The Associated Press
CINCINNATI — A Chicago doctor and two Kentucky woman who ran pain clinics in southern Ohio distributed millions of highly addictive pills that may have led to more than a dozen deaths, according to a federal indictment.
The mother of one man who died says there’s no doubt in her mind. “I’m sure the pills they gave him killed him,” said Lena Coffee, 79, of Greenup, Ky. “I think it was just plain murder.”
Coffee’s son, Daniel Coffee, 47, a school janitor from Greenup, was one of 14 people identified in a federal indictment as victims of overzealous medication during a 2½-year period.
She said her son went to the Tri-State Health Care Clinic in Portsmouth because he had been in severe pain since being in a car wreck.
“He came home on a Friday and told me, ‘He gave me three prescriptions,”‘ she said of the visit to the doctor. “The instructions were to take one pill of each on the first day, two of each on the second day and three of each on the third day. “The third day was the day he died. We went over to his place and found him dead.”
Three days later, on Nov. 20, 2003, another Greenup customer of the clinic, Jeffrey Reed, died. The deaths began in June 2003 when Dr. Paul Volkman prescribed a mix of oxycodone, hydrocodone and other drugs to Aaron Gillespie, 33, of Portsmouth, according to the indictment. Gillespie died four days later of multiple drug intoxication.
“He told us he had cancer,” said Gillespie’s grandfather, Eugene Gillespie, 87, of South Shore, Ky. “He got pretty bad.”
The indictment lists at least four other patients who died within days of taking drug combinations prescribed by Volkman. The government contends there often was no medical reason for the clinic to distribute millions of pills over several years, and it wants the three defendants to forfeit the profits from the illegal sales — just under $3.1 million from each of the women defendants and nearly $3.8 million from Volkman.
Volkman, 60, was arrested Monday in Chicago, where he has a home.
Denise Huffman, 54, and her daughter, Alice Huffman Ball, 32, both of South Portsmouth, Ky., were arrested in Ohio and pleaded not guilty to numerous drug and conspiracy charges on Wednesday before a U.S. magistrate in Cincinnati.
AT A GLANCE
Defendants and victims identified in federal indictment. Hometowns of victims were not included, just their date of death.
DEFENDANTS: Dr. Paul Volkman, 60, Chicago; Denise Huffman, 54, South Shore, Ky.; and Alice Huffman Ball, 32, South Shore, Ky.
Nine associated with Portsmouth clinic operated by Huffman: Aaron Gillespie, June 27, 2003; Charles Jordan, Oct. 21, 2003; Daniel Coffee, Nov. 17, 2003; Jeffrey Reed, Nov. 20, 2003; Mary Catherine Carver, Jan. 10, 2004; James Estop, Feb. 11, 2004; Kristi Ross, March 9, 2004; Dwight Parsons, Aug. 12, 2004; Steve Hieneman, April 29, 2005.
Five associated with clinics in Portsmouth and Chillicothe operated by Volkman: Scottie Lynn James, Sept. 29, 2005; Bryan Brigner, Oct. 2, 2005; Earnest Ratcliff, Oct. 29, 2005; Mark Reeder, Nov. 19, 2005; William Wicker, Dec. 28, 2005.
SOURCE: U.S. District Court