An Arkansas Department of Corrections inmate accused of beating a female correctional officer to death in the Miller County jail kitchen last month was serving time for shooting his mother and an uncle in 2010.
Tramell Mackenzie Hunter, 27, was being housed at the Miller County jail as part of the Act 309 program, which allows prison inmates to serve some of their sentence at a county or city jail. Hunter is accused of attacking Officer Lisa Mauldin at about 1 p.m., Dec. 18 in the jail's kitchen, according to a probable cause affidavit. Hunter allegedly used his hands to inflict fatal injuries on Mauldin. After incapacitating Mauldin, Hunter was met by Officer Damaris Allen as he tried to leave the kitchen.
"Hunter struck Allen in the face, knocking her to the floor," the affidavit states. "Hunter then struck Allen with her portable radio. Hunter dropped the radio and struck Allen with his fist several times. Hunter then ran out of the kitchen and was apprehended in the hallway by other detention deputies."
Hunter was serving a 15-year sentence for aggravated robbery and two counts of felony domestic battery assessed him Feb. 22, 2011, as part of a plea bargain in Pulaski County, court records show. Case documents acquired Tuesday by the Gazette show that Tramell's convictions stem from a Jan. 27, 2010, confrontation at a relative's home in Little Rock.
Tramell shot his uncle when the uncle tried to stop him from stealing his mother's car and then fired a second shot, striking his mother, before driving away in her rented Dodge Charger, according to case records. Hunter's mother and uncle survived after undergoing surgeries.
Tramell told investigators he intended to kill himself when his funds were exhausted. Tramell reported that he left town and switched the plates on the car after spending a couple of nights in Texarkana before heading to the Houston/Galveston area.
Tramell surrendered Feb. 10, 2010, to police in Galveston, Texas, after running out of money and finding himself unable to commit suicide, records state. A pearl-handled revolver with a defaced serial number Tramell claimed to have used during the shooting of his mother and uncle was recovered from the stolen car.
But Tramell's history of violent behavior did not prevent him from being assigned to Miller County as a 309 work inmate. The 309 program is meant to relieve prison overcrowding, reduce incarceration costs, and assist law enforcement with manpower, thus decreasing local costs, according to an Arkansas Department of Correction administrative directive on the Act 309 Program and ADC's website. The city or county jail is reimbursed for the cost of housing a 309 inmate.
Inmates assigned to local jails as part of the 309 program are typically given more freedom to move about and work than other inmates and are generally considered low-risk. A 309 work inmate is permitted to work outside the prison walls and in the community under the supervision of jail officials. ADC Public Information Officer Solomon Graves said Hunter was in Miller County as a 309 work inmate.
So long as an ADC inmate hasn't had a disciplinary infraction for at least 90 days and has served a minimum of six months in prison, there are few restrictions to admittance to the program. ADC's administrative directive states that only inmates with a conviction for capital murder, first-degree murder, a sexual offense, escape, or who have attempted those offenses are ineligible for the 309 in-jail or work inmate program.
An inmate convicted of kidnapping, a second offense of aggravated robbery or an attempt to commit those offenses is not eligible for 309 work status, according to ADC's administrative directive. According to court records, Hunter's 2011 aggravated robbery conviction was his first and only conviction for that offense.
The local sheriff, police chief or authorized law enforcement officer "may refuse" the assignment of any 309 inmate to their facility, according to the administrative directive.
Hunter was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday. However, the case has been rescheduled for a hearing next month. Little Rock lawyer Ron Davis has entered notice that he has been retained to represent Hunter.
Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black said her office, which handles criminal cases in Miller County, has not yet received an investigative file from Arkansas State Police. Hunter's arrest warrant charges him with capital murder and first-degree battery. Black said her office will determine what charges Hunter will face once the investigation is complete.
Hunter is being held in the Varner Supermax Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections.