Jurors hear Brady's confession to prison murders
By Paul Nielsen and Sandy Semans Ross
The Daily Advance
Thursday, October 17, 2019
MANTEO — Closing arguments will begin Monday in Mikel Brady's first-degree murder trial after his defense attorneys said late Thursday afternoon they will not present any evidence on their client’s behalf.
The state rested its case against Brady, who's charged with four counts of first-degree murder and other charges, earlier Thursday after the seven-women and five-man jury heard his videotaped confession to taking part in the beating and stabbing of prison workers — four of whom died — during a failed escape attempt at Pasquotank Correctional Institution on Oct. 12, 2017.
Jurors will have today off before returning to Dare County Superior Court in Manteo Monday at 10:30 a.m.
During the escape attempt, two correctional employees — Correction Enterprises Manager Veronica “Ronnie” Darden and Correctional Officer Justin Smith — were killed. Two others — Correctional Officer Wendy Shannon and maintenance mechanic Geoffrey Howe — were severely beaten and died weeks later. Several other correctional employees were injured, some seriously, in the escape attempt that Brady said was planned over three months.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Brady and the three other inmates also charged with first-degree murder in the prison slayings. The other inmates — Wisezah Buckman, Seth Frazier and Jonathan Monk — will stand trial individually at a later date.
If Brady is convicted of one or more of the first-degree murder charges a second, penalty phase will be held in the trial. At its conclusion, the jury will have only the option to vote for a sentence of death or life in prison without parole.
Over 120 photos from the autopsies of Darden, Smith, Shannon and Howe were shown to the jury on Thursday, all showing graphic details of their injuries. The wounds were inflicted, prosecutors have said, by hammers, scissors and a metal pipe found at the crime scene.
Testifying about the victims' wounds Thursday was Associate State Medical Examiner Dr. Zachary O’Neill. He said all four victims suffered multiple severe blunt-force injuries to the head that were consistent with being hit by a hammer.
The attack on Smith was especially brutal. O’Neill testified that Smith suffered 32 blunt-force injuries to his head and neck and 64 stab wounds.
“(Smith) had injuries all over his body,” O’Neill testified.
One of Darden’s many injuries was a wound to the jugular vein in her neck that would have been fatal in minutes without treatment, O’Neill said.
Shannon died Oct. 30, 2017, from her injuries while Howe died days later on Nov. 2. O’Neill said Shannon suffered multiple skull fractures and that her brain was “starved of oxygen for some time” after the attack. O’Neill listed Howe's death as a result of "complications from numerous blunt-force head injuries.”
State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Paul Munson interviewed Brady in the hours after the failed escape attempt. He told the court Thursday that Darden was the first victim that Brady attacked.
In his videotaped confession, Brady appeared to show remorse for killing Darden.
“She never ever treated me wrong,” Brady said of the Corrections Enterprise manager. “She was the mother that I wanted. She always treated me as a mother figure.”
At one point in the interview, Munson stops for a moment to wipe tears from Brady’s face as he discusses Darden.
After the attack on Darden, Munson testified that Brady also “jumped in and finished the job” in the brutal attack on Smith.
“(Brady) was upset with what happened,” Munson testified. “But he put that aside to continue the escape attempt.’’
Brady also said during the interview that he was upset about his long sentence for a 2013 shooting and felt he had nothing to lose.
“Escape was always on my mind,” he said.
Brady said he was assigned to work in an area where he had access to tools.
Brady said the inmates attacked Shannon and hit her until she “stopped.”
“Until she stopped what?” the agent asked.
“Moving,” Brady said.
Brady said he had made it outside the prison walls when he encountered several officers with guns at an outer fence. He said he begged them to shoot him.
“I didn’t have anything to live for,” he said in the videotaped interview. “I wanted to die.”
The Associated Press also contributed to this report.