A Georgia inmate used a gun to kill a prison kitchen worker before killing himself, officials say

The Georgia Department of Corrections says it's investigating the killing early Sunday at Smith State Prison. Prison officials said inmate Jaydrekus Hart shot a food service worker in the prison's kitchen at about 4:30 a.m. and then shot himself.. (Contributed by Georgia Department of Corrections)

An inmate used a gun to kill a kitchen worker at a Georgia prison early Sunday before fatally shooting himself, state officials said.

The Georgia Department of Corrections in a statement said it’s investigating the deaths at Smith State Prison in rural southeast Georgia. The agency provided few immediate details, including how the inmate obtained a firearm.

The agency’s statement said inmate Jaydrekus Hart fatally shot a food service worker in the prison’s kitchen at about 4:30 a.m. Sunday, then used the gun to kill himself.

“The weapon is in GDC custody at this time, and a complete and thorough investigation of what led up to this tragic incident will be carried out,” the statement said.

Agency spokeswoman Lori Benoit provided no further information when reached by phone. She said further details would be released when they become available.

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 and other U.S. states.

“We are heartbroken over the loss of our colleague and our hearts and prayers go out to her family,” Aramark spokesperson Debbie Albert said in an emailed statement. “This is a tragedy for all of us.”

Albert said the company was assisting Georgia prison officials in their investigation.

It’s the second killing of a staff member at Smith State Prison in less than a year. Correctional officer Robert Clark, 42, died last October after an inmate he was escorting attacked him from behind with a homemade weapon.

A state investigation into a sprawling contraband scheme inside the prison resulted in the arrest and firing of the prison’s warden, Brian Adams, in February 2023. He was charged with racketeering, bribery, making or writing false statements and violating his oath as a public officer.

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.

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