Fourth employee in attempted Elizabeth City prison break dies

Geoffrey Howe (NC Department of Public Safety photo)

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - A fourth employee at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution, where an attempted prison break happened on Oct. 12, has died.

Geoffrey Howe, a maintenance mechanic for the former Correction Enterprises sewing plant at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in ElizabethCity, passed away Thursday at Sentara Norfolk (Va.) General Hospital from injuries suffered during a failed inmate escape attempt on Oct. 12. The news comes from the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

"Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to the Howe family," said Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks. "This tragedy has horribly impacted the lives of four families, as well as co-workers and friends."

Correctional officers Justin Smith and Wendy Shannan, as well as Correction Enterprises Sewing Plant Manager Veronica Darden, died from injuries from the incident. Howe, 31, had worked at the correctional facility for just over a year.

"Geoffrey Howe was a valued member of his community and his workplace and he will be greatly missed," Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement Thursday night. "We send our heartfelt sympathies to his loved ones and wish for them comfort during this difficult time. We owe it to Geoffrey and his fallen coworkers to do all we can to keep an attack like the one that claimed their lives from ever happening inside our prisons again, and that's what I've directed prison leaders to do."

Howe was the last of the employees still in the hospital.

The prison continues to be on lockdown. Members of the Prison Emergency Response Team from other state prison facilities continue to assist the local prison staff. Four inmates were charged with first-degree murder in connection with the incident.