Mother of Georgia prison worker shot, killed by inmate: 'They failed to protect her'

The mother of 24-year-old Aureon Grace said the prison in which she worked failed to protect her. 

Investigators say in Smith State Prison in southeast Georgia, inmate Jaydrekus Hart got hold of a gun Sunday morning. They said he shot Grace, then himself. 

Grace's mother, Deshonda Hagins, said she learned of her daughter's murder through inmates on social media who were using smuggled phones. 

"The inmates were going through her social media and trying to find someone related to her," Hagins said.  

Jaydrekus Hart

Jaydrekus Hart (Georgia Department of Corrections)

She believes if that prison were secure, her daughter would still be here.  

SEE ALSO: Georgia prison and corrections system assessment announced by Gov. Brian Kemp

Smith State Prison deadly shooting

Grace was working for the food contractor Aramark in the kitchen at the maximum security facility. 

Prison officials said Monday they believe Grace and Hart had a personal relationship. 

 "What does that have to do with having a gun to kill my child?" Hagins said.  

She said she wants the Department of Corrections to focus on how the gun got into the facility. 

Aureon Grace

Aureon Grace (Supplied)

SEE ALSO: Smith State Prison inmate, Aramark employee may have had relationship

Hagins said investigators ripped apart her daughter’s apartment while executing a search warrant, leaving behind this mess. 

It's not clear what – if anything – they found. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections says that an inmate with the contraband phone got in touch with her family before prison staff got a chance. 

"The call from the contraband cell phone was premature, as the facility staff was working on determining details in order to accurately communicate to the family," the spokesperson said. "GDC’s Director of Professional Standards was on the phone with the Assistant Director and assisted in providing real-time updates." 

Aureon Grace killed at Smith State Prison

Grace leaves behind a one-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter. 

Her mom said the 24-year-old was saving money to go to nursing school. 

Aureon Grace and her daughter

Aureon Grace and her daughter

SEE ALSO: At least 360 Georgia prison guards have been arrested for contraband since 2018, newspaper finds

The state prison system said six Aramark employees have been told not to come back to the prison based on this investigation. 

It did not explain why. 

Hagins accused both the company and the prison of not properly assuring the safety of its workers and at times leaving the inmates alone with the workers without a guard present.  

A spokesperson for Aramark said it is cooperating with the investigation.  

"We are working with the corrections officials as they continually assess safety and security at Smith and other facilities," the Aramark spokesperson said in an email. "The safety of our employees is always our highest priority and we work closely with corrections agencies to address that."