Convicted murderer to spend rest of his life in prison for jailbreak, SC prosecutor says

A convicted murderer serving a 40-year prison sentence will now spend the rest of his life behind bars after being found guilty on multiple charges connected to an escape attempt, the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s Office said.

Following a recent trial, 35-year-old Chavis L. Cox was convicted on charges of taking of a hostage by an inmate as well as attempted escape, the solicitor’s office said Monday in a news release. The hostage charge is classified as a second “strike” or “most serious” offense under South Carolina law, according to the solicitor’s office.

Cox was an inmate in the South Carolina Department of Corrections being held at McCormick Correctional Institution on the murder conviction when he was involved in the attempted escape in 2020, according to the release.

On Dec. 27, 2020, Cox and two co-defendants forced a female correctional officer into his cell at the prison in McCormick, the solicitor’s office said.

Inside the cell, the correctional officer testified that Cox held a shank as she was told to undress and her keys were taken by the inmates, according to the release.

When they had the correctional officer’s keys and radio, the inmates released numerous other prisoners from their cells, the solicitor’s office said. It’s estimated that more than 80 inmates were released, creating an emergency situation that required assistance from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division SWAT team, according to the release.

At least three other correctional officers were taken hostage in other areas of the prison during the riot, the solicitor’s office said.

SWAT team members rescued the female correctional officer who had been locked inside of Cox’s cell, according to the release.

No prison staff was hurt, S.C. Department of Corrections officials said in 2020. Two inmates suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to an area hospital, officials said at the time.

Cox tried to escape by going over a prison fence, where he was caught along with four other inmates by correctional officers, the solicitor’s office said. A contraband cellphone was found on the ground near Cox, and a search of the device showed that Cox had been planning a prison escape prior to Dec. 27, according to the release.

During a search of the phone, photos of Cox, along with maps of the prison and an escape plan, were discovered, the solicitor’s office said.

Cox was moved to another S.C. Department of Corrections prison to serve out the life sentence issued by Judge Debra McCaslin, according to the release.

“Our state correctional officers have an extremely difficult and challenging job,” Deputy Solicitor Suzanne Mayes said in the release. “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.”

Mayes and Assistant Solicitor Doug Fender prosecuted the case. Public defenders Jason Chehoski and Megan Gresham were listed as Cox’s attorney’s, according to McCormick County court records.

McCormick Correctional Institution is a men’s-only, “close,” or high-security institution, according to the Department of Corrections. Like other close prisons in South Carolina, McCormick is “designed primarily to house violent offenders with longer sentences, and inmates who exhibit behavioral problems,” the Department of Corrections said.

It’s about 80 miles west of Columbia.