US

Slain Georgia prison guard recalled as fun-loving family man

Family, friends and law enforcement officers from across Georgia gathered Tuesday to honor the memory of the second of two slain prison guards to be laid to rest.

Milledgeville First United Methodist Church in central Georgia was packed to capacity for the funeral of Sgt. Christopher Monica, WSB-TV reported. Monica, who was 42, and 58-year-old Sgt. Curtis Billue were killed when two inmates escaped from a prison bus June 13.

Monica was remembered as a protector and a family man, leaving behind a wife, two daughters and grandchildren. He was "a man who loved deeply, shared abundantly and laughed often," his niece, Brooke Lawson, told mourners.

"We thought our family was big and happy to begin with, and we look around and see it's bigger than we ever thought possible," Lawson told those gathered, The Macon Telegraph reporte d.

Billue's funeral was held Saturday at a high school in nearby McIntyre. He was buried at Red Level Cemetery in Irwinton.

The inmates were captured Thursday in Tennessee, two days after their escape in Georgia. The Putnam County Sheriff's Office said Donnie Rowe and Ricky Dubose are due to appear in court Wednesday.

Law enforcement officers traveled to the funeral from Oregon, Nevada, South Dakota, Alabama and beyond, and hundreds of Department of Corrections officers came to pay tribute, Department of Corrections Commissioner Greg Dozier said.

"The love that Sgt. Monica shared with his family and corrections family is broad and wide," Dozier said. "How do you honor someone who's given so much?"

Monica had lived in Baldwin County for 20 years but was originally from Chicago. Before going to work for the Department of Corrections in 2009, he was employed by Rheem manufacturing for 10 years. He was dedicated to his job, but his favorite part of each day was going home to his family, Baldwin State Prison Warden Cedrick Taylor said.

Niece Lawson said Monica loved to tell stories, pull pranks and joke, and he used his sense of humor to defuse difficult situations. The Rev. Mac Efinger said he was a terrible cook but a great taste tester and a food lover.

"He was in the prime of his life," Efinger said. "He knew what mattered in life. He gave his very best self to every day. He worked hard, and sometimes he played hard."

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Information from: The Telegraph, http://www.macontelegraph.com