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Inmate who died at Eastern Kentucky jail remembered one year later

By: Tanner Hesterberg, Matthew Rand Email
By: Tanner Hesterberg, Matthew Rand Email
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Update, 7/9/14

Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of an inmate dying at one Eastern Kentucky jail.

Larry Trent died July 9, 2013, at the Kentucky River Regional Jail in Hazard.

The two guards accused of killing him await trial.

Trent's family members said the past year has been an emotional time.

"He was our protector," said Jolene Trent, Larry's daughter. "When we lost that, everything just went bad for us."

Trent left behind four children and several grandchildren.

Jolene Trent said the one-year anniversary of her father's death makes her wish more than ever he was still here.

"It brings back a lot of memories," she said. "I just want to see him. I want to talk to him. I want to hug him. My kids ... they miss him and ask me where their Papaw is. And I tell them Papaw is in heaven."

Deputy Jailers Damon Hickman and William Howell are accused of beating Trent to death. They are still awaiting trial one year after Trent died.

"It doesn't feel like it's been a year yet," Trent's daughter, Jennifer Brewer, said. "To me it feels like I just got the news yesterday. It's very hard to deal with."

Hickman and Howell pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges and are scheduled for trial September 22 in Perry County.

Trent was 54. He was from the Upper Second Creek community of Perry County and was in jail on a DUI charge.

Update, 9/25/13

Two former guards charged with beating an inmate to death at an Eastern Kentucky jail "made a mistake," the jail's administrator said Wednesday.

Kentucky River Regional Jail Administrator Tim Kilburn spoke with WYMT Wednesday for the first time since the day the incident happened.

Larry Trent, 54, died July 9 after an altercation with guards.

Damon Hickman, 36 and William Howell, 56, are accused of beating Trent to death.

"The message I'm trying to get out to the public is just because two employees made a mistake, don't make everybody else look bad because two people mess up," Kiburn said.

The events of the past two and a half months have damages the jails' reputation, Kilburn said.

"We do a lot for our community that people don't realize," he said. "We don't want one negative incident to define everybody here at the jail."

"I believe the boys made a mistake. And even them personally, I don't think you can define those two individuals based on what happened spur of the moment."

Earlier reports that Hickman was fired in 2005 for hitting an inmate are not true, Kilburn said.

Hickman got into a physical altercation at one point, but two instances of releasing an inmate from the jail without the inmate paying proper bond resulted in Hickman's firing, Kilburn said.

When asked why Hickman was hired back in 2006, Kilburn said, "I have no clue. The board does the hiring and firing."

Kilburn took the job as the jail's administrator in 2005. Hickman had been incident-free since being hired back, Kilburn said.

He said he has never been pressured by the jail's board or anyone else to resign since Trent died.

Hickman and Howell are each charged with first degree manslaughter. They are set for trial Feb. 17 in Perry County.

When asked if he thought the charges against the duo were fair, Kilburn said he could not comment.

Check back later for video of this story.

Update, 9/24/13

There are new details about the death of a Perry County inmate.

Documents obtained Tuesday by the Hazard Herald reveal how jail officials handled the death of an inmate at the Kentucky River Regional Jail in Hazard.

Two guards are accused of beating the inmate to death, but jail officials argue his death could have been prevented.

Larry Trent, 54, was found unresponsive at the jail on the morning of July 9 and pronounced dead at a hospital several hours later.

Damon Hickman, 36 and William Howell, 56, are accused of beating Trent to death.

Minutes from an emergency-called jail board meeting two days after the incident reveal Chairman Denny Ray Noble, also the Perry County Judge Executive, was told by a medical professional Trent's death could have been prevented if the jail nurse would have treated him soon after the altercation.

But the minutes indicate Hickman and Howell told the nurse not to check on Trent.

Noble also told board members someone called him the day before Trent's death complaining about Hickman, saying he was "going to hurt someone."

Personnel records show Hickman had been suspended once and even fired once. Each time he was accused of hitting someone, jail administrator Tim Kilburn said at the meeting, according to the minutes.

