4 NC Inmates Face Murder Charges After Prison Workers Killed

Oct 20, 2017

Updated 3:16 p.m., October 20, 2017

Four North Carolina inmates are facing murder charges after the deadliest escape attempt in state prison history killed two prison workers, investigators said Friday.

The men were behind the failed breakout from Pasquotank Correctional Institution on Oct. 12, state prison officials said. The inmates set a fire inside a prison sewing plant to divert guards and apparently planned to climb over prison fences, Pasquotank County Sheriff Randy Cartwright said last week.

Andrew Womble, district attorney for the area that includes Pasquotank County, said first degree murder is the most serious crime that can be charged in the state of North Carolina.

"It carries two possible punishments, one is life without parole and the other is the death penalty," Womble said. "I can assure you that my office intends to prosecute this to the fullest extent."

Correctional officer Justin Smith, 35, and vocational worker Veronica Darden, 50, were killed and eight other prison workers were injured by what Cartwright said appeared to be primarily stabbing or slashing wounds from hammers and scissors. Two of the employees of the Elizabeth City prison remain in critical condition, so more charges are possible, Cartwright said Friday.

Accused of murder are 28-year-old Mikel Brady, 29-year-old Wisezah D. Buckman, 30-year-old Jonathan M. Monk and 33-year-old Seth J. Frazier.

At a press conference, Cartwright wouldn't describe the relationship among the four inmates or provide any new details of their plan, except to say that investigators had found no tunnels.

Brady was already serving time for attempted murder after shooting a state trooper who pulled him over in Durham in 2013. He was a fugitive, wanted in Vermont on a probation violation, when he shot the trooper at close range in the face, hands and right shoulder.

Buckman, of Charlotte, was convicted of murder after fatally shooting one co-worker and wounding another in a 2014 dispute.

Monk was a Fort Bragg soldier who broke into the home of a sergeant with whom he had a conflict in 2011, and then surprised the sergeant's wife, slashing and stabbing her with a kitchen knife. She survived and Monk was convicted of attempted murder.

Frazier, a convicted sex offender, was serving time for burglary after breaking into a home near the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in 2011 and surprising a teenage girl in her bed.

All four have been transferred to maximum-security prisons near Raleigh. A grand jury will consider additional charges on Oct. 30, Cartwright said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.