Docs: Convicted killer put correctional agency on ‘notice’ about escaped inmate

Newly released documents are shedding light on why a convicted killer was released from prison years before his sentence was up.
Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 3:11 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2023 at 12:12 PM EDT

RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Newly released documents are shedding light on why a convicted killer was released from prison years before his sentence was up.

The South Carolina Supreme Court unsealed documents related to Jeroid John Price’s release on Thursday.

Additional supporting documents not made public state Price helped the Department of Corrections by putting them on “notice” about a dangerous inmate who had escaped.

Jimmy Lee Causey escaped from the Lieber Correctional Institute in Ridgeville in July 2017 and was captured days later in Texas.

Causey was sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted of holding his defense attorney, Jack Swirling, and his family at gunpoint.

Department of Corrections spokesperson Chysti Shain says they were informed about Causey’s escape indirectly from Price.

Price told someone outside of the prison about the escape, who then told the agency about 18 hours after the initial escape.

At the time, Price was located in a New Mexico prison.

There are also two sworn affidavits in the documents written by an employee and a former inmate at Lieber, vouching for Prices’ good deeds in prison.

In 2019, Asia Love wrote that Officer Sally Fowler told her she wanted Price to “receive an award” for “saving her life” after he tackled inmate Danny Thompson to the ground. Thompson had escaped from his cell and attempted to attack Fowler with a broomstick in 2010.

Inmate Larry P. Benjamin also details how he and Price broke up a fight where several inmates were punching and stomping on Officer Williams. Benjamin states that he was awarded parole afterward, but Price remained locked up.

Despite the testimony of Price’s good behavior, he bounced from prison to prison, records from the SCDC show. He also had several disciplinary sanctions issued to him, including loss of visitation and telephone privileges, the records state.

When he was released, he had been serving his time at a prison in New Mexico. Solicitor David Pascoe, the lead prosecutor of the Price case, cites Price’s relocation to New Mexico as proof of his “horrendous record” while at the Department of Corrections.

A jury convicted Price in the 2002 murder of Carl “Dash” Smalls Jr., a West Ashley native and former University of South and North Carolina football player.

The corrections department released Price on March 15; he served less than 20 years of his 35-year sentence.

The state attorney general is asking the South Carolina Supreme Court for a bench warrant to put Price back in prison.

Attorney General Alan Wilson claims “proper procedure” did not happen in Price’s release.

“He absolutely should not have been released from prison, and we need to get him back behind bars as quickly as possible,” Wilson says.

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In a statement issued Wednesday night, 5th Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson says Price provided “significant” help to law enforcement.

While state law does require convicted killers to serve 30 years in prison, there is also another law that allows for reduced sentencing for an inmate who assists authorities.

The help led the solicitor’s office to choose to file a motion for a formal sentence reduction hearing for Price. Before that hearing could ever happen, Gipson claims an order was issued, which led to Price’s release.

Wilson says Gipson’s statement proves “proper procedure” was not followed.

The order to release Price was signed by Judge Casey Manning. Manning is no longer listed on the active South Carolina Supreme Court circuit court roster.

“While we are still unsure about several circumstances surrounding his release, we are certain Judge Manning’s order is void,” Wilson says.

Pascoe points out there are several issues with the unsealed order from Manning.

It states that the order was made “upon motion of the solicitor” but Gipson wrote in a statement that his office had not filed a motion before the order was signed.

He believes there was no justification for sealing the order, other than to keep it hidden from the world.

Pascoe also called the justifications in Price’s release “junk” and was not corroborated by the corrections department.