(WIS) - The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) charged two inmates at the Kirkland Correctional Institute in Columbia with the deaths of four inmates found in a dorm Friday morning.
Denver Simmons, 35, and Jacob Phillip, 25, were each charged with four counts of murder. Both men were already serving life sentences for previous murders.
Arrest warrants say Simmons and Phillip confessed to luring the men into a cell and then assaulting and strangling them.
The deceased inmates were found at 10:35 a.m. Friday, according to Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling.
Corrections officials have identified the men as John King, Jason Kelley, Jimmy Ham, and William Scruggs. Richland County Coroner Gary Watts released autopsy results for each of the inmates. All of the men died from asphyxiation due to strangulation. King died from asphyxiation due to strangulation with an electrical cord. Scruggs died from asphyxiation due to strangulation and mechanical compression of the chest.
"I have asked the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to lead this investigation," Stirling said.
SLED is leading the investigations along with the Richland County Coroner's Office and will be assisted by the South Carolina Department of Corrections Police Services Division.
Here's more background on the inmates:
- Jason Kelley - sentenced in 2012 in Cherokee County to 15 years for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. Projected release date: Aug. 13, 2020.
- Jimmy Ham: sentenced in 2006 in Darlington County to two counts of burglary, grand larceny, and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. Projected release date: Nov. 7, 2017.
- John King: sentenced in 1998 in Greenville County on several charges including larceny, burglary, and breaking and entering. Scheduled release date: Oct. 6, 2020.
- William Scruggs: sentenced in 2009 in Anderson County to a life sentence plus 35 years for murder, burglary, kidnapping, and firearms provisions.
Coroner Gary Watts confirmed he's investigating four deaths at the facility.
Kirkland Correctional Institution is a level 3 prison built in 1975 that houses the maximum security unit that serves the entire state of South Carolina. The inmates housed in the unit are considered the most dangerous and violent offenders sentenced in the state. The prison processes nearly 15,000 offenders each year.
Also on the property is Kirkland Reception and Evaluation, which processes more than 15,000 inmates each year. Before male inmates 17 and older are assigned to a prison across the state, all start there. The facility receives, assesses and classifies every male inmate in the state who is sentenced to more than 91 days in prison.