SPRINGFIELD -- For the third time in 10 weeks, a suspicious inmate death at Menard Correctional Center in far southern Illinois has been ruled a homicide.
Randolph County Coroner Randy Dudenbostel told The Associated Press on Thursday that 35-year-old William Crowder died March 26 from "manual strangulation."
State's Attorney Jeremy Walker said he intends to file first-degree murder charges in Crowder's death against an inmate at the maximum-security prison in Chester, 60 miles southeast of St. Louis. Walker said he is awaiting investigative reports from the Illinois Department of Corrections. He would not name the suspect but said the man is serving a sentence that doesn't end until 2023.
Crowder was found dead in his cell in the prison's segregation unit at 10:36 p.m. Crowder's was the third suspicious inmate death deemed a homicide since Jan. 31.
Walker has filed murder charges against former Menard inmates James Amison, who is now incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center, and Donald Hazzard, who's being held in the Randolph County Jail on $750,000 bail, in the two other recent prisoner deaths.
Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said as part of ongoing evaluation of prison security, the agency has reviewed security policies, increased cell and inmate searches, and "increased the frequency and variance of rounds in the housing units."
Solano confirmed Thursday that a Menard inmate assaulted a staff member by hitting him. Another staff member was injured while assisting his colleague. Solano would not comment on the extent of their injuries but said both employees were treated at the prison.
Amison, 40, who is already serving five life sentences for murder and other violent crimes, is accused of beating to death his 25-year-old cellmate, Jason Hall, on Jan. 31.
Hazzard, 23, who was charged with murder April 5, the day he was released from his previous Menard sentence and was transferred to the county jail, is charged with beating 64-year-old Yusuf Abuzir in the cell they shared Jan. 25. Abuzir died in the prison infirmary Feb. 25.
Critics say overcrowding has led to an increase in prison violence. State prisons now house about 49,000 inmates, but they were designed to house up to 32,100. But Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn recently closed five correctional facilities, including major prisons in Tamms and Dwight.
Quinn has reappointed Corrections Director S.A. "Tony" Godinez to a two-year term. The Senate must confirm the reappointment.