ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WNCN) – Four inmates who officials said attempted to escape from Pasquotank Correctional Facility on on October 12 have been charged in the deaths of two prison employees.
Two prison employees died and several others were injured, after inmates started a fire at the prison’s sewing plant. Several inmates attempted to escape following the fire, but officials said no inmates left the prison yard.
Justin Smith, a 35-year-old correctional officer and Veronica Darden, a 50-year-old correction enterprises manager, were identified as the two people killed.
Officials charged Wisezah Buckman, Seth J. Frasier, Mikel Brady and Jonathan M. Monk each with two counts of first-degree murder. The four inmates have all been transferred to other prisons.
Officials said all four were in prison for “serious charges” but officials would not elaborate on their records.
Pasquotank County District Attorney Andrew Womble said his office plans to prosecute the four inmates to the fullest extent of the law.
Womble said this is the “most serious matter I’ve ever prosecuted.”
Also on Friday, it was announced the prison’s sewing plant would be permanently closed down.
Other measures annonced Friday included:
- Conduct a thorough review of all inmates currently assigned to work in Correction Enterprises operations.
- Pending that review, a specific set of inmates with convictions for assaultive crimes will be suspended from participation in Correction Enterprises operations that involve the use of cutting and/or impact tools until further risk assessments can be completed.
- Those with convictions of a violent crime against a government official and/or law enforcement are ineligible for assignment to any work station utilizing or providing access to cutting and/or impact tools without expressed approval of the Director of Prisons Office.
- Organize an advisory committee to consider and recommend additional technology and individual devices to enhance the safety and security of prison and Correction Enterprises staff, prison facilities and plant operations. (Committee to include representation from Prisons operations, Adult Correction Special Operations and Intelligence, Legal, State Highway Patrol and Emergency Management).
“I can’t imagine these families, what they’re going through,” said Pasquotank County Sheriff Randy Cartwright.
Smith provided security in the sewing plant and had worked as a correctional officer since 2012.
Darden supervised inmates in the plant and worked with Correction Enterprises since 2007, previously working as a correctional officer.
More charges are expected in connection with the attempted escape.
In 2014, Brady pleaded guilty to the Feb. 18, 2013 shooting North Carolina State Trooper Michael Potts.
Potts was shot five times on U.S. Highway 70 in Durham and survived. He was making a routine traffic stop at the time.
Brady was sentenced to at least 24 years in prison after pleading guilty.
CBS North Carolina will update this story as it develops.