Elizabeth City, NC - Three Pasquotank Correctional Institution employees are still hospitalized and fighting for their lives after an attempted escape in which two of their co-workers were murdered.
They were injured in the botched escape, and were initially transported to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City, before being transferred to Polk Correctional Institute in Butner.
The inmates are being held in the most secure area at PCI, known as the SuperMax Unit, which is set aside for the state’s most violent and assaultive offenders.
Charges are pending while Pasquotank County investigators monitor the conditions of the hospitalized prison employees.
Correctional Officer Justin Smith and Correction Enterprises Manager Veronica Darden were both murdered by inmates during the incident.
Ten other prison employees were injured, and seven of those have been treated and released.
The seven employees have been identified as Sgt. Curtis Casper, Sgt. Larry Swain, Sgt. Jerry Byrum, Correctional Officer Scott Stormer, Correctional Officer Timothy Lewis, and Correctional Officer Steve Sanders.
Correction Enterprises processing assistant Regina Ferebee was also treated and released.
The remaining three employees that are hospitalized are Correctional Officer Wendy Shannon, and maintenance mechanic Geoffrey Howe, who are both listed in critical condition, and Correctional Officer George Midgett, who is listed in fair condition.
More than 200 law enforcement officers and public safety officials responded to assist while the incident was in progress.
Pasquotank County Sheriff Randy Cartwright said "We were very fortunate in that the Elizabeth City Police Department responded right away."
Sheriff Cartwright said that the incident was not spontaneous, and "several crime scenes throughout the prison were being processed."
He confirmed again that no inmates escaped, despite rumors on social media.
He said that after the fires were set as a diversion, four inmates tried to escape but only made it as far as the yard of the sewing plant.
Few details are being released about what actually happened during the incident, including how the prison employees and Correctional Officers were assaulted.
Sheriff Cartwright said that the investigation was ongoing.
He said, "the one thing that we do not want to do is impede this investigation, or cause this case to not be prosecuted at its highest level."
He also said that the release of too much information could impede jury selection later for trials.
Sheriff Cartwright said, "We’re a really small town, and a lot of the same people who read and follow our local media are the ones we’re going to have to pick for juries."
“We’ve had to get more and more careful about releasing information, releasing too many details on our cases, because we have a hard time then picking a jury, because they’ve read and shared too much on social media. We’ve got to have people who are going to be impartial and listen to the evidence presented in court, not what they read or have heard.”
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has ordered that all flags be flown at half-mast this weekend in tribute to Correctional Officer Justin Smith and Correction Enterprises Manager Veronica Darden.