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Violent Offender Sentenced to Life For Taking of Hostage at McCormick State Prison

Fri, 06/14/2024

Chavis L. Cox, age 35, an inmate in the South Carolina Department of Corrections, has been sentenced to Life in prison for taking a female correctional officer hostage and attempting to escape in 2020.

This case was prosecuted by Eleventh Circuit Deputy Solicitor Suzanne Mayes and Assistant Solicitor Doug Fender. The trial was conducted on May 28th through May 30th in McCormick County General Sessions Court.

Cox was convicted on all charges, including Taking of a Hostage by an Inmate and Attempted Escape. A sentence of life imprisonment was imposed by Chief Administrative Judge Debra R. McCaslin for the charge of Taking of a Hostage. This crime is classified as a second “strike” or “most serious” offense under South Carolina law. Cox was already serving a forty (40) year sentence for Murder at the time of this crime.

On the evening of December 27, 2020, Cox and two co-defendants forced a female correctional officer into Cox’s cell. Once inside the cell, she was told to undress and her keys were taken by the inmates. The correctional officer testified that a contraband knife-like weapon (“shank”) was held by Cox during this incident. Once her keys and radio were taken, inmates released numerous other prisoners from their cells at the McCormick Correctional Institute, a state prison. In all, it was estimated that over 80 inmates were released, creating an emergency situation which required assistance from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) SWAT Team. At least 3 other correctional officers were taken hostage in other areas of the prison during the riot. SWAT Team members rescued the female officer who had been locked inside of Cox’s cell.

Cox fled over a prison fence, where he was apprehended along with four other inmates by correctional officers. A contraband cell phone was found on the ground in proximity to Cox. A subsequent extraction of the cell phone confirmed that Cox had been planning a prison escape prior to December 27th. The phone revealed photos of Cox, along with maps of the prison and an escape plan.

Following the verdict, 11th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Suzanne Mayes stated: “Our state correctional officers have an extremely difficult and challenging job. The safety of these officers is paramount. The SLED SWAT Team and S.C. Department of Corrections Response Team were valiant in their rescue of this officer.”

Cox has been relocated to another prison within the S.C. Department of Corrections for service of the sentence.