LITTLE ROCK — A female prison guard searching barracks for contraband was stabbed to death by an inmate Friday at the East Arkansas Unit near Brickeys, state prison officials said.

LITTLE ROCK — A female prison guard searching barracks for contraband was stabbed to death by an inmate Friday at the East Arkansas Unit near Brickeys, state prison officials said.

Sgt. Barbara Ester, 47, sustained multiple stab wounds in the attack and died later at a Memphis hospital, state Department of Correction spokeswoman Shea Wilson said.

Wilson identified the inmate as Latavious Johnson, 30, a convicted murderer who is serving a sentence of life without parole. The prison spokeswoman said Ester, a 12-year veteran of the prison system, was in a prison barracks checking on an inmate who was wearing an unauthorized pair of tennis shoes when the attack occurred about 12:30 p.m.

She was stabbed multiple times in the abdomen with what Wilson described as a 6 inch shank believed to be made from an air conditioning part.

Ester managed to walk to the prison unit’s infirmary before collapsing. She was transported to the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center in Memphis, about 40 miles away, where she died, Wilson said. Arkansas State Police were investigating the attack Friday afternoon.

Johnson was moved to the maximum security wing at the prison and is expected to be transferred to Tucker Maximum Security Correctional Facility in Jefferson County, Wilson said.

“This is an awful day,” Wilson said. “We would just ask that people keep Sgt. Ester and her family in their thoughts and prayers, and her extended ADC family as well. Correctional officers tend to be a tight knit group and this is just a tragic thing,” Wilson said.

Ester is the second prison guard ever to be killed by a Department of Correction inmate.

Sgt. Scott Grimes was the first, in 1995. Grimes, 41, was working at the Tucker unit when he was stabbed and killed by inmate Alvin Bernal Jackson, who was serving a life sentence for capital murder. Jackson was convicted of killing Grimes and sentenced to death.