by Amelia Holliday and Cris Ritchie
HAZARD – Two men were indicted Friday on charges of first-degree manslaughter relating to the death of an inmate at the Kentucky River Regional Jail.
Damon W. Hickman, of Hazard, and William C. Howell, 56, of Estill, Ky., were both indicted on one count each first-degree manslaughter, a Class B felony, punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Hickman and Howell, who served as deputy jailers in Hazard, were placed on administrative leave on July 9 after the two were involved in an altercation with 54-year-old Larry Trent, who was an inmate in the jail at the time, according to a report filed with the Kentucky Department of Corrections. Nearly three hours after the altercation, Trent was found unresponsive in a cell before being transported to the Hazard ARH medical center, where he was later pronounced dead.
According to the indictments, Hickman and Howell are being charged due to allegedly “causing serious physical injury to Larry Trent resulting in Mr. Trent's death by striking and kicking” and restraining him while he was being held at the jail.
A preliminary report issued by the state medical examiner's office listed that Trent had suffered “blunt impacts of head, trunk, and extremities with multiple skeletal and visceral injuries” and described the injuries having occurred as the result of a “jail beating.” An official cause of death, however, has not yet been released.
Commonwealth's Attorney John Hansen confirmed the indictments on Friday, and said the grand jury will continue to look into the matter.
“They (the grand jury) heard enough to feel they could indict with manslaughter,” Hansen said.
Hansen said the grand jury only has to determine whether there is enough evidence in a case to determine probable cause.
A $75,000 cash bond has been set in the case for both Hickman and Howell, and an arraignment has been set for Sept. 12.