The Peach Stand killer appears unemotional in a prison mugshot released by state corrections officials.
Christopher Mendez, 29, is pictured with most of his hair shaved off and a blank look on his face. In an online posting, the S.C. Department of Corrections also identified the prison where he is being housed to serve out his life sentence for killing Karson Bailey Whitesell last year at the Fort Mill business.
Mendez is being housed in Dorm D at the Kirkland Correctional Institution, located on Broad River Road in Columbia. The facility is the site for the Maximum Security Unit that serves the state. It is also the place where four inmates were strangled and beat to death in 2017 by two other prisoners.
“This specialized housing unit (at Kirkland) is where the most dangerous and violent offenders are housed,” the DOC website says. “In addition to the normal inmate population, Kirkland maintains the death row for the entire state.”
Kirkland offers inmates a variety of educational opportunities, routine medical and dental care on site, and a DHEC licensed 24-bed infirmary for use by all male inmates. Mental health services are provided by staff of the Gilliam Psychiatric Hospital.
Inmates also have rights to religious, volunteer and recreational services, the website says.
Mendez pleaded guilty in December to gunning down the young cashier at the iconic Peach Stand in Fort Mill on Jan. 23, 2018. He pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
In court, the heartless killer said he shot her five times and then told her, “See what happens when you don’t look at people with kind eyes?” He said it was “easy” to kill her.
His defense attorney said Mendez wished he had “a better mind at the time.” It was revealed that Mendez was diagnosed with Bipolar Depression 1 and was even put on suicide watch after his diagnosis in June 2017.
Police said the killer and cashier didn’t know each other. Whitesell was a random victim, shot because Mendez wanted to see what it felt like to kill someone.
Last month, Debbie Harrison helped organize a prayer and remembrance service at Illumine Church in Rock Hill to mark the one-year anniversary of her daughter’s death.
She told The Milltown News that she is more determined than ever to preserve Karson’s memory and legacy, and to help others as Karson did. Just months before her death, Karson had served as a missionary in Africa, volunteering at an orphanage.
To keep the legacy alive, Harrison helped create the nonprofit Karson’s Kompassion Project. On Sunday, Feb. 17, Kommunity Kare Day, a day of community service, will be held at Illumine Church. The public is invited to participate.