Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Four inmates were found dead at Kirkland Correctional Institution early Friday morning. Kirkland is a maximum security prison in Columbia and some residents who live in the neighborhood near the prison are concerned.
"Seniors are very panicked. My phone has been ringing off the hook."
Brenda McGriff said she received at least 42 phone calls from neighbors who were concerned after learning that four inmates we found dead at the prison across the street.
52-year-old John King, 35-year-old Jason Kelley, 56-year-old Jimmy Ham and 44-year-old William Scruggs were found dead inside a dorm at Kirkland Correctional Institution.
A retired officer of 28 years for the Department of Juvenile Justice McGriff said it's disturbing.
"The concern is anything that may come from behind the fence because they lack the security order and control there," McGriff said.
The level 3, maximum security unit sits off of Broad River Road and houses the most dangerous and violent offenders.
King had been serving time since 1998 for 10 different charges including burglary and vehicle theft. Kelley was serving a seven year sentence for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. Ham was serving a nine year sentence for the same offense in addition to burglary and grand larceny. And Scruggs was serving a life sentence for charges that include kidnapping and murder.
"How could that happen? Four deaths, four untimely deaths. How could that happen?" she said.
Corrections Department Director Bryan Stirling asked the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to lead the investigation. SLED will be assisted by Richland County Coroner Gary Watts who said the deaths do not appear to be natural. Autopsies are scheduled for Saturday morning where a cause of death is set to be determined.
Until then, the many like Brenda are left waiting for answers.
"There is supposed to be security order and control in the institution. Why is that transpiring," she said.