Inmate at center of murder-for-hire plot dies by hanging

(Source: MGN)

GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WCIV) -- One of the key defendants in a murder-for-hire case was found dead in a cell in Georgetown County Tuesday night. Now his attorney has called for an investigation and is questioning the suicide ruling.

Will Butler said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon that an inmate had called him from the detention center to let him know his client, 38-year-old Samuel Yenawine, had been caught up in a controversy at the jail and had been pepper-sprayed and beaten by detention center officials.

Butler said the inmate told him that he wanted to make sure someone knew about the situation.

A day later, Butler got a call from U.S. Marshals saying Yenawine had died after hanging himself. Investigators with the State Law Enforcement Division have been called in to investigate the death.

"I've talked to the coroner and asked for a copy of the coroner's report, a copy of the autopsy report so that I could have my pathologist look at it also when its complete," Butler said.

Yenawine was transported to a local hospital where he was declared dead, according to officials.Butler said he was shocked by the news.

"I'm in tuned to how people act under that sort of stress and Sam did not appear to be someone that was going to take his own life," he said.

Coroner Kenneth Johnson confirmed the inmate died as a result of hanging and that no foul play is suspected.

"I spoke to his family and of course they are devastated and also taken completely by surprise that something like this would happen," Butler said.{}

Butler said the case against Yenawine is over because of his death, but did not know what would happen to the other three defendants in the case.

The case against Yenawine came to light in April during a traffic stop. A federal court filing shows two men from Louisville and a Lowcountry woman were allegedly involved in a plot to kill the state Lottery Commission's treasurer, Nancy Latham.

The plot fell apart when one of the accused conspirators, 39-year-old Aaron Russell Wilkinson, was pulled over by police in a traffic stop. A search of the car Wilkinson was driving revealed a handgun and a box of ammunition, the documents state.

In addition to Yenawine, Aaron Wilkinson and Wendy Moore were also arrested in April as conspirators to the murder for hire plot. Rachel Palmer was arrested more recently in Kentucky. She's now charged as the fourth conspirator.

Federal documents said Yenawine and Wilkinson agreed to accept as much as $30,000 to kill Latham at, or near her home on Sullivan's Island.

Moore, Yenawine's ex-wife, reportedly helped plan the hit and also delivered part of the payment to Yenawine. Palmer, the fourth person now charged, officials said is Yenawine's current girlfriend.

Yenawine has two children with Moore and one on the way with Palmer, Butler said.