Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Death of Amanda Baker and the Risky Business of Jail Guards.

The murder of a jail guard in Nebraska is rare. It’s been difficult to track down how many corrections officers and guards have been killed while on duty. We do know one more was added to the list last Friday.

Amanda Baker

For Scottsbluff, Neb., the murder of Amanda Beth Baker hit just as hard as the death of any law enforcement officer killed on the job. (There had not been an officer murdered in Scotts Bluff County since 1923.) The fact that Baker was only 24 and the inmate accused of killing her is only 15 might make it even more poignant and unnerving.

Funeral services for Baker will be held Saturday.  She was a single mother of a 6-year-old son who had returned to school hoping to stay in corrections, but as a nurse.   A statement issued by her family through the sheriff's department said: "Amanda Baker was a light in our world that was blown out much too early. With a great sense of humor and a smile that took over her whole face, any room would brighten when she entered."

Dylan Cardeilhac was in court today answering a charge of first-degree murder. He had already been busted on armed robbery. That’s where the details of the attack were made public, in paperwork filed in County Court. 

Here’s how Kevin Mooney of KNEB radio summarized the police report:
The arrest affidavit filed in Scotts Bluff County Court by sheriff's investigator Matt Holcomb says video from a camera in the cell shows Cardeilhac had talked Baker into coming into the cell to look at something on the floor. The documents say the video shows (that) as Baker's back was turned to Cardeilhac, he jumped on her back and wrapped both arms around her back and neck, the attack lasting just over two and a half minutes. 
The documents say after the attack Cardeilhac got the facility keys off Baker's belt, left the room, and opened and entered a number of cells that housed other juvenile offenders in the facility. A short time after the attack he was located in another cell and relocated to a secure cell by corrections officer Mark Botzki, who noticed a number of open doors and saw things were not as usual.
Dylan Cardeilhac is lead into court (Courtesy KOTA)
The attack only lasted a couple of minutes. About 12 hours later doctors declared Baker dead.

It was the middle of the night when Baker was called over by Cardeilhac to his cell. Throughout the state there are jail guards and sheriff deputies who work that shift every night. It takes an event like this reminds everyone it is an incredibly boring job that can become, in seconds, horribly risky.

Last fall, after two Douglas County corrections officers were injured on the job within days of each other, more rigid safety procedures were put in place. Douglas County Corrections Director Mark Foxall told the Omaha World-Herald at the time that a felony assault “on a guard typically occurs once or twice a month, a number that rises with the inmate population.”

It’s been 50 years since a guard has been killed at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. That was correctional officer John Claussen, stabbed to death in the prison’s print shop. Claussen was 70 years old. The inmate convicted of killing him died in prison in 2002, but not before he’d murdered another inmate.

Norfolk News-Journal, March 15, 1912
The penitentiary marked its deadliest day on March 14, 1912, when the warden, a deputy warden and a guard were gunned down during a dramatic prison escape in the midst of a blizzard. Three inmates escaped and later killed a farmer near Gretna. Eventually two were killed by police and the third returned to prison.

Only two months later Deputy Warden Robert Taylor was stabbed to death by convict James B. King following a church service. King was the last man in Nebraska to die by hanging.

In all, six employees of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services have died while on duty.

Meanwhile, Scottsbluff grieves Amanda Baker. The tributes from other corrections officers and those in law enforcement have filled a tribute page set up online

Typical was a note from a writer identified as working for corrections in Saunders County, Neb.

Know that the thoughts and prayers of all CO's here in the great state of Nebraska are with your son, your family and co-workers. Your time on this earth was short, but you served our citizens and your son well. Protecting them from the worst of the worst. Lay your shield at the doors of heaven and know we have your watch. Thank you for your service and ultimate sacrifice!