Missouri Prison Waited Hours to Call 911 After Fatal Attack, Inmate Says

Inmate Joshua Hewitt's January death has led to two murder charges and a federal lawsuit

click to enlarge Joshua Hewitt died in St. Louis on January 11, three days after being assaulted in state prison. - COURTESY OF PAT HEWITT
Joshua Hewitt died in St. Louis on January 11, three days after being assaulted in state prison.

Two inmates at the Northeast Correctional Center have been charged with the January 8 murder of 43-year-old Joshua Hewitt, who was in prison with them in Bowling Green.

A grand jury indictment filed in Pike County alleges that inmates Elijah Kent and Matthew Marshall also tampered with evidence by attempting to clean or conceal Hewitt's blood at the scene.

Kent, 35, is serving a seven year term for domestic assault. Marshall, 32, is serving an 18 year sentence for murder.

Hewitt's death was covered by the RFT in January. In the weeks after his death, Hewitt’s parents struggled to get information about what exactly had occurred. Missouri Department of Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann confirmed that Hewitt was assaulted on January 8 and died in the hospital three days later.

But the Hewitts had to rely on hospital records and an organ transplant center employee to piece together a rough timeline of what happened to their son in the hours after his assault. They found that he arrived at the hospital in St. Louis around 3 a.m. on January 9. But they didn't know at what time he'd been assaulted.

"I'm also concerned about, did this assault take place at six o'clock, and he wasn't found until midnight?" Hewitt's father Pat told the RFT at the time.

Pat Hewitt has now filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Missouri Department of Corrections as well as the warden of the prison in Bowling Green over his son's death.

The lawsuit accuses the prison of negligence. It claims that shortly before Hewitt was assaulted, inmates elsewhere in the prison staged an "orchestrated disturbance" to distract the guards. During this time, Hewitt was assaulted for approximately 40 minutes.

The suit goes on to claim that the prison did not follow its own policies and as a result Hewitt was left unsupervised in his cell for longer than he should have been, creating an environment in which such a sustained attack could take place.

In a message obtained by the RFT, one of the men now accused of murdering Hewitt says that several hours passed between the time of the altercation with Hewitt and Hewitt's being transported to the hospital.

Elijah Kent wrote to an individual outside the prison that his alleged assault on Hewitt was written up by prison authorities as having occurred at 8:21 p.m. Pat Hewitt's lawsuit states that his son arrived at Mercy Hospital at 2:57 a.m. To drive from the prison in Bowling Green to Mercy in St. Louis takes about 75 minutes, meaning that if Kent is telling the truth, more than five hours elapsed between the assault and Hewitt leaving the prison in an ambulance.

"If he didn't leave here till midnight, then yeah, these people definitely fucked up," Kent wrote.

Kent also says that Hewitt was intoxicated when the incident occurred. He acknowledges hitting Hewitt, but expressed disbelief that the injuries Hewitt sustained in their altercation would have been fatal.

Hewitt had a significant criminal history prior to his death. His father, Pat, told the RFT that Hewitt was an alcoholic. "He was in and out of prison for the last 20 years, which is pretty much most of his adult life," Pat said.

In 2012 in Hollister, according to a probable cause statement, he touched a minor's breast through clothing, leading to a conviction for misdemeanor sexual misconduct. He was sentenced to time served and, as part of the plea bargain, had to register as a sex offender.

In 2021, he failed to register as a sex offender in Taney County, resulting in a four-year prison sentence. He'd served a little over four months of it when he died.

"Honestly, we always felt better when he was incarcerated," Pat said in the wake of his son's death. "We knew he had two or three square meals a day, and he had a place to put his head down. We knew exactly where he was at."
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About The Author

Ryan Krull

Ryan Krull is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times.
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