Ill. inmate died in agony while pleading for help

From: Salon.com

SUNDAY Jun 27, 2010

By DAVID MERCER, Associated Press

For days before he died in a federal prison, Adam Montoya pleaded with guards to be taken to a doctor, pressing a panic button in his cell over and over to summon help that never came.

An autopsy concluded that the 36-year-old inmate suffered from no fewer than three serious illnesses — cancer, hepatitis and HIV. The cancer ultimately killed him, causing his spleen to burst. Montoya bled to death internally.

But the coroner and a pathologist were more stunned by another finding: The only medication in his system was a trace of over-the-counter pain reliever.

That means Montoya, imprisoned for a passing counterfeit checks, had been given nothing to ease the excruciating pain that no doubt wracked his body for days or weeks before death.

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

The FBI recently completed an investigation into Montoya’s death and gave its findings to the Justice Department, which is reviewing the case. If federal prosecutors conclude that Montoya’s civil rights were violated, they could take action against the prison, its guards, or both. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, saying that the matter was still being investigated.

The coroner said guards should have been aware that something was seriously wrong with the inmate. And outside experts agree that the symptoms of cancer and hepatitis would have been hard to miss: dramatic weight loss, a swollen abdomen, yellow eyes.

During Montoya’s final days, he “consistently made requests to the prison for medical attention, and they wouldn’t give it to him,” said his father, Juan Montoya, who described how his son repeatedly punched the panic button. Three inmates corroborated that account in interviews with The Associated Press.

The younger Montoya was taken to the prison clinic one day for “maybe five, 10 minutes,” his father said. “And they gave him Tylenol, and that was it. He suffered a lot.”

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The Haunting Death of Adam Montoya

This is devastating...

this is why letters from prisoners and family members are so important to take seriously

By Sharon Woods Harris
Pekin Daily Times

PEKIN, Ill. –

A former inmate of the Federal Correctional Institute-Pekin alleges in letters to his mother that inmate Adam Montoya begged for medication while in excruciating pain for several days prior to his death on Nov. 13.

Randy Rader was transferred to a California medium-security prison shortly after the death of Montoya, 36, of Albuquerque, N.M., with no explanation for the transfer. He later learned the transfer was for disciplinary reasons, though he claims he did nothing wrong except push the issue about Montoya’s death.
Rader is not alone. Former Pekin prison inmate Jae Eads is now in a Pennsylvania prison. He too believes he was transferred because of his knowledge of what happened at the prison with Montoya, he said.

On Nov. 14, 2009, Rader wrote to his mother, Debbie Rader, in Michigan. He told his mother, “Look, something really bad happened here on 11-13-09. I’m going to give you this name (and prison ID) number. I want you to get Brandon to Google it or whatever on (the) computer for references to this guy’s last name. Try to find his people.”

Montoya arrived at FCI-Pekin on Oct. 26 to serve a 27-month sentence for counterfeiting-related offenses. His scheduled release date was April 18, 2011. Previously he had been incarcerated in a Texas jail, where, according to his father, Juan Montoya, he received all of his medications.

Rader tells his mother that Montoya was his roommate in the “yard” prior to Montoya’s death.

“(Montoya) had only been here for a month or so. (He) just got locked up (for the) first time. He was 37 years old. He was a good guy in for a white-collar crime — stole money from some firm or other embezzlement,” said Rader. “He had a medical condition when he came — a tumor in his head.

“He begged them people to do something for him — over and over. They took him to medical a few days after he begged them so much. He went for about five minutes, maybe 10. He just got worse for the next six days. He pressed the panic button — begged them, told everyone to do something. Mom, he died between 10 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 sitting up on his bed. I don’t want to go into all of the details, but I would like to tell his people what I know.”

Tazewell County Coroner Dennis Conover said Montoya was bruised in a continuous band around his waist. He said it looked as if Montoya had been beaten, but once the autopsy was completed it was easy to see the bruising was from the internal bleeding.

A Tazewell County coroner’s autopsy report for Montoya revealed that internal bleeding was due to, or a consequence of, a rupture of the spleen. The ruptured spleen was due to or a consequence of B-Cell non-Hodgkins Lymphoma — a cancer of the lymphatic system.

The autopsy showed that 754 milliliters, or 25.49 ounces, of blood had leaked from the spleen into the abdominal cavity. Tumors were noted on the kidney and spleen, and Montoya had multiple enlarged lymph nodes.

Part of autopsy protocol is a toxicology screen. Despite Montoya’s many health issues, the only drug in his system was regular Tylenol, which had not been taken immediately prior to his death because it was found in his urine. There were no prescription pain medications or condition-related drugs in his system, according to the autopsy report.

Montoya’s father, Juan Montoya, said immediately after the death that his son was on medications while at a Texas jail prior to being sent to an Oklahoma prison before being assigned his final destination at the Pekin prison.

Federal Correctional Institution-Pekin Public Information Officer Jay Henderson said Wednesday that he could not answer questions about inmate transfers or inmate health issues, even for Montoya, who is now dead.

Henderson said there have been no changes to protocol for medicine disbursement at the prison because, “There was nothing wrong with the protocol (the prison officials) were using at the time.”

Henderson also said he does not know of any investigation into Montoya’s death. Previously, after the autopsy, Henderson had said there was no need for one because, according to Henderson, the autopsy report labeled the death accidental.
Conover said there is nowhere on the autopsy report that says accidental death. Patients with diseases such as Montoya’s are typically on medication of some kind, said Conover.

Conover has issued protocols to all departments with first responders that in the event of a death the body is not to be moved until the coroner arrives on scene. The prison, he said, ignored those protocols after Montoya died.

Prison personnel, said Conover, ordered paramedics to remove the body from the cell even after the paramedics said they could not. An IV line was started and the body was moved to the outside of the prison gate. Paramedics then called OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and were told to take the body to Pekin Hospital, where Montoya was pronounced dead immediately.

Read the rest here.