MANTEO — Jurors saw video of the grisly aftermath of a failed inmate escape attempt at Pasquotank Correctional Institution and heard from witnesses who lived through it during the first day of testimony in Mikel Brady’s first-degree murder trial in Dare County on Monday.
Brady, who is charged with taking part in the murder of four prison workers at PCI during the escape attempt on Oct. 12, 2017, showed no emotion as prosecutors showed video from a police officer’s body camera that captured the carnage.
Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett opened Monday’s court session by announcing that anyone displaying outbursts during testimony would be removed from the courtroom.
The first witness called was William Davis, a patrolman with the Elizabeth City Police Department, who said he was dispatched to PCI in response to a mutual aid request for law enforcement assistance to a reported fire and attempted prison break.
Davis testified that he was directed by PCI staff to the prison’s loading dock after his arrival. After arriving there, he said he was directed to the elevator shaft where he’ll never forget the strong smell of blood.
Working with a nurse he knew — Michele Godfrey — who worked at the prison, Davis described walking through the prison and finding victims. He said he received differing responses when he asked if the inmates believed to be responsible for the attacks were still loose so he stayed close to Godfrey to protect her.
Following his testimony, video from his body camera was shown to the jury. The 26-minute video captured what Davis saw from when he arrived until all the injured and dead at the prison were transported out of the facility.
Prosecutors allege that during the escape attempt, Brady and three other inmates — Wisezah Buckman, Seth Frazier and Jonathan Monk — killed Correctional Enterprises Manager Veronica “Ronnie” Darden and Correctional Officer Justin Smith and beat Correctional Officer Wendy Shannon and maintenance mechanic Geoffrey Howe so severely that they died several weeks later.
In the video footage from Davis’ body camera, beating victims are shown covered in blood. The footage was too much for some of Monday’s witnesses, who left the courtroom while it was shown to the jury.
Godfrey followed Davis on the witness stand and described what she witnessed the day of the escape attempt. She wept while describing the conditions of some of the victims. She described how she slid on floors covered with blood and found two victims had suffered deep and wide slashes to their throats.
Godfrey testified she stayed until midnight the day of the escape attempt and came back at 1 p.m. the following day. At 6 p.m. on Oct. 13, however, she left the prison and never returned to it, she testified.
Other correctional employees who were injured during the escape attempt also took the stand to describe their roles as the event unfolded.
All injured employees said the first clue that something was wrong that day was when a code came across the radio that there was an inmate disturbance in one of the prison units. Codes are usually announced over the intercom, not radios. It was later determined that a radio taken off one of the victims was used to issue the code and create a diversion.
Arriving at the scene of the purported disturbance, officers found there were no problems. Officers at that unit, meanwhile, were puzzled why so many officers had shown up.
Before the responding officers could return to their own units, two more codes were issued — a fire in the warehouse and an officer down.
Corrections officer Steven Sanders, who worked in the unit where all four of the inmate defendants were housed, testified about how the attempted prison escape ended.
He said officers attempted to handcuff the four inmates outside the prison but they refused to give up. He testified Frazier hit him very hard in the back while Brady hit him on the head with a hammer before taking off running.
Officers captured Monk who didn’t make it over the first fence, Sanders testified. Frazier and Buckman made it to the second fence before being caught, he said.
Brady made it over the second fence and was attempting to cross the third when the wire caught his pants.
Sanders testified that Brady then looked at him and begged, “Kill me, kill me, Mr. Sanders.”
Because of their injuries, Sanders and some of the other injured prison employees have not been able to return to work.
Brady’s trial resumes this morning.