RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Inmates used hammers to crush skulls and scissors to spear flesh when they killed four employees last fall in the bloodiest prison escape attempt in North Carolina history, newly released autopsy and other reports by medical examiners said.
The reports offer details that prison officials have been unwilling to share. Prison officials were unable to say Monday when they will release results of an internal investigation into the failed uprising at Pasquotank Correctional Institution. Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks has said he expected to withhold details about how the attacks unfolded and why.
Four inmates now charged with first-degree murder used weapons including a claw hammer, a ball-peen hammer and half a pair of scissors, medical examiners said. The lone officer guarding the sewing plant near where the violence started was stabbed 67 times.
A federal report released in January found that inmates handed out scissors with six-inch blades, hammers and other tools to fellow prisoners working at the plant that made safety vests. The prison was so understaffed that one in four positions was vacant, forcing workers to cut corners in ways that created opportunities for mayhem, according to the report by National Institute of Corrections evaluators.
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Correctional Officer Justin Smith, 35, was the only guard overseeing 30 prisoners when inmates attacked Oct. 12, according to the institute, an arm of the U.S. Justice Department. His body was found near the sewing plant’s door to a hallway, medical examiners said.
Sewing plant manager Veronica Darden, 50, was killed in a hallway to a freight elevator, medical examiners said.
Inmates, who federal evaluators said had been allowed to roam unobserved near the prison-industries sewing plant, set a fire to create a diversion masking their breakout attempt.
Correctional Officer Wendy Shannon and a guard who survived were attacked in a loading dock by the inmates tugging carts of tools used for their escape attempt, according to an internal prison report first acquired by Charlotte TV station WBTV in November. Prison officials have declined to release the report.
Maintenance worker Geoffrey Howe, 31, died three weeks after suffering extensive brain and skull injuries in the attack, medical examiners said.
State Bureau of Investigation agents observed all of the autopsies, the reports said.
Prosecutors have announced that they will seek the death penalty against inmates Wisezah Buckman, Mikel Brady, Seth Frazier and Jonathan Monk.
State prison guards continue to face daily violence. In the last week alone, at least seven correctional officers at three prisons were struck by aggressive inmates, officials said. One guard at Alexander Correctional Institution needed medical treatment after being punched.
Two months ago, an officer at Foothills Correctional Institution in Morganton was stabbed or slashed several times by an inmate armed with a homemade blade and needed hospital admission.
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