Donna Payant

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Donna Payant née Collins (March 22, 1950 – May 15, 1981) was a New York state corrections officer who was murdered while on duty at Green Haven Correctional Facility. She was one of 50 women serving as guards at Green Haven Correctional Facility.

Donna Payant attended the corrections officers' academy in 1980, and had only worked at Greenhaven for about a month at the time of her murder. The mother of three children, her husband was also a corrections officer, though at a different facility. Her father, too, had been a corrections officer at the Clinton Prison for over 28 years. Payant's assignment was to guard her now murderer Lemuel Smith's cell block, and to bring inmates to the dining hall and escort them back. [1]

Subsequent investigation revealed that Payant had been killed by inmate Lemuel Smith, a rapist and two-time convicted murderer who was already serving two life sentences.[2] She was lured to the prison chaplain's office by the perpetrator posing as another corrections employee. Smith was working in the chaplain's office at the time. The autopsy showed that Payant died by strangulation. Prior to the autopsy, there was speculation on whether or not Payant had been sexually assaulted due to her body being severely crushed by a sanitation compactor. [3] After killing her, the inmate wrapped her body in plastic, stuffed it into a 55-gallon drum and disposed of it in a dumpster. When she came up missing, the prison was locked down and searched. No trace was found, but search dogs traced her scent to the dumping area. The next morning the landfill was searched and her body was found. Prior to those two murder convictions, Smith had also been the only suspect in at least two other killings, but prosecutors had declined to try him due to the 50-year sentence he was already facing. They reasoned that he would never leave prison anyway, so the indictments were dismissed. For having killed Officer Payant, Smith received a third murder conviction, and was originally sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted as unconstitutional.

As of 2016, Payant was the sole female correctional officer in New York State to die in the line of duty.

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