EDGEFIELD - Hours after he was arrested for stabbing his wife to death and leaving her two young sons alone with the body, an Edgefield County man hanged himself Tuesday in a jail cell with his prison jumpsuit, authorities say.
Maurice Kenneth Wilson was pronounced dead at 2:25 p.m. at Edgefield County Hospital, said Cpl. Robbie Harter, an Edgefield County Sheriff's Office spokesman.
Mr. Wilson was arrested at about 9 p.m. Monday in Laurens County and booked into the Edgefield County Detention Center, where he was charged with the murder of Gwendolyn Denise Wilson, 25.
Authorities say he stabbed his wife approximately 20 times Sunday night, ripped the family's phone out of the wall and left his 9- and 3-year-old stepsons alone with their mother's body.
Cpl. Harter said Mr. Wilson was found at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday in a jail cell and taken to the hospital.
The corporal would not release further details.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating the suicide, Cpl. Harter said.
"I can't go into those details while they are investigating," he explained.
Edgefield County Coroner Thurmond Burnett said the probable cause of death is asphyxiation by hanging, but a full autopsy, planned for 9:30 a.m. today in Newberry, will make a final determination.
Complete autopsy results will not be available for another two weeks, he said.
Mr. Wilson used his jail jumpsuit to commit suicide, Mr. Burnett said.
Mrs. Wilson's body and her two children were found in the family's trailer in the 1200 block of U.S. Highway 378 at about 3 p.m. Monday by her mother, Gwendolyn Morgan.
Ms. Morgan drove out and flagged down a sheriff's deputy who was conducting a traffic stop nearby, according to Cpl. Harter.
Mr. Burnett said preliminary autopsy results indicate that Mrs. Wilson was stabbed 20 times and that she died at about 11 p.m. Sunday from two stab wounds to the heart.
The murder weapon is likely a pocket knife, Mr. Burnett said, although it has not been recovered.
Mrs. Wilson's two young sons spent the night in the home with their mother's body, Cpl. Harter said.
Mr. Burnett confirmed that the boys' stepfather ripped the phone line out of the wall to prevent them from calling for help.
The older boy, Mr. Burnett said, didn't go for help because "he was probably scared to death and was looking after his little brother."
Cpl. Harter said investigators have interviewed the children, but he said he couldn't disclose what they witnessed.
The motive has not been determined, he said.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilson shared a trailer just inside the Edgefield County line with her two sons, her mother and her sister.
The children and Ms. Morgan are staying with extended family in Greenwood, Mr. Burnett said.
Attempts to reach the family Tuesday were unsuccessful.
On Monday night, Mrs. Wilson's brother, Larry Morgan, said the sheriff's office was called to the home for a domestic violence incident last year.
"They forgave each other, and everything was all right," Mr. Morgan said Monday night.
Mrs. Wilson's death is the first homicide in Edgefield County since 2002.
A yellow porch light remained on outside the Wilson mobile home Tuesday night.
There was no sign of a police investigation at the residence.
Dora Cothren, a friend of the family, drove up to the residence at about 6:30 p.m. She brought cases of Coke and Sprite for the boys.
"She'll be really missed, especially by her children," Ms. Cothren said of the deceased mother.
The family friend said she went to the residence looking for Ms. Morgan, hoping to find some reason behind the slaying.
"I came here to find out what made this guy kill her," Ms. Cothren said.
"But now he's dead, so we'll never know."
South Carolina Bureau Chief Josh Gelinas contributed to this story.
Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or firstname.lastname@example.org.