By JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press
COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — A man who shot and killed three people in a South Carolina home where he lived and then used their smartphones to send money to each other for a plane ticket has been sentenced to life in prison on Friday after pleading guilty.
Jeffery Powell killed his aunt’s husband, a cousin and his cousin’s daughter at their Greenwood home last August. He also shot and injured an 8-year-old boy who hid in a bathroom with his dead sister for several hours before going to a neighbor’s house to seek help, attorney David Stumbo said.
Powell, 37, entered the bedroom of Megan Dinkins, 32, on August 2 and shot her and her children as they slept, Stumbo said.
He then waited for Randy Perkins, 56, to return home from his night shift at a factory, shooting him three times in the back of the neck. Perkins still had his lunchbox slung over his shoulder when police found his body, the prosecutor said.
Police rushing to the house had to step over Perkins’ body to check the rest of the house because the boy didn’t know if Powell was gone, Stumbo said.
Dinkins was found dead in her bed. She appeared to have written “J” in blood just above her head.
“What these guys find when they walk inside is nothing short of a nightmare,” Stumbo said.
After the murders, Powell used smartphones belonging to Dinkins and Perkins to transfer money, investigators said.
“He needed money for an Uber ride and a plane trip,” Stumbo said.
Investigators discovered the money transfers and the plane ticket within hours and Powell was arrested at a motel in Jacksonville, Florida.
Powell pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. He was sentenced to three consecutive life terms without parole. He never gave investigators a good reason for the shooting, but police believe he feared he would be kicked out of the house.
Perkins’ sister, Wanda Perkins Knowles, said her brother was “a man of integrity, compassion, humor, loyalty, truth, love and generosity”.
“He let him live in his house. He fed him. I don’t understand,” Knowles said.
Powell’s sobs could be heard across the courtroom as she spoke.
Powell then attempted to speak directly to the family of the people he had killed. He turned to them and spent 25 seconds fighting back sobs and wiping his eyes with his cuffed wrists before saying “I’m so sorry” and bursting into tears.
Stumbo said he thought Powell deserved the death penalty. But the 8-year-old’s family did not want to have to testify at length and Stumbo said South Carolina’s lack of death row drugs, which has prevented the state from executing anyone for more than a year. decade, could have made the search for this sentence a “symbolic gesture.
“Right now in South Carolina you have a lower life expectancy in a general population in a maximum security prison than on death row, which is ridiculous,” Stumbo said.
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