Inmate Serving Life Made Twisted Attempt to Get Death
Denver Simmons offers up a motive in AP interview
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 27, 2017 9:01 AM CDT
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In this June 14, 2017, photo shows the administration building of the South Carolina Department of Correction in Columbia, S.C. A South Carolina inmate says he and another convicted murderer strangled four fellow prisoners in a bid to get the death penalty. Denver Simmons told The Associated Press in...   (Jeffrey S. Collins)
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(Newser) – One by one, Denver Simmons recalled, he and his partner lured inmates into his cell. William Scruggs was promised cookies; Jimmy Ham thought he was coming to snort some crushed pills. Over the course of about a half-hour, four men accepted Simmons' hospitality. None of them made it out alive. Calmly, matter-of-factly, the 35-year-old inmate tells the AP how he and Jacob Philip strangled and beat their blockmates at South Carolina's Kirkland Correctional Institution to death and hid their bodies to avoid spooking the next victims. They had nothing against the men; one of them was even a friend, Simmons admits. Why did they do it? Simmons knew he would never leave prison alive. Tired of life behind bars, a failure at suicide, he hoped killing these criminals would land him on death row.

Simmons and Philip are serving life without the possibility of parole for a double murder. In May 2010, Simmons shot an acquaintance, Sheila Faye Dodd, then picked her 13-year-old son up from school and killed him. Officials say Philip and Simmons have confessed to the April 7 slayings, but until Simmons talked to the AP, no motive had been made public. In retrospect, he says, the plan was not well thought out. "Because Jacob's not going to get the death penalty either way. He's legitimately mentally ill." As for himself, South Carolina hasn't carried out an execution in six years, and court challenges likely will keep capital punishment on hold for the foreseeable future. Simmons imagines he'll do the next 10 years in solitary and probably get another four life sentences tacked onto the two he was already doing. "I did it for nothing." The AP has more graphic details here.

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