Two Inmates Serving Life Sentences Charged with Killing Four Fellow Prisoners In S.C. Prison

Denver Jordan Simmons (left) and Jacob Theophilus Philip (right) are accused of murdering four fellow inmates at the Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia, S.C. (Photo courtesy of S.C. Dept. of Corrections.)

Authorities have charged two inmates at South Carolina’s Kirkland Correctional Institution with murder in the deaths of four fellow inmates at a dorm in the prison last week.

Inmates Denver Jordan Simmons, 35, of Flintstone, Ga., and Jacob Theophilus Philip, 25, of Summerville, S.C., each were charged with four counts of murder, State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry announced Saturday, April 8. Both Simmons and Philip were already serving life sentences for murder at the Columbia-area prison.

Corrections officers found four inmates dead in a cell at the facility around 10:35 a.m. Friday, April 7, S.C. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sommer Sharpe said. The victims were identified as Jimmy Ham, 56, of Hartsville, S.C.; Jason Howard Kelley, 35, of Gaffney, S.C.; John Tely King, 52, of Greenville, S.C.; and William Bradley Scruggs, 44, of Anderson, S.C.

There was initially no word on how the inmates died, but Richland County Coroner Gary Watts commented that their deaths did not “appear to be natural.”

Arrest warrants obtained by The Post and Courier allege that Simmons and Philip admitted to luring Ham, Kelley, King and Scruggs into a cell where they brutally attacked each of the men. The duo is accused of strangling Kelley, King and Scruggs to death. In Ham’s murder, however, Simmons and Philip reportedly lured Ham into a cell, where Philips attacked and strangled the victim from behind while Simmons repeatedly beat and stabbed him with a broken broom handle.

The attacks were partially captured on video, the newspaper reported. As of now, there’s no known motive for the killings.

Friday’s murders mark the fifth violent incident reported this year at a prison facility. Kirkland has its own history of violent attacks and deaths. Last year, three prison officers were charged with attempted murder after police said they stabbed an inmate four times in the stomach, according to CNN affiliate WIS. A 21-year-old inmate at the prison also died of a suspicious head injury in 2015. The coroner’s office determined the fatal injury wasn’t the result of a fall.

A specialized housing unit where the most dangerous and violent offenders within the state’s DOC are held is located at the Kirkland facility, according to The Post and Courier. Prisoners with “special security concerns in a controlled environment” are housed at the department’s protective custody unit, which is also located inside the prison.

DOC director Bryan Stirling said the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division will head the investigation into Friday’s murders.

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