Kilburn told board members cell doors are not supposed to be opened unless inmates are in danger of hurting themselves. He said this policy was violated even though Trent had been "taking a running go and hitting the cell door."

Kilburn also said Trent should have been tased, rather than taken to the ground and beaten.

Video surveillance shows Trent at one point lying in the hallway with a live taser underneath him, Kilburn said.

Kilburn admitted later in the meeting he thought some employees had been playing around with tasers, treating them "like a toy."

Board members voted unanimously to suspend Hickman and Howell without pay.

Board member Randy Bailey said video footage showed another guard witnessed the altercation, but the guard was "shaking his head, and walking backwards, as if he did not want to get involved," according to the minutes.

Hickman and Howell have each been indicted on manslaughter charges. They are set to go on trial February 17.

Kilburn and Noble told WYMT Wednesday they could not comment.

A full copy of the board minutes is attached at the bottom of this story.

Check back later for video.

Update, 7/18/13, 6 p.m.

An inmate found unresponsive at an Eastern Kentucky jail last week was injured by a "jail beating," according to the preliminary autopsy report.

The Perry County coroner released the findings from the State Medical Examiner's Office to WYMT on Thursday.

Larry J. Trent. 54, was found unresponsive at Kentucky River Regional Jail on July 9 and later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Trent sustained "blunt impact" to his head and body, according to the report.

Jail officials said Trent was injured around seven that morning. The report states he was pronounced dead more than five hours later, at 12:20 p.m., by Deputy Coroner Brianna Rutherford.

Trent was from the Upper Second Creek community of Perry County.

He was in jail on a DUI charge.

Trent's daughter told WYMT in a previous interview she thought her father was beaten to death.

And official cause of death has not been released.


Update 7/10/13

A sudden death or fight gone wrong? The Perry County Coroner says the Kentucky River Regional Jail inmate who died following an altercation with jail workers was 54-year-old Larry Trent.

Jennifer Brewer says her father was the victim of a brutal beating during a fight with jail workers Tuesday morning.

"He was beaten very bad in the groin, in his head, and he had boot prints through here," Brewer said, motioning toward her chest.

The county coroner says those descriptions of his injuries appear to be accurate but, the official cause of Trent's death is still pending the results of an autopsy.

Brewer says her father was arrested on an alcohol-related charge, something she says Trent struggled with in recent years.

"He was a preacher, and after his mom passed it really affected him a lot, and I guess the only thing he could turn to was alcohol to help ease the pain."

Despite his troubles, Trent's daughter says he was not a violent man, and says he would not have started a fight with jail workers.

She says she believes the jail's staff should be held responsible for her father's death.

"I really think he was murdered," she said. "You just don't beat somebody like that and leave them, you know to die, not check on them or anything like that."

State police investigating the case say jail workers checked on Trent several times before he was found unresponsive. Still, Brewer says she wants someone to pay.

Jail administrator Tim Kilburn declined our request for an interview, saying the jail's insurance company and a lawyer advised him not to make any public comments about what happened.


Original Story:

Perry County Coroner Jimmy Maggard has identified the man as Larry Trent (54) of the Upper Second Creek community in Perry County.

"It occurred at 7 a.m.," said jail administrator Tim Kilburn. "It was an altercation inside a jail. At approximately 10 a.m. a person was found unresponsive and we notified emergency personnel."

Around 11 a.m., jailers placed a call to the Kentucky State Police post next door.

"Detectives arrived over at the scene and found that they'd actually transported one of the inmates to the Hazard ARH ER, at which time the inmate was pronounced deceased," said Jody Sims with Kentucky State Police.

Many questions remain like how this altercation began and what if any injuries the inmate may have sustained in the fight.

"He has been sent to Frankfort for an autopsy tomorrow," Kilburn said. "The case is being investigated by the Kentucky State Police."

Police say they will be going over evidence carefully in the coming days to get a better sense of how this inmate could have died.

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