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Prisoners Strangled Four Fellow Inmates In Sick Bid To Land On Death Row

Virginia Department of Corrections via Getty Images

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter

A South Carolina inmate said that he and another prisoner strangled four of their fellow block mates with the hope of getting sentenced with death penalties, according to a Tuesday report.

Denver Simmons said that he and fellow inmate Jacob Philip lured four inmates into his cell over the course of 30 minutes in 2015, killing each and hiding the body before inviting the next, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. Simmons told the media outlet that he and Philip killed the men in an attempt to secure death sentences, as Simmons had already tried and failed to commit suicide.

“You know, killing yourself is, it sounds easy. It’s really hard. Your body even fights you when you cut yourself,” Simmons told the AP.

Their first victim was John King, imprisoned for theft. They stuffed his body under the bed in Simmons’ cell after promising him free coffee.

Next was William Scruggs, who killed a disabled veteran. They offered to give him cookies in exchange for him doing their laundry, then concealed his body with a bed sheet after strangling him with an electrical cord.

They then offered to snort drugs with Jimmy Ham, convicted of assault and battery, killing him with a broom handle after a brief scuffle and placing his body next to Scruggs’.

The pair’s final victim was Jason Kelly, convicted of stabbing his stepson. Simmons said Kelly was annoying, but a friend. He crushed his friend’s windpipe with the broom handle before shoving it into his ear.

Throughout the plan, Simmons said that the goal was his own death.

“The original plan was that if I decided that I wanted to do it, I would be the last person,” he told the AP. “And I’ll be honest with you. After I saw how it works, I guess you would say I was scared. I just couldn’t see myself going through with it.”

South Carolina hasn’t executed an inmate since 2011, however, and it’s unlikely that either Simmons or Philip will receive their sought-after sentence.

“Jacob’s not going to get the death penalty either way,” Simmons told the AP. “He’s legitimately mentally ill.”

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