Delaware inmates sentenced in guard’s killing during riot

Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna, Del. (Suchat Pederson/The Wilmington News-Journal via AP, File)

Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna, Del. (Suchat Pederson/The Wilmington News-Journal via AP, File)

More than two years after a deadly riot at a Delaware prison, the final three inmates were sentenced in court.

Self-proclaimed ringleader Dwayne Staats was sentenced Friday to two life terms for the murder of guard Steven Floyd. Staats, who is already serving life for murder, received another 150 years for assault and kidnapping. There were 18 inmates charged in connection with the February 2017 riot at the James T. Vaughn Correction Center in Smyrna, Del.

Earlier this year, the state dropped all charges on the remaining inmates, making Staats the only one convicted of murder.

Correctional Officers union president Geoff Klopp was discouraged by the outcome of the state’s case.

“This has been an epic failure by the criminal justice in the state of Delaware and we pray that this never happens again,” Klopp said.

Jarreau Ayers, also serving life for murder, was sentenced to 123 years for kidnapping, assault and riot.

Star prosecution witness Royal Downs was sentenced to three years for riot. The judge said that sentence will be served after the former Baltimore gang leader finishes a life sentence for murder in Maryland.

Floyd was killed and two other guards were beaten in the riot. A female counselor was held hostage for nearly 20 hours before being rescued.

Prosecutor John Downs was disappointed by the not guilty verdicts in the other trials but was pleased with the sentences given out by Judge William Carpenter.

“The sentence today of Staats and Ayers holds them responsible,” Downs said. “They should never be free from the life they have chosen to live.”

WHYY’s Mark Eichmann contributed reporting. 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.