LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A convicted murderer stabbed a female guard to death at an east Arkansas prison Friday while she was investigating whether he had an unauthorized pair of shoes, a prison spokeswoman said.
Sgt. Barbara Ester, 47, was stabbed in the side, abdomen and chest at about 12:30 p.m., said Shea Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Correction. Ester died about 3 p.m. at a hospital in Memphis, Tenn., about 40 miles away.
Ester, a 12-year veteran of the correction department, was a property officer who investigated whether inmates had contraband items. Wilson said the guard had received a report that Johnson had a pair of contraband shoes.
"This is obviously very difficult for the department when something tragic like this happens," Wilson said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Sgt. Ester's family. These officers — it's a tight-knit workplace. They look out for each other and are there together for a lot of hours of the day, so this is very difficult for everyone."
Wilson said the prison was locked down after the attack and that the inmate, Latavious Johnson, was being moved to the state's maximum-security unit at Varner. She said all the other inmates have been accounted for. Prison officials haven't said specifically what Johnson used during the attack, only that it was an object that had been sharpened.
Johnson, 30, was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder out of Jefferson County. He was sentenced in 2000 for killing his father. Prosecutors said Johnson was 18 at the time of the crime.
Wilson said Johnson had had several disciplinary infractions, including one this week for not obeying orders, but hadn't previously attacked a guard.
"We will move him to the supermax (prison) so he will be out of that environment ... He needed to be out of that environment," Wilson said.
Arkansas State Police and the prison's internal affairs staff were investigating the stabbing. Wilson said authorities would turn over their information to prosecutors, who will determine whether to file charges against the inmate.