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Parnell brothers finally in prison for deadly peanut butter outbreak

For the first time since they were sentenced last September, brothers Stewart and Michael Parnell are in federal prisons.

The elder brother, Stewart Parnell, 61, is the former owner and chief executive officer of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). The company’s Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter products killed at least nine and sickened thousands in 2008-09.

Stewart Parnell is now the most infamous inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) at Estill, SC. His release date is Feb. 6, 2040.

FCI.ESTILL_406x250FCI Estill is a medium-security prison for 800 with minimum security prison camp for 300. It is about 50 miles north of Savannah, GA.

The former PCA chief executive was sentenced to 28 years for selling misbranded food, introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce, fraud, conspiracy and other charges related to knowingly allowing peanut butter contaminated with salmonella to enter the stream of commerce.

The Estill prison has not been without drama. A former correctional officer working at Estill was convicted for distribution of heroin within the facility in 2005. In 2009 one inmate stabbed another over a disputed card game. In 2011 a fight broke out in the recreation yard, sending nine inmates to local hospitals, two with severe injuries.

Michael Parnell, 57, was a peanut broker working with his brother’s company. He was sentenced to 20 years for convictions similar to his brother’s. He’s been assigned to a federal prison at Milan, MI, just outside of Detroit.

FCI+Milan_406x250FCI Milan, opened in 1933, is a low-security prison, known for holding many pre-trial and holdover inmates. It also has a residential drug program.

Michael Parnell’s release date is Feb. 17, 2033.

The brothers were initially held in the Crisp County, GA, jail after sentencing so that they’d be available to the federal court in Albany, GA, until all post trial issues were resolved.

The third defendant convicted in a 2014 jury trial was Mary Wilkerson. She is serving five-year prison term at the co-ed Marianna FCI in Florida. She was convicted of obstruction of justice. Her release date is March 10, 2020.

The two PCA managers who agreed to plead guilty and testify at trial, Daniel Kilgore and Samuel Lightsey, are serving six- and thee-year prison terms, respectively, have not yet been returned to Bureau of Prisons custody. Both recently attended a restitution hearing in the federal court in Albany, GA.

Contaminated peanut butter and peanut paste produced by PCA in Blakely, GA, was not only responsible for the nationwide Salmonella outbreak in 2008-09, it brought on one of the most costly ingredient recalls in history.

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