Two Perry County deputy jailers charged with manslaughter in inmate's death

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comAugust 5, 2013 

Two Perry County deputy jailers face manslaughter charges in the death of an inmate after a grand jury issued indictments, according to court documents.

William C. Howell is accused of causing serious physical injury that led to the death of Larry Trent July 9 by "striking and kicking" him, according to an indictment released Friday.

Damon W. Hickman is accused of striking, kicking and restraining Trent in a manner that resulted in his death, an indictment said. Hickman and Howell were suspended from the Kentucky River Regional Jail.

Trent, 54, of Hazard died from blunt impact to the "head, trunk and extremities," with multiple skeletal and organ injuries, according to a report released earlier by the state associate chief medical examiner's office. Trent's pelvis also was injured, according to the report.

Jail officials had reported to Kentucky State Police that Trent was found unresponsive in his cell at 10:50 a.m. He was taken to the Hazard ARH Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 12:20 p.m.

The preliminary investigation found that an altercation occurred between Trent and jail staff at 7:18 a.m., according to state police.

Trent was restrained and was returned to his assigned holding cell, where he later was found unresponsive, the news release said. The altercation was described as an aggravated assault on staff and homicide of an inmate in a report filed by jail administrator Tim Kilburn with the state Department of Corrections. The Herald-Leader obtained the report under the state open-records law.

Kilburn declined to comment on specifics of the case Monday afternoon. However, he did say that the arrest warrants for the men had not been signed yet and that he expected them to turn themselves in. Kilburn said he did not anticipate that they would be held at the Kentucky River Regional Jail. Bond was set for $75,000 cash for Hickman and Howell. If they are released on bond, they will have home incarceration, the indictment said.

In the incident report that Kilburn completed for the state Department of Corrections on July 11, Howell wrote that Trent was placed in a cell and had two mats, "blankets, clothes and other items he was not allowed."

"Myself and Deputy Hickman opened the door to get the items. He (Trent) came out fighting," the report said. Howell said he used a Taser, but that Trent didn't stop.

Howell wrote that Trent ran to a booking area, and two other staffers came to help Hickman and Howell.

Trent was then taken to a detoxification area, Howell's account said.

"He then took the taser from my hand. We kept it under him till we could get it back," the report said. After he was under control, Trent was placed in a cell, Howell wrote in the report.

An observation log said Trent was checked about every 20 minutes after the altercation, beginning at 7:40 a.m., and that the "inmate seemed 10-4 at this time." At 9:38 a.m., Trent was "moving about the cell," the log said.

Howell disciplined one staff member for not taking part in the altercation, according to the documents sent to the Department of Corrections.

The staff member refused to help, watched and then walked away, Howell wrote.

Howell wrote that he sent the employee home and told the employee to call Kilburn.

Perry District Court officials said Trent had been charged with DUI on July 5 and had pleaded not guilty on July 8. His trial had been set for Sept. 24.

First-degree manslaughter is a felony punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison.

An arraignment for Howell and Hickman is set for Sept. 12 in Perry Circuit Court.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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