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story.lead_photo.caption Tramell Mackenzie Hunter

Prosecutors expect that an Arkansas prison inmate accused of capital murder will face a jury in the beating death of a female correctional officer at the Miller County jail.

Tramell Mackenzie Hunter, 28, allegedly killed Correctional Officer Lisa Mauldin with his bare hands Dec. 18, 2016, in the jail's kitchen. Hunter also is charged with battery of a peace officer stemming from allegations that he caused serious injury to Correctional Officer Damaris Allen shortly after the attack on Mauldin.

Hunter is receiving treatment for mental illness at the Arkansas State Hospital. Last year, he was deemed unfit to proceed to trial.

Hunter was not present in court Wednesday when his case was called for a status hearing before Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson.

Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Potter Barrett said she recently received an update from staff at the state hospital indicating that Hunter is cooperating with his treatment plan and efforts to restore his competency. However, his competency has not been re-evaluated, Barrett said.

A criminal defendant must be able to understand the court proceedings and the criminality of the alleged conduct and be able to assist his or her lawyer in mounting a defense. If such a finding is made in Hunter's case, the case against him could be placed back on Johnson's trial docket.

At the time of the alleged attacks on Mauldin and Allen, Hunter was assigned to the Miller County jail as part of the Arkansas Department of Correction's 309 program, which allows certain offenders to serve their sentences in county jails in need of inexpensive labor. He was serving a 15-year term for shooting his uncle and his mother and stealing his mother's car in 2010.

Video surveillance from the jail's kitchen reportedly shows Mauldin, 47, and Hunter in a brief verbal exchange before Hunter attacks. Moments later, Hunter lunges at Allen as she enters 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."

If convicted of capital murder, Hunter faces death by lethal injection or life without the possibility of parole.

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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