Officer recovering from knife attack; `As a wife, it scares me. I want him to be safe'.
Before her husband was stabbed in the neck with a prison-made knife, Nicole M. Beauvais, 29, said she had no idea how tight the brotherhood was among correction officers.
The knife came within half a centimeter of Correction Officer Nathan R. Beauvais' spinal cord, Mrs. Beauvais said, and if the handle had not come off when the inmate who drove it into his neck tried to pull it out, he would have died.
Mr. Beauvais, 28, was stabbed from behind June 25 while doing his rounds at the maximum security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.
The day before, he had conducted a search for contraband in the same inmate's cell and confiscated a homemade coffee maker, she said, because inmates are not allowed to have boiling water. The brawl that followed involved six other correction officers, she said, including a female officer who was pulled to the floor by her hair and was punched repeatedly.
The prison is still under lockdown following the melee, she said.
Paul Jarvey, spokesman for Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr., said the incident is still under investigation and no charges have been filed.
"The prisoner jumped him," Mrs. Beauvais said in the couple's home yesterday. She said she is speaking for her husband because he does not want to say anything that may interfere with the investigation.
"When he fell, the prisoner who stabbed him went to pull the knife back out and the handle came off," Mrs. Beauvais said. "That saved his life. The prisoner kept punching him with the handle until he was pulled off."
Her husband went through hours of surgery at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester to have the shank removed from his neck, she said.
"When I went into the ICU, I had to sign a paper," she explained. The knife was still protruding from her husband's neck. "Their initial thoughts were that he would be a quadriplegic when they tried to take out the shank. I told him, `No matter what, I'll always love you.'"
The surgeon was able to pull out the shank smoothly and stop it from damaging his spinal cord, despite it being only millimeters away from it, she said.
During the first night in the ICU, correction officers stood by and helped comfort her, she said.
"That first night in the ICU, I already had COs coming to visit me, saying they'd do anything we needed done," she said, including to help pay the couple's mortgage, hold fundraisers and even mow their front lawn. "They came together to support us. They definitely have each other's backs. It is very eye-opening how supportive they are - it is like a brotherhood."
She said in the weeks of recovery that have followed, their Christian faith, family and other correction officers have helped them get through.
Mrs. Beauvais is the one who tends to her husband's care while on leave from her accounts receivable job at Simplex Grinnell in Westminster.
The feeding tube, which she keeps clean, still has not been removed, and her husband still has severe numbness in his left leg, she said, but otherwise is recovering more quickly than his doctors anticipated.
"He is having an MRI next week," she said. "We're hoping (the numbness) is not permanent. They're unsure what is causing it."
Still, she said they are not angry over the horrific ordeal. She said they are just happy he is alive and doing as well as he is.
After three years of marriage, she said, the couple wants children and they are rethinking Mr. Beauvais' career choice.
This is the second time her husband has been assaulted at work, she said. Last year, he ended up with two black eyes and a broken nose, she said.
"As a wife, it scares me," she said. "I want him to be safe. He loves politics and reading. He's very smart. He said he would like to help prevent kids from ending up in prison in the first place, to help make an impact on children's lives."
Whether he continues in the same field or not, Mrs. Beauvais said, they would love to see the job made safer for all correction officers.
The couple, she said, is meeting with Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray in the hope that he will help change policies within the prison system that will make correction officers' jobs safer.
"Tim Murray has visited us twice," she said. "We want to talk to him about making it safer for others."
CUTLINE: (1) Nicole M. Beauvais (2) The maximum security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.
PHOTOG: (1) T&G Staff/RICK CINCLAIR (2) T&G File Photo/RICK CINCLAIR