11-29-2011 South Carolina:
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the death of 49-year-old inmate serving a 20-year sentence for criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
The state Corrections Department said Monday it is routine for SLED to investigate possible homicides. The prison agency and SLED would not provide details of the death of Ricky Cooper of Graniteville.
He was found Saturday morning in a common area in front of a shower near the cell.
The Corrections Department said SLED was notified as soon as Cooper's body was found. ..Source.. by The Republic
Graniteville sex offender found dead in prison
A convicted sex offender from Graniteville was found dead outside his cell in McCormick Correctional Institution on Saturday.
South Carolina Department of Corrections spokesman Clark Newsom said Monday evening that Ricky Cooper, 49, who was serving a 20-year sentence for criminal sexual conduct with a minor, was found dead by corrections officers at 11:35 a.m.
His body was in a common area outside his cell by the showers.
Newsom said the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has taken over the case, and details are limited.
Cooper was charged in June 2007 with eight counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and 10 counts of committing lewd acts on a minor. He pleaded guilty in March 2009 to two counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to court records.
The Aiken County Sheriff’s Office said when it filed the charges that a boy and a girl were assaulted at an Aiken home between February 1996 and February 2004.
McCormick Correctional Institution is a level 3 all-male prison.
Level 3 prisons are high-security institutions designed primarily to house violent offenders with longer sentences and inmates who exhibit behavioral problems, according to the Department of Corrections Web site. Housing consists of single and double cells, and all perimeters are double-fenced with extensive electronic surveillance. Inmates at level 3 facilities are closely supervised, and their activities and movement within the institution are highly restricted, the Web site says. ..Source.. by Summer Moore, Staff Writer
Prisoner’s death gory, report says
The mutilation of a convicted child molester killed at a state prison in McCormick included pens and a pin stuck in his eyes, ears and nose, swastikas carved and written on his face and “pervert” inked on his forehead, a report says.
The report, obtained by The State newspaper after state corrections officials declined to describe the crime, is the first revelation of what prison staff encountered Nov. 26 when they discovered the body of Ricky Cooper.
Prison officials went to check on him after receiving an anonymous telephone call about a stabbing, the report says. It’s unclear how long Cooper’s body had been in an area adjoining a shower near his cell. It was not in the report.
State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, chairman of the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee, told The State on Tuesday that his staff had spoken with prison officials and learned that Cooper was “missing for some length of time before they found him.”
Prison spokesman Clark Newsom wouldn’t say Friday if guidelines requiring staff to make periodic checks on inmates were followed. He declined to explain what current guidelines are, calling that a “security matter.”
In the past, because it is a high-security prison, regulations required that officers check cellblocks every 30 minutes. Further, the rules required an inmate count of the entire prison be completed every four hours.
McCormick County Coroner Faye Puckett, prison officials and the State Law Enforcement Division, which is investigating, each declined to comment on the report.
Gov. Nikki Haley will await the outcome of SLED’s investigation before deciding if any action is necessary on her part, spokesman Rob Godfrey said. The Corrections Department is part of her Cabinet.
Cooper, 49, was serving a 20-year sentence from Aiken County that began in March 2009.
He was strangled, according to a warrant charging cellmate John New of Lee County with murder.
The report doesn’t say if the mutilation is thought to have occurred before or after Cooper’s death.
He was strangled with what the report describes as an unspecified type of string.
Besides the mutilation with the pens, safety pins and the swastikas, Cooper’s stomach was slashed, his groin was bloodied with an unidentified open book laid across his legs, and his face had several other cuts, the report said.
His shredded prison identity card was clipped to an ear, it added.
Cooper and New, 32, were alone during the incident, warrants said. Authorities decline to say if they are investigating whether other inmates were involved in the mutilation.
As of Monday, the prison had 1,246 inmates, 124 more than its normal capacity. It is 75 miles west of Columbia.
New is serving a life sentence for taking hostages by force, according to a state Department of Corrections website. ..Source.. by TIM FLACH
Graniteville man serving time for sex crimes killed by cellmate
A Graniteville man incarcerated at a McCormick County prison for repeatedly raping two young boys in Aiken County was strangled to death by his cellmate over the weekend, officials said.
In 2009, Ricky Lynn Cooper, 49, pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree and was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison.
Less than two years into Cooper's sentence, on Saturday, Cooper's cellmate, John Michael New, 32, who had been serving a life sentence for hostage-taking, reportedly strangled the Aiken County man.
New has been charged with murder.
Senate Corrections Committee Chairman Mike Fair of Greenville said his staff has been told Cooper was mutilated, but Fair did not tell reporters any details, according to the Associated Press.
Neither the McCormick County coroner nor South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agents would not comment on the death.
The body was taken for autopsy on Monday.
According to published reports, Cooper's body went undiscovered for as long as several hours.
During the 2009 plea hearing in Aiken, Cooper admitted to raping the victims over a period of years. However, at the last minute the admitted child molester changed his mind and demanded a jury trial, the Aiken Standard reported at the time.
"I don't think it's right ... I think I should have a fair trial and see everything they've got against me," Cooper told the court. "I want a jury to tell me because I am really not guilty of these charges."
After a brief recess, Judge Thomas Russo announced that it was at his discretion whether or not to allow the guilty plea to be withdrawn and that he was not going to allow it.
The victims and their families were in the courtroom but chose not to make any statement to the court. ..Source.. by Karen Daily - Staff writer