Kentucky jail guard sentenced to 10 years for beating inmate to death

Damon Wayne Hickman was a supervisor at the Kentucky River Regional Jail when he beat an inmate to death in 2013. Photo by Kentucky River Regional Jail

Nov. 2 (UPI) — A former Kentucky jail supervisor was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday for his role in the beating death of an inmate, the Department of Justice said.

Damon Wayne Hickman, 40, pleaded guilty on Nov. 9 to using excessive force against the detainee, deliberately ignoring the detainee’s serious medical needs and obstruction of justice.

The guilty plea stems from a 2013 incident at the Kentucky River Regional Jail when Hickman and his accomplice, former jail guard William Curtis Howell, 60, “violently beat” 54-year-old inmate Larry Trent, who was awaiting trial on a DUI charge, “and left him in his cell, seriously injured and bleeding from an open head wound,” the DOJ said. Trent died from the injuries soon after the beating.

The assault began when Hickman and Howell opened Trent’s cell door to remove a sleeping-mat. Trent ran out of the cell and Howell used a stun gun to subdue him. As Trent lay on the ground, Hickman kicked him in the ribs “without justification” before dragging him back to the cell where he and Howell continued to beat him.

“Both deputies, without justification, punched, kicked, and stomped on Trent,” the DOJ said. “Witnesses further testified that, before closing the cell door, Howell stepped into Trent’s cell and kicked Trent in the head while Trent was on the floor and posing no threat. After the assault, Hickman and Howell had other inmates clean up Trent’s blood from the floor and walls outside of his cell.”

Hickman and Howell left Trent’s motionless body in the cell and didn’t provide him any medical attention. Trent’s body wasn’t discovered until four hours later when another employee discovered him.

When paramedics arrived, Trent was dead. An autopsy showed he died from internal bleeding caused by a displaced pelvic fracture and from blunt force trauma to his head, torso and extremities.

“Corrections officers throughout the country carry out their duties in a responsible manner on a daily basis,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. “Attacks like this one dishonor those responsible corrections officers and is a violation of civil rights, and the Department of Justice will prosecute such misconduct.”

Howell pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against him in the death of Trent but was found guilty by a jury on May 11 and will be sentenced on Dec. 19. Hickman testified against him in the trial.

Hickman also admitted to federal officials his role in the beating of another inmate in November 2012. In that incident, Hickman said he punched 55-year-old inmate Gary Hill in the face for running the faucet in his cell until the sink overflowed and spilled water on the floor. Hickman and fellow jail guard Kevin Eugene Asher, 32, proceeded to beat and kick Hill as he lay on the ground in a fetal position.

Hickman and Asher denied Hill medical attention and then filed a false report that said Hill slipped on the floor, causing his injuries.

In October, Asher was sentenced to 108 months in prison for his role in the assault.


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