OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former Oklahoma doctor pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges on Wednesday in connection to the drug overdose deaths of several patients.
William Valuck, a former pain management doctor, pleaded guilty to eight counts of second-degree murder under a deal with Oklahoma County prosecutors, who agreed to drop dozens of drug charges. The deal calls for the 71-year-old Valuck to spend eight years in prison.
Investigators have said Valuck prescribed more controlled narcotic drugs than any other physician in the state, sometimes as many as 600 pills at a time. Valuck had originally faces first-degree murder charges, which carry up to life in prison.
Nearly two dozen of the victims' relatives attended the hearing, including some who spoke to the court ahead of Valuck's plea. James Lambert, whose daughter Victoria Lambert died from a drug overdose, said her death should send a message to physicians to prescribe such narcotics responsibly.
"Make sure they know what they're doing when they dispense medication. That way we don't have to go through this again," he said.
Stephanie Beesley, whose husband Paul Beesley died from a drug overdose, tearfully described his long-term fight with drug addiction.
"He had a part in his own death," she said, but added: "I don't understand the manner in which the medications were prescribed."
Valuck was charged in connection with the deaths of patients who prosecutors say died of overdoses from drugs he prescribed them. Those drugs included the narcotic painkillers hydrocodone and oxycodone, as well as alprazolam, Valium and Soma.
Federal and state authorities began investigating Valuck in February 2012, after being called by pharmacies and patients' relatives concerned about the amount of narcotics he was prescribing. Investigators later "saw vanloads" of patients pull up at Valuck's pain management clinic in south Oklahoma City and that the parking lot outside was always full of vehicles, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Mary Surovec testified during a hearing in April.