admission he was involved in the case. He was playing kind of the tough guy."

Metts says he showed no signs of what he was about to do after officers gave him a mental health screening and put him on suicide watch, "It is routine with a case of this magnitude for suspects to be put on suicide watch. If we had picked up on anything more in the mental health screen, that there was more, we would have watched them more closely on a continual basis."

Guards checked Finklea every 5 minutes to 15 minutes. Then around 5:00pm chaos broke out.

Sheriff James Metts says Finklea tried to hang himself Friday afternoon, and deputies had to cut him down. Metts says Ron Finklea made a noose out a bed sheet shortly after he arrived Friday afternoon at his cell. The sheriff says paramedics were able to resuscitate Finklea, and he is now in stable but critical condition at Lexington Medical Center.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is conducting an internal investigation into the suicide attempt.

Authorities in Alabama on Wednesday night arrested two men on charges related to a Saturday murder. Lexington County Sheriff James Metts says Davis and Finklea were taken into custody in Monroeville County, Alabama, roughly halfway between Mobile and Montgomery.

Alabama authorities say the men were arrested without incident in Monroe. Law enforcement there had been alerted the men might be in the area, because Finklea has relatives nearby. Sheriff Metts says Finklea's grandfather helped convince the suspects to surrender.

Metts says Davis and Finklea waived extradition at a hearing Thursday morning. They are expected to be at the Lexington County Sheriff's Department on Friday afternoon. The white Ford Mustang, a rental car they were said to be driving, has also been located. It will also be brought back to be processed.

Walter A. Sykes was shot and killed early Saturday while working as a security officer for the Wackenhut Corporation at the Solectron plant in West Columbia near the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.

Metts says the men planned those crimes for some time, "We can pretty conclusively show that they did try to rob the ATM the night before. We have evidence to indicate that. They were scared off by a second security guard coming in. ...We have a very good case on these individuals, and we've got a good bit of history on their activities going back several weeks prior." Investigators say Finklea bought a gun in Michigan two weeks before the crime.

Solectron's camera system stored its images on a computer hard drive. Investigators believe Finklea and Davis knew about the surveillance equipment and brought gasoline into the building to destroy the system.

After examining what the sheriff calls "very damning" security video from the scene, Lexington County authorities issued warrants for Davis and Finklea, "You can see the security officer letting them in. You can see the one going, letting the other one in. You can see a gasoline can. You can see Mr. Finklea pulling the gun out of his waist band, pointing and firing it twice into the control room. You can see him go back, get the gasoline can, take it in. And, you can see the room's on fire, and then you can graphically see the security officer coming out of the room on fire, stumbling out the door to the front lawn where he died."

Davis faces charges of murder, first-degree arson, attempted safecracking, criminal conspiracy to commit murder and criminal conspiracy to commit arson. Finklea, Davis' brother-in-law, faces charges of murder, first degree arson, possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime and unlawful carrying of a weapon. The suspects reportedly lived together in St. Matthews.

Sykes daughter, Antinette Sykes, suspects there is more to the story, "The fact that there were two guards and the culprits come in, finish off my dad and the second one spooks them. That's crazy. I'm not buying it."

Metts says the other guard isn't a suspect and, "Whoever would have been on that night under the right conditions would have ended up the way Mr. Sykes did. So in no way do we believe that this crime was perpetrated towards him for any reason. We believe it was perpetrated for the reason of robbing the ATM and the reason they killed the officer is because the officer could recognize them."

An autopsy showed Sykes died of the gunshot wounds. A funeral for the 56-year-old Vietnam Veteran was held Wednesday at the Greater Columbia Funeral Home on Main Street. Burial will be in Norfolk, Virginia.

Reporting by Catherine Reynolds

Updated 11:00pm by Eva Pilgrim

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