She was thrown to the ground and severely beaten by a convicted rapist. For the first time, a Department of Corrections caseworker is publicly talking about her near-death experience.
Darla Cowan, a 14-year veteran of the DOC, was assaulted for roughly 15 minutes before prison guards were able to help. A union representing DOC workers said the attack proves more prison guards are needed.
Most of the guards at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington work 12-hour shifts. More competitive salaries will help solve the problem, according to union representatives.
"[He] grabbed me around the throat, knocked me to the ground," Cowan said. "I don't know why I'm here today. I just thank the Lord that I am."
Cowan suffered a broken nose and a swollen face from the attack, which occurred five months ago. She said she didn't think she was going to make it home from work that day.
Active Edgar is accused of the attack. He is behind bars for rape, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. Cowan said there was only one guard on duty in her area … too far away to offer protection.
"I was the only staff member in the offices at the time with 160 inmates on that unit," said Cowan.
The attacker waited until the other inmates left the building. He was hiding behind door when Cowan was leaving for lunch.
"I seriously thought I was going to die that day … but somehow I did get to the emergency switch and [got] people's attention," Cowan said. "Nobody knew what was going on in there."
Doctors were forced to re-break Cowan's nose to fix it. She is still recovering from her injuries and faces constant anxiety at work.
The State of Oklahoma paid for medical bills, according to Cowan. However, Cowan said no money has been offered for needed counseling.
For the second time in five days, a DOC spokesperson has refused comment to News 9 on criticism concerning the department.
"We all are at risk when we walk into that facility every day," said Cowan
Edgar was transferred to a separate maximum security prison following the attack. New charges against Edgar were still pending as of late Tuesday, according to state officials.