By Ethan Colbert
A Hannibal jury comprised of five men and seven women spent little time in deliberation on Thursday before returning with guilty verdicts in the two criminal charges facing Jeardin Hutchins, the former Northeast Correctional Center inmate who was named as the attacker in the July 26, 2017, stabbing of a female guard at the local prison.
Hutchins will be sentenced on January 11. Due to the severity of these crimes, he could be sentenced to spend between two years to the remainder of his life in the custody of Missouri Department of Corrections.
Over the course of the day and a half trial, the jury heard testimony from several Northeast Correctional Center staff members as well as the victim herself.
Among those testifying was Chad Ream, a case manager for the Missouri Department of Corrections. At the time of the July 26, 2017 incident, Ream said he worked as a corrections officer at NECC.
He was on duty when the attack happened.
“It was a little after 9 o’clock,” Ream said from the witness stand in the Marion County courtroom, which was nearly empty except for a few friends and family of the NECC guard and a member of the local press. “I was in the A-side yard, when all of a sudden I heard loud screaming coming across the radio. I couldn’t make it out at first. I couldn’t tell what I was hearing.”
In his sworn testimony, Ream said in the chaotic scene following the attack that he was asked by a superior officer to escort the NECC offender believed to be behind the attack to a more secure location.
As he carried out his duties, Ream said he heard the offender, later identified to be Jeardin Hutchins, say that the guard had been harassing him and that “she had it coming.”
Under cross-examination, Ream said he remembered thinking that Hutchins was “void of emotion” despite the chaotic scene that was unfolding around him as NECC staff rushed to the aid of the stabbing victim, who identified herself in court as Maggie Long.
“It was as if nothing had ever happened,” Ream said.
While Ream and another corrections officer took Hutchins away from Housing Unit 8 — the site of the incident — other corrections officers, including James Walker, testified to the pandemonium that Hutchins left in his wake.
In his testimony, Walker told the jury that as he responded to the scene that he kept finding larger and larger pools of blood.
“There were pools of blood leading in the back office from the sally port,” Walker said. He later explained that the sally port is a hallway that divides the two sides of the housing unit.
Upon entering the aforementioned housing unit, Walker said he heard a voice on the radio tell him that he was needed in D Wing.
“Once I got there, I found officers detaining an offender,” Walker said. According to Walker, he was asked to secure a weapon from the offender. In court he identified State Exhibit 17, a make-shift knife as the weapon that he secured from the inmate.
He also identified State Exhibit 5, 6, and 7, which were a series of photos that depict the weapon and the pools of blood he found in the housing unit.
Following Walker’s testimony, Long took to the witness stand.
Long, who has been a corrections officer for about four years, said she was performing routine checks in Housing Unit 8 at the time of the assault.
“I don’t really remember much until I kind of turned and saw Hutchins,” Long said. “He looked like he was about ready to hurt me. Then, I kind of felt like he was punching me. I remember screaming that I needed help.”
It was not until later that Long said she learned that what she thought were punches were actually the make-shift knife penetrating the skin of her neck and hands.
“I think I blacked out, because I don’t remember anything until that door opened,” Long said. Once the door to Housing Unit 8 opened and her colleagues arrived, Long said she was told that she had been the victim of a stabbing.
“Captain Painter told me and that is when I lost it,” Long said.
According to her testimony, Long was attended to by several of her colleagues while they awaited the arrival of a Pike County Memorial Hospital ambulance.
Once she was transported to the county hospital, medical records exhibited into court as evidence show that Long’s wounds were treated in the Emergency Room and that she was later released from the hospital.
However, in her testimony, Long said she continues to battle side effects — headaches, loss of grip in her right hand, loss of motion in her neck — from her injuries.
During cross examination from Hutchins’ defense attorneys, Long acknowledged that a Pike County Memorial Hospital report described her wounds as “superficial” and the “bleeding was under control.”
She also testified that her Victim Impact Statement, which she completed in September 2017, did not list her migraines, numbness, lost of motion or grip, or subsequent medical visits or surgeries.
When asked by Pike County’s Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Alex Ellison why she omitted those things from her impact statement, Long responded “they are still going on.”
Nevertheless, Long said it is the injuries to her mental state that have the most significant impact on her life.
“Every time I go somewhere, I always fear for my life,” Long said.