Ex-doctor in Okla. charged with 9 counts of murder

January 9, 2014 - 9:04 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — After the birth of her daughter about a decade ago, Christy Green got an infection in her breast. Doctors prescribed pain medication, and Green got hooked. Authorities allege she soon began popping more and more pills, assisted by the one person who should have been watching out for her: her doctor.

Green died in September 2012 at the age of 33 from drug toxicity, and now the doctor who prescribed her hundreds of pain pills, William Martin Valuck, 71, is facing a murder charge for her death and the deaths of seven other patients who died from drug overdoses. Valuck also faces a murder charge in the death of a man killed by a patient who reportedly caused a fatal wreck while under the influence of pain medication.

"He (Valuck) basically gave her a loaded gun and said, 'Here you go,'" Green's sister, Kathy Green, told The Associated Press. "He didn't force her to take those pills, but he didn't help either."

A lawyer for Valuck, Danny Shadid, did not respond Thursday to a request for comment from the AP. A home number for Shadid was not listed. Shadid also did not respond to requests for comment about the case last month.

Court documents in the case paint Valuck as someone who preyed upon vulnerable individuals like Green who were in the depths of addiction, going so far as to have one member of his staff threaten a patient's mother who pleaded with him to stop overprescribing her daughter. Valuck was the largest prescriber of controlled dangerous substances in Oklahoma from Jan. 1, 2013, to Dec. 26, the day before federal agents arrested him at his home in Kilgore, Texas, according to an arrest affidavit.

"Our investigation has revealed that during a period of approximately one year, Dr. Valuck prescribed extremely large amounts of controlled substances, including the most abused prescription drugs on the street, to numerous patients with very little medical examination or the establishment of a valid doctor-patient relationship," T.N. Briscoe, an agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, said in the affidavit. A spokesman for the state Bureau of Narcotics said the agency could not discuss any more about the case other than what is in the court documents.

Valuck was charged Wednesday in Oklahoma County District Court with nine counts of murder and 72 counts of distributing a controlled substance. In addition to Christy Green, Valuck is accused of causing the deaths of Victoria Pretzer, Michelle Salazar, Jennifer Zimmerman, Paul Beesley, Joyce Curnett, SaShawn Saatian and Lorra Hilton by drug toxicity from excessive amounts of prescription drugs. He is also charged in the death of Ronald Blanton, who was killed in December when the vehicle Dustin Hall was driving struck him while Hall was reportedly under the influence of drugs illegally prescribed by Valuck, according to the arrest affidavit.

Both federal and state authorities had been investigating Valuck since last January. According to the affidavit, Valuck did not accept any forms of insurance at his practice, and all office visits were paid in cash or credit card. Patient records and interviews indicate Valuck charged $250 for initial office visits, $120 for subsequent visits and $160 for visits that included a urinalysis.

In the case of Jennifer Zimmerman, the 34-year-old woman had told an investigator with the Drug Enforcement Administration that she didn't need all the pills Valuck was prescribing and she was trying to get off of them. Indeed, another doctor who treated Zimmerman at a hospital reduced the number and amount of pain medication. But when Valuck learned about the reduction, he said that was wrong and changed the prescription back without discussing it with the other doctor, according to the affidavit.

When Zimmerman's mother called Valuck's office to try to get him to stop overprescribing her daughter, she was threatened for harassment by a member of the doctor's staff, according to the affidavit.

Jennifer Zimmerman was found unconscious on Dec. 6 with her arm resting on a bundle of Christmas lights she had been trying to decorate a tree with. It was one day after she had filled a prescription for 330 pain medication pills from Valuck.

On Dec. 13, Valuck's attorney surrendered his client's medical license. Valuck is being held at the Oklahoma County jail.

For Kathy Green, the criminal case has brought some peace as she deals with her sister's death and takes care of her niece. She just hopes people remember that despite her sister's setbacks, she was a good person.

"Christy was a great person with a great heart and very loving and compassionate," Kathy Green said. "Unfortunately, she just had an addiction to pain medication."

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Follow Kristi Eaton on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kristieaton .

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com