MARIANNA, Ark. (KTHV) - Support is pouring out for a beloved corporal killed in the line of duty while serving one of Arkansas' state prisons.
On Friday, we told you an inmate at the East Arkansas Regional Unit in Brickeys stabbed Barbara Ester, a 12-year veteran of that facility.
On Monday, we traveled to Marianna where Ester lived with her husband and fellow co-worker Lathen Ester of six years. In fact, he met his wife on the job and was actually at the facility but not in the same area when his wife was attacked.
There were some folks visiting their home while we were there lending support during this difficult time. Lathen says it's all been overwhelming; but bringing great joy too knowing his wife touched so many people.
"That was my baby, what more can I say, she was special," Lathen Ester said.
She was a special woman and husband to Lathen Ester.
"Everybody knew her, everybody loved her, she was a very outgoing person and she was the life of the party," Lathen Ester said.
It was a life taken to short on Friday. Authorities say an inmate, with a pair of unauthorized shoes, stabbed corporal Barbara Ester on the job with the Arkansas Department of Correction, a place Ester showed sincere dedication.
"Often she will fill ill sometimes but she said I got to go to work and I'd say you got sick days and she said, no I got to go to work today," Lathen Ester said.
Her husband says that she even developed a nickname, "Mama Ester."
"She was a mother to a lot of the younger inmates coming in who didn't have the mother figure in their lives, she just cared about people," Lathen Ester said.
And that care extended into her marriage.
"Always telling me when I need to go to the doctor, needed to take my medicine," Lathen Ester said. "And sometimes I would be like come on girl, but she was concerned about people, when she loved you, she was concerned about you," Lathen Ester said.
Just days after her sudden death, Lathen's found support from folks stopping by their home. Some guests are filling the freezer with food and some he met for the first time. It's all getting him through the initial shock when it's so hard to react.
"I cannot understand, there are no words that explain how," Lathen Ester said.
Lathen also leads a church in Marianna and says his wife was especially supportive there with the elderly. He said she always bought gifts for those members during the holidays.
And one other note to share, the Arkansas Department of Corrections has received lots of emails with condolences as far away as Canada. We have some of them listed below.
The funeral is set for Saturday at the Lee High School Auditorium in Marianna at noon. Ester's husband says they needed a large venue to accommodate what's expected to be a huge turnout.
A trust from the Arkansas Association of Correctional Employees will pay for the funeral. They also plan to give the family at least $3,000 in extra assistance. If you would like to donate, you can send donations to the address below.
P.O. Box 1579
Cabot, AR 72023
STATEMENT FROM THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS:
The Arkansas Department of Correction says they are grateful for the outpouring of sympathy from people across the country. They say, "This is obviously a difficult time, but it has been made easier by the gestures of kindness and support from the public and representatives of correctional and law enforcement organizations. Please continue to pray for her family and fellow correctional officers. They will need the strength of many prayers in the days to come."
They're receiving messages of condolences from all over the United States, and even Canada.
From Pulaski, NY: "I don't know if I'm using the correct email address for this message, but I just wanted to give my condolences to the family, co-workers and friends of [Cpl.] Ester. I read about her death at the East Arkansas Regional Unit today on CNN.com. I am very sorry for your loss.
I never knew this person, but I feel strongly about how important it is to show gratitude to our law enforcement officers, first responders like EMT's, and correction officers for the work they do. Oftentimes it's a thankless job, which is most unfortunate. My ex-boyfriend retired from the NY State Dept. of Corrections awhile back, having previously served as a police officer.
Again, I'm very sorry for your loss."
From Napanee, Ontario: "Could you please pass on to the staff at the East Arkansas Regional Unit the condolences of the correctional staff of the Quinte Detention Centre in Napanee Ontario, Canada on the passing of [Cpl.] Barbara Ester who was recently murdered while on the job."
From Missouri: "To All Arkansas Department of Corrections staff I just wanted to say how sorry I am to read of the murder of [Cpl.] Ester. I am a Sgt. with 29 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. I supervise the Central Services are in a med/max security unit of 1925 inmates in Cameron,Mo. One of my areas is the Property/Clothing issue section. I feel as I have lost a Sister that I never met. Please pass my thoughts and condolences on to her fellow Corrections Officers."
Cpl. Barbara Ester was stabbed to death by male inmate Latavious Johnson, after she noticed that he was in possession of a pair of tennis shoes that weren't issued by the ADC Friday.
Because they were not formally issued, the shoes were considered contraband. Sgt. Ester then entered the open barracks where Johnson stayed with a number of other inmates, and he allegedly stabbed her at least twice in the abdomen.
The East Arkansas Regional Unit is back to normal procedures of operation Monday.
(Source: Arkansas Dept. of Correction)