ELIZABETH CITY, N.C.,- Four men have pending charges in the deaths of two employees killed during an attempted prison break from Pasquotank Correctional Institution.
According to police, several inmates started a fire in the prison's sewing plant around 3 p.m. on October 12. Four inmates attempted to escape, but none of them were able to get past the prison yards.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety released a statement saying that the sewing plant will be shut down permanently.
In a press conference on Friday, officials identified the four inmates as Wisezah Buckman, Seth Frazier, Mikel Brady, and Jonathan Monk.
All of the men have been charged with 2 counts of 1st degree murder for killing 35-year-old Justin Smith and 50-year-old Veronica Darden.
Smith had worked as a correctional officer since 2012 and Darden was a Correction Enterprises Manager who oversaw inmates working in the specialty sewing plant, where the fire was started.
Sheriff says right now there is no indication that anyone was burned. Believes fire was used as a diversion to escape #13newsnow— Jemie Lee (@13JemieLee) October 20, 2017
In total, 14 people were injured and taken to local hospitals for treatment following the incident. Twelve have been discharged, but 2 individuals still remain in the hospital in critical condition.
The men are currently being held in higher security prisons. Three are in Butner about three hours from Pasquotank Correctional Institution, and 1 is being held in Central Prison in Raleigh.
The inmates will be transported to Pasquotank sheriff's office to be served warrants, then they will go back to the high security prisons in Butner and Raleigh.
District Attorney Andrew Wobble said 1st Degree Murder is the most serious crime that anyone can be charged with in North Carolina, so the men are looking at the death penalty or life without parole.
According to criminal records, Seth Frazier was charged and convicted with Burglary in the 1st degree and Possession of Firearm by a Felon. His total incarceration term was set at 10 years and 11 months.
Frazier had been arrested and served time for several other crimes including Indecent Liberty with a Child, Possessing Stolen Goods, and Resisting an Officer.
Wisezah Buckman was at Pasquotank Correctional Institute for committing 2nd Degree Murder in June of 2014. His total sentence time was set to 32 years and 3 months. His projected release date was October 2044.
Court records show Buckman was also previously charged and convicted of three separate armed robberies.
Court records indicated that Jonathan Monk and Mikel Brady's primary crimes were attempted 1st Degree Murder. Monk committed the crime in 2011, and was expected to be released in 2025 after serving a minimum sentence of 13 years and 1 month.
Along with Attempted 1st Degree Murder in 2013, Brady was also charged and convicted of Assault to Law Enforcement with a Firearm, and his minimum prison time was 19 years and 10 months.
Funeral arrangements for the two employees have been planned by the Mitchell Funeral Care and Cremations in Elizabeth City.
Two services are expected to be held for Veronica Darden, of Belvidere, N.C.. The first will be on Saturday, October 21 at 10:00 a.m. at the Mickey L. Burnim Fine Arts Complex Floyd L. Robinson Auditorium on the campus of Elizabeth City State University. The second is expected to take place at her church, Bay Branch A.M.E. Zion Church in Belvidere, at 2:00 p.m.
Justin James Smith, of Elizabeth City, N.C., will be laid to rest on Sunday, Oct. 22 at 2:30 p.m. at the Elizabeth City State University Fine Arts Complex.
Autopsy reports for Smith and Darden have not been released.
NCDPS also requested that the National Institute of Corrections conduct an independent review of security procedures at the prison, including safety protocols and staffing patterns.
They will also organize an advisory committee to consider and recommend additional technology that could enhance prison security.
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