Georgia inmate had 'personal relationship' with worker he shot and killed, prison official says

GLENNVILLE, Ga. (AP) — An inmate who shot and killed a kitchen worker at a Georgia prison before fatally shooting himself had a personal relationship with the woman, a prison official said Monday.

The shooting early Sunday at Smith State Prison was an isolated incident and the investigation was ongoing, Georgia Department of Corrections spokesperson Lori Benoit said in an email statement. The statement did not say how inmate Jaydrekus Hart obtained a firearm.

The agency previously said Hart shot the worker in the prison’s kitchen at about 4:30 a.m. Sunday, then killed himself. Hart appears to have left a suicide note, Benoit said.

Smith State Prison, which has capacity for 1,500 inmates, is a close-security prison that houses offenders considered violent or an escape risk.

Hart had been imprisoned since 2015 after being convicted in Carroll County of voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery, according to online prison records. His earliest potential release date would have been in 2043.

The slain kitchen worker, 24-year-old Aureon Shavea Grace of Statesboro, had worked at the prison since January, according to the corrections department. She was employed by Aramark, a Philadelphia-based company that provides food service for prisons in Georgia, among other states.

Gov. Brian Kemp and prison officials said Monday that they've hired consultants to examine the state prison system “to identify current strengths, opportunities, and recommendations to enhance operational efficiency and effectiveness.”

“By ensuring our correctional facilities have the funding, technology, infrastructure, and operations to fulfill their mission, this comprehensive assessment is the next step in achieving a safer, stronger Georgia,” Kemp said in a news release.

The state says it has hired Guidehouse Inc. to provide recommendations for action. The company is supposed to visit prisons and conduct interviews over the next year. The state says neither Guidehouse nor state agencies will comment on the work until it is complete. The state didn't say how much it plans to pay Guidehouse.

The U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division began investigating the state prison system in September 2021 and has yet to issue a report. A state Senate panel created earlier this year is supposed to study the safety of inmates and prison staff, completing its work by Dec. 1.