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Former inmate at troubled Illinois prison charged with 2nd-degree murder of cellmate

Javier Gonzalez-Valenzuela, 47, of Sonora, Mexico, had been released from the prison but remained in custody on a different charge.

THOMSON, Ill. — Editor's Note: The video above is from March 10. 

Another inmate connected to United States Penitentiary Thomson faces second-degree murder charges in the assault and death of his cellmate, according to the United States Attorney of the Northern District of Illinois.

A federal grand jury in Rockford indicted Javier Gonzalez-Valenzuela, 47, of Sonora, Mexico, in connection to the Feb. 28, 2021, death of Shay Paniry. That's according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday. 

Gonzalez-Valenzuela was Paniry's cellmate at the time of the incident. He had been released from Thomson but remained in the custody of law enforcement on an unrelated charge. 

On Tuesday, Gonzalez-Valenzuela pleaded not guilty to the new charges of second-degree murder and assault of Paniry. He was ordered to be detained in federal custody. If convicted, Gonzalez-Valenzuela could face a life sentence for murder and up to 10 years for assault. 

The troubled prison has seen instances of this before. 

Back in October, another inmate was indicted in the death of his cellmate. That was just one month after the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into the prison following the release of a "disturbing" report from NPR and the Marshall Project. The report details the deaths of several inmates and alleged abuse by prison staff. 

Since then, the prison has had a change of mission to house low-security inmates. 

The Bureau of Prisons told News 8 back in February that it recently discovered "significant concerns with respect to institutional culture and compliance with BOP policies" at the prison. 

Due to this, the BOP moved all high-security inmates from Thomson's special management and reintegration units to other facilities in the BOP system.

Watch more stories about USP Thomson on News 8's YouTube channel

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