Inmate dies after assault; police call case homicide
A prisoner serving a 10-year term for manslaughter died Thursday, nearly two weeks after he was involved in an assault at the Tucker Unit, according to prisons spokesman Solomon Graves.
Graves said it “would be a stretch” to connect the July 28 assault that injured John Demoret, 25, to either of a pair of incidents that occurred in recent weeks at the Maximum Security Unit, a separate facility also in Tucker.
The most recent disturbance at the Maximum Security Unit occurred Monday, when six inmates overpowered corrections officers and took control of a small area of the prison for about three hours.
The Department of Correction on Thursday released the names of the three officers who were held by the inmates. They were Sgt. Levester Johnson and Lt. Willie Carmickle, both veterans with years of experience, and correctional officer George Thomas, who began working for the department in January.
Demoret died at a Malvern-area hospital around 6:15 a.m. Thursday of undisclosed injuries, according to a statement from the Department of Correction.
The inmate had been taken to the hospital earlier in the morning from Ouachita River Correctional Unit, where he had been at the prison hospital since shortly after the assault nearly two weeks ago.
An Arkansas State Police spokesman said Thursday that an earlier investigation
of an assault at the prison was now considered a homicide case. No arrests have been made.
The cause of Demoret’s death is still being investigated by the state medical examiner’s office.
Graves said the last death at a prison to be ruled a homicide was in April 2016, when an inmate was shot while trying to escape. The death was justified, Graves said.
Neither the state police nor the prison system released additional information about the attack that led to Demoret’s death, or how he was involved.
Demoret arrived at the Department of Correction in 2012, Graves said. The year before, he pleaded guilty to killing Dave Martin Kelley, 53, during a fight at Demoret’s home in Malvern.
Witnesses told police in an affidavit filed in Hot Spring County Circuit Court that Kelley and another man showed up at Demoret’s home on Nov. 24, 2010, and began hitting Demoret, before a friend pulled a shotgun and told them to stop.
The fight stopped, but Demoret grabbed the shotgun, a Mossberg 12-gauge, and shot Kelley at close range, according to the affidavit.
Court records show prosecutors offered Demoret 20 years on a second-degree murder charge, but that he planned to argue self-defense in court. Demoret later pleaded guilty and accepted a 10-year sentence for manslaughter.
Demoret also was convicted of second-degree escape in November 2011, but it’s unclear when or where that occurred.
He spent nearly all of last year at the state’s highest-security prison, Varner SuperMax, before being transferred to the Tucker Unit, prison records show.
After Monday’s disturbance at the nearby Maximum Security Unit, the six inmates who started it were transferred to the Varner SuperMax prison.
Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley said Thursday that the inmates had spoken to negotiators during the incident and asked to be sent to the Varner SuperMax prison.
It’s unclear why they wanted to go to the higher-security facility, but Kelley said they are now being kept in even more restrictive punitive isolation cells there.
Documents released to journalists Tuesday indicated the prisoners had a key with them on the bus while they were being taken to Varner. Their names have not been released.
On July 22, two guards were injured while responding to a stabbing at the Maximum Security Unit, and warning shots were fired.
All three incidents are being investigated separately by the state police.