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South Carolina man serving 50 year sentence for killing teen girl dies behind bars

29-year-old inmate had been treated for the virus at the Bishopville site since February 7.

BISHOPVILLE, S.C. — A man who murdered a Kershaw County teenage girl nearly eight years ago has died in prison.

A spokesperson with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) reports Stephen Ross Kelly, 29, was found dead in his cell Saturday morning  at Lee Correctional Institution.

According to SCDC's Director of Communications Chrysti Shain, Kelly was being treated for COVID-19 since February 7.  SCDC's Office of Investigations and Intelligence is investigating the death, and an autopsy will be performed. 

Kelly was convicted of the February 2014 killing of 18-year-old Briana Rabon in Kershaw County. Prosecutors and investigators say Kelly strangled Rabon and left her body in a wooded area. 

Rabon was a 2013 graduate of Lugoff-Elgin High School. 

SLED forensics experts and the Kershaw County Sheriff's Office said after Kelly's arrest they found "considerable" evidence linking him to the crime scene. The victim's car was found at a Waffle House on Highway 601 near Interstate 20.

Jim Matthews, the Kershaw County sheriff at the time of the killing, said in 2014 that Kelly's account of his whereabouts at the time of the killing changed several times during questioning and the suspect eventually stopped talking and asked for a lawyer.  

In September of 2015, Kelly was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Lee Correctional is a maximum security prison that houses multiple inmates convicted of serious crimes including murder.

Shain said the SCDC, with 15,276 inmates, has 496 active inmate coronavirus cases and 78 active staff cases. 

"The department is working closely with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to ensure proper guidelines and protocols are being followed to safely manage our staff and offenders," Shain said in an email. 

Further updates about the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the SCDC website, www.doc.sc.gov.

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