Guard remembered as dedicated to career, family, community

Published 12:43 am Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Hugh and Brenda Carithers hold a picture of their son Catlin in his Franklin County football uniform. Catlin was killed Sunday during a riot at the Adams County Correctional Center.

FAYETTE — Catlin Carithers had a clear career goal in mind at only age 24.

Going in to work on his day off in the midst of a dangerous situation was just another brick in the path to his dream job.

“He wanted to be warden of a prison someday,” his mother Brenda said Monday from her Jefferson County home. “He loved his job, and that’s what he really wanted.”

Submitted photo — A recent photo shows Catlin Carithers, second from left, with his parents Brenda and Hugh Carithers, right, and brother Josey, left.

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Carithers began working at the Adams County Correctional Center in 2009, the year the prison began housing inmates.

Since then, he worked his way to the title of senior correctional officer and served on the private prison’s special response team, his father Hugh said.

Carithers was called in to work Sunday afternoon, shortly after an inmate riot broke out.

Carithers was on the roof of the low- to medium-security prison, Hugh was told, with another officer dropping tear gas canisters near inmates when 10 to 15 inmates rushed the roof and assaulted Carithers and the other officer.

Carithers died of blunt force trauma to the head and possibly a fractured skull, Adams County Coroner James Lee said.

“Catlin assured me there wasn’t anyone real dangerous in there, murderers or anything like that,” Hugh said. “I guess he was wrong.”

Living through fun and faith

BEN HILLYER | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Josey Carithers sits on the steps of his family’s house in Franklin County with pictures of his brother Catlin. Family and friends have been gathering at the house to remember Catlin, a prison guard who was killed during a riot at the Adams County Correctional Center Sunday.

Carithers’ graduated too soon to claim a state championship title with his beloved Franklin County Bulldogs football team.

He was a senior linebacker on the team in the fall of 2005 when the season ended in the playoffs. But it was the fall of 2006 when the Dogs — and Catlin’s little brother Josey — brought home the title.

“I gave him my first-place medal,” Josey said. “I knew he had put so much hard work into the football team over the years, and I thought he should have it. He received dedication awards when he played on the team, he never missed a workout during the summer.”

Brenda remembered her eldest son’s love of the game Monday, too, as she flipped through old photos with friends and neighbors.

“He was really proud of this picture right here,” she said holding up a framed photograph of Catlin in his Franklin County High School football uniform.

Catlin and Josey were rough and rowdy little boys, Josey said. As children, they spent most of their time together at a creek near their house because there were not many kids to play with out in the country, he said.

“We didn’t have much, but we had each other,” Josey said.

As an adult, Catlin’s interest turned to hunting, fishing, golf and his passion for law enforcement. He was also a volunteer firefighter.

He earned his associate’s degree from Southwest Mississippi Community College, and Brenda said he had recently talked about going back to college to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

But two other things were important to Catlin too.

He was engaged to marry Katie Simpson of McComb in June 2013, Brenda said.

And he was a man focused on his faith.

“(Catlin) is the one responsible for his father turning his life over to the Lord,” she said taking Hugh’s hand.

Catlin attended Siloam Baptist Church in Meadville, and the church’s pastor, the Rev. Leon Wallace, said Catlin was actively involved with the church’s youth and the community.

“I think he was a great influence in this community,” Wallace said. “People had great respect for him, and he respected the people of this community too.”

Brenda, who last saw her son on Mother’s Day, and the family are finding strength through Catlin’s faith.

“He is not gone, he’ll always be here,” Hugh said.

“God has everything to do with everything, and Catlin helped me to see that,” Hugh said as tear welled up in his eyes.