Inmate Died In Extreme Pain, According to FBI Investigation

According to a coroner and a pathologist, an Illinois correctional facility inmate who died while in custody last November was in extreme pain for days or even weeks before his death.

Adam Montoya, 36, was serving time in the federal prison in Pekin, Illinois, for counterfeiting commercial checks, credit cards and gift cards, and for probation violations. He pleaded guilty to the charges in May 2009, and was released pending sentencing. Montoya, who has a history of using methamphetamine, returned to drug use during that time after learning that he was HIV-positive. After failing several court-ordered drug tests, he was put back behind bars, and in October, Montoya was sentenced to two years and three months in the federal prison.

Montoya lived for only 18 days after arriving at the Pekin prison. His fellow inmates said that he spent much of that time begging for help, pressing the panic button in his cell over and over again. Yet he was taken to the medical clinic only once, and only for about 10 minutes.

Coroner Dennis Conover found that Montoya, who suffered not only from HIV but also from cancer and hepatitis, had only a trace of Tylenol in his system—no other medication for what would have been excruciating pain in the last days of his life.

“He shouldn’t have died in agony like that,” said Conover. “He had been out there long enough that he should have at least died in the hospital.”

Results of an investigation by the FBI have been sent to the Justice Department, which will review the case and make a determination as to whether or not the prisoner’s civil rights were violated. Federal prosecutors could take action against the prison, its guards or both.

The coroner and others have said that the symptoms of hepatitis and cancer—yellow eyes, swelling in the abdominal region and rapid weight loss—would have been evident. The pathologist who examined his body said that Montoya’s eyes were yellow.

The last interaction that Montoya had with prison staff occurred at about 10 p.m. on November 12. He complained of breathing trouble and numbness in his fingers. The staff member told the prisoner that he would get help the next day, but Montoya’s body was found in his cell early the next morning. He died when his spleen ruptured, causing internal bleeding. An autopsy found that a massive tumor had engulfed the spleen, and was metastasizing to his liver.

Montoya’s family members have hired attorneys, but have not yet decided whether they will file suit against the Pekin prison.

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