Inmate convicted of murder in deadly prison breakout attempt

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina inmate was found guilty Monday of murdering four prison workers during a failed escape attempt two years ago.

Jurors deliberated for about half an hour before convicting Mikel Brady, 30, of four counts of first-degree murder in the state's deadliest attempted prison breakout. The jury next will recommend whether Brady should get life in prison or execution.

Brady was the first of four inmates tried on charges of stabbing and bludgeoning to death two prison guards, a maintenance worker and a sewing plant manager on Oct. 12, 2017.

Brady also was convicted of 10 other crimes including attempted escape, assault with a deadly weapon and setting a fire inside Pasquotank Correctional Institution. The fire was aimed at causing chaos within a sewing workshop to distract guards and aid the prisoners' escape attempt, authorities said.

Brady was already serving time for attempted murder after shooting a North Carolina state trooper at close range in 2013. At the time of the shooting, he was a fugitive from Vermont wanted on a probation violation.

Jurors viewed a video in which Brady told investigators he was upset over his nearly 25-year sentence and felt he had nothing to lose. He said he thought about escaping for months before making the break.

Brady told a state law enforcement agent during the interview that the inmates attacked Correction Officer Wendy Shannon, 49, and hit her until she "stopped."

"Until she stopped what?" the interrogating law enforcement officer asked.

"Moving," Brady replied.

Jurors also saw prison camera photos of the four prison workers lying in pools of blood as Brady and others armed with hammers or scissors stood over them, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Virginia, reported .

Jonathan Monk, Wisezah Buckman and Seth Frazier are the other three inmates charged with first-degree murder in the deadly attack at the prison in Elizabeth City, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Raleigh.

Prison understaffing at the time of the assault was so severe that workers cut corners in ways that endangered personnel, an evaluation team from an arm of the U.S. Justice Department found in a report released last year. A quarter of the jobs at Pasquotank prison were vacant, and the reliance of managers on staff overtime led to burnout and complacency, the National Institute of Corrections report said.

Understaffed prison workers failed to keep track of tools, metal shards and hazardous chemicals, the report said. Doors were left unlocked, and inmates roamed unobserved near the sewing plant where the fire was set and created undiscovered hiding places outside the view of video cameras.

Killed were Veronica Darden, 50, head of the sewing plant, maintenance worker Geoffrey Howe, 31, Corrections Officer Justin Smith, 35, and Shannon.

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