SC inmate found hanging; authorities say possible suicide

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina authorities say they’re investigating the death of a state inmate serving a 200-year sentence in connection with multiple rapes as a possible suicide.

Mario Jerel Finklea of Columbia was found hanging in his cell Thursday at Lee Correctional Center in Bishopville, according to a Corrections Department tweet. It said an autopsy would be performed.

Finklea pleaded guilty in December 2005 to three counts each of kidnapping and first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and one count each of aggravated assault and battery and of burglary, The State reported.

Court records showed that Finklea appealed his convictions in 2007 but the appeal was dismissed and his attorney, who described it as meritless, was given permission to leave the case.

Lee is a high-security prison with more than 1,300 inmates. It is among six South Carolina prisons listed as “level 3,” primarily for violent offenders with longer sentences or those with behavioral problems.