Relatives of Terry Lee Bennett are seeking answers after he was violently killed by his cellmate in the latest murder at Augusta State Medical Prison.
Deontae Holsey, 26, is accused of beating Bennett in the head with a dinner tray on Jan. 9 and causing his death.
Bennett was 43.
It is the second murder in the last year at the prison. In May, convicted killer Daniel Ferguson strangled another inmate using a torn bed sheet, authorities said.
In the Holsey case, he was formally charged with murder last Tuesday by Columbia County authorities, since the prison is in Grovetown. The two were longtime cellmates, Holsey serving time for credit card fraud and Bennett racking up time for armed robbery and parole violations.
Bennett’s daughter, 20-year-old Kayelin McBride of Arkansas, knew her father mostly from prison phone calls and a rare meeting when she was much younger. She still loved him and said he didn’t deserve to die that way.
McBride got to see his body before burial, and her dad didn’t look like himself. She has little information from prison officials, only bits that have leaked out.
The mother of Bennett’s son, Kimberly Phillips, also said she has been kept in the dark. “They have literally told us hardly anything,” she said.
McBride claims that guards were supposed to check the cells every 15 minutes. Yet, an argument reportedly started between Bennett and Holsey around 6 p.m. and ended a little after 9 p.m. “when they came in to get my father’s body,” she said.
She said the Jan. 12 arrest of ASMP guard Keturah Dunbar shows that drugs were getting into the facility. The guard allegedly came inside the medical prison with marijuana and methamphetamine while arriving for work.
According to McBride, another inmate promised Holsey meth if he would attack Bennett. So Holsey started choking her father until he was unconscious. Lifeless on the floor, Bennett was then beaten with a dinner tray over and over, a fact confirmed in an arrest warrant.
McBride says that Holsey is known by a nickname of “Homicide.” She said she knows this because he texted her repeatedly from prison, talking about her father and even flirting with her. In one video, both Bennett and Holsey laugh together for the camera. (Story continues below)
She said her father was actually scared of Holsey and asked to be removed from his cell. He was initially removed but later brought back.
Holsey was motivated to kill Bennett from drugs that should not have been available inside prison, McBride said.
“Nobody’s life is worth some drugs,” she said. “And don’t take someone’s father away from them.”
McBride called the medical prison “one of the dirtiest prisons in the state,” and she is furious that nothing more was done to protect her father.
“My biggest fear of something happening to my father before he can come be with us has definitely come true, and I won’t accept anything less than justice for my father,” she said.
Other media have reported on the horrible conditions at ASMP, which is run by Georgia Correctional Healthcare.
Prison Legal News reported on serious concerns about staff shortages, which were impacting the provision of care to prisoners as expressed by Dr. Timothy Young and other former staff members. Those staffers warned that “lives are at stake,” creating “significant liability risks.”
The outcomes are deadly. Last May, convicted killer Daniel Ferguson was being housed at the Augusta State Medical Prison when he allegedly strangled inmate Eddie Gosier, who was serving time for child molestation.
Ferguson’s history is frightening. In 2008, he murdered the 94-year-old man who lived across the street from him. Ferguson was just 17 at the time and was sentenced to life in prison.
In December 2013, inmate Damion MacClain died from injuries after a fight with Ferguson at Hays Prison, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. MacClain was strangled in his bed late at night after the doors should have been locked, reports said.
MacClain was serving time for armed robbery convictions. Ferguson was charged in the slaying.
In November, MacClain’s family settled its lawsuit against Georgia’s prison system for $350,000. The victim’s mother had wanted the state held accountable for ignoring the ruthless gang violence and dangerous conditions where cell door locks were left broken or could be defeated with only a napkin, according to media reports.