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

By Ray Downs
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 courtesy Kentucky River Regional Jail

Nov. 1 (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 U.S. Department of Justice said.

Damon Wayne Hickman, 40, pleaded guilty last year to charges of excessive force, deliberately ignoring serious medical needs and obstruction of justice.

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The inmate died at the Kentucky River Regional Jail in 2013 when Hickman and an accomplice, former jail guard William Curtis Howell, "violently beat" 54-year-old inmate Larry Trent -- who was awaiting trial on a DUI charge.

Prosecutors said the guards "left him in his cell, seriously injured and bleeding from an open head wound." Trent died from the injuries.

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The assault began when Hickman and Howell opened Trent's cell to remove a sleeping mat. Trent ran from the cell and Howell used a stun gun to subdue him. As Trent lay on the ground, prosecutors said Hickman kicked him in the ribs "without justification" before dragging him back to the cell and continuing the beating.

"Both deputies, without justification, punched, kicked, and stomped on Trent," the Justice Department 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."

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Hickman and Howell left Trent's body in the cell and didn't call for medical help. The body wasn't discovered until four hours later, when another employee discovered it.

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An autopsy showed the inmate died from internal bleeding caused by a displaced pelvic fracture and from blunt force trauma to his head, torso and extremities.

Howell was convicted of charges in May and will be sentenced on Dec. 19. Hickman testified against him at trial.

Prosecutors said Hickman also told federal officials he played a role in the beating of another inmate in 2012. In that incident, Hickman said he punched 55-year-old Gary Hill for running the faucet in his cell until the sink overflowed. Authorities said Hickman and guard Kevin Eugene Asher, 32, were involved in the assault on Hill.

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Asher was sentenced in the case last month to 108 months in prison.

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