Roachdale physician arrested in drug, sex case

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 ~ Updated 10:42 PM

A longtime Roachdale physician was arrested Tuesday afternoon, culminating a more than two-year investigation by local, state and federal investigators into alleged unlawful and reckless dispensing of controlled substances and reported sexual encounters with patients.

Dr. Ray D. Howell, 57, was booked into the Putnam County Jail on 15 Class D felony counts, 12 involving "recklessly, knowingly or intentionally" distributing or dispensing a controlled substance.

At least three of those counts allege that the excessive amounts of controlled substances Howell prescribed were ostensibly written "to facilitate sexual encounters."

Nine patients, all female, were interviewed by investigators, and six reported unwanted sexual advances or actual sexual acts allegedly occurring with Dr. Howell as a result of their visits to his office.

Feeling effects of the allegedly excessive doses of medication, patients routinely told investigators they felt "like a walking zombie," the drugs were "becoming addictive" or they realized they were "not coherent for a while."

Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter, whose office has been involved in the case the past 18 months, said he personally witnessed interviews with some of the patients in Connersville and Greensburg and was amazed at how they all told virtually the same story yet obviously did not know each other nor did they know about the others' cases.

Although no specific charges have been filed involving the deaths of any patients treated by Dr. Howell, four occasions in which patients died soon after receiving controlled substances from the doctor were detailed in the probable cause affidavit. Three of those involved Fayette County patients, while the fourth was a Franklin County patient who died of an overdose of hydrocodone.

The investigation began in 2009 after pharmacists from Connersville, Danville and Crawfordsville expressed concern that Dr. Howell was writing prescriptions for "unusually large quantities of controlled substances," the probable cause affidavit filed in Putnam Circuit Court notes.

Those pharmacists also noted that Dr. Howell had a number of patients traveling great distances to obtain prescriptions -- some from as far away as Richmond, Hagerstown and Connersville, all more than 100 miles from Roachdale.

Some pharmacies even decided to no longer fill controlled substance prescriptions written by Dr. Howell, who has been the owner and sole practitioner of Tri-County Family Medical Clinic in Roachdale for more than 20 years.

Among the 12 felony counts, the drugs he allegedly over-prescribed or unnecessarily prescribed included eight instances of Oxycodone, three instances of Methodone, two instances of Adipex and separate prescriptions for Clonazepam, Lortab, Vicodin, Alprazolam, Xanax, Percocet and Hydrocodone.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigators sent an undercover Indiana State Police officer to Tri-County Medical Clinic in April and May 2009 to see if Dr. Howell would write her prescriptions for controlled substances "for no legitimate medical reason."

Even though she had no weight issues, the undercover officer asked for diet pills, telling the doctor she was tired all the time and needed them for energy.

On both visits to Dr. Howell's office he wrote her a prescription for 30 Adipex (37.5 mg tablets), a stimulant normally used in the treatment of obesity.

Investigators also reported that the Indiana Scheduled Prescription Electronic Collection and Tracking (INSPECT) Program showed that controlled substance prescriptions filled for Dr. Howell's patients increased dramatically over the period 2006-2009.

In 2006, he had 3,783 such prescriptions filled, followed by 4,833 in 2007, then 7,763 in 2008 and jumping to 11,187 in 2009.

The INSPECT report also found that "several prescriptions written by Dr. Howell to be for significant amounts of schedule II narcotics (up to 50 dosage units of narcotics per day)."

One patient told investigators that Dr. Howell prescribed her up to 24 Methadone 10mg tablets per day. Another said he was given in excess of 40 oxycodone 30 mg tablets per day, while a third patient said she was prescribed a "cocktail" of Methadone (10 mg), Oxycodone (30 mg), Xanax (2 mg) and Klonopin (1 mg).

Still another patient ended up in the Hendricks Regional Hospital emergency room due to respiratory failure after unexplained weight loss was apparently brought on by her medications. The emergency room physician reportedly told the woman "she needed to get away from Dr. Howell or she would end up dying," the probable cause affidavit states.

After multiple patient files were seized from Howell's Tri-County Clinic by investigators in April 2010, they were forwarded to a medical expert for his professional evaluation.

The subsequent report the evaluator drafted included the following summary: "Unequivocally Dr. Howell negligently prescribed excessive, egregious and inappropriate doses of narcotics that resulted in the deaths of several of his patients and the addiction of several others. Additionally, based on the number of prescriptions he has written, there is no question that these drugs were being diverted by a multitude of his patients based on the numbers of the prescriptions, the dosing strengths of the prescriptions, and the pattern of prescriptive behavior. This deviates from all accepted, normal and clinically germane prescriptive patterns."

Three additional felony counts allege that Dr. Howell furnished false or fraudulent information involving his controlled substance inventory, receipts and dispensing records.

Investigators also discovered that Dr. Howell could not account for more than 2,100 tablets of various controlled substance samples between March 2008 and April 2010, as required by federal law.

Subsequently, due to recordkeeping violations, Dr. Howell signed a civil settlement agreement and paid a $65,000 civil penalty in May 2011.

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  • Wow what the heck is up with the town of Roachdale??? They have teachers & administrators at the school with drunk driving charges, & molestation charges, they have town employees stealing money from the town, they have adult women having sex with minors, and now a bad doctor!!! Good grief I thought small towns were supposed to be safer than cities!!!

    -- Posted by seriously do people think on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 8:01 PM
  • This is very shocking. Both my grandmothers saw Dr howell and idolized him. I guess you really dont know about people, I keep hoping this was a mistake...

    -- Posted by YNOTU2 on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 8:06 PM
  • Is this the same Dr. who prays with his staff everyday?

    -- Posted by kbmom on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 8:55 PM
  • I find this very hard to believe about Dr. Howell. I use to Doctor with him and he would want to PRAY with his patients and try to help them spiritually and was always concerned whether people were saved. There are people that are out there just trying to ruin him and his poor family. His children went to a Christian school and were home schooled most of their life. Then these people come in from other towns and is making these accusations of him just blows my mind. God knows the truth......................................

    -- Posted by andara on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 9:00 PM
  • Unfortunately it must be true. Why would they be investigating this for 2 years. Good news is that something is being done about the terrible problem of RX drug abuse that exists in todays world. Thank you local, state and federal investigators for stopping this problem. The bad news is for his family and patients that respected him. Just a good Dr. that got caught up in a mess that became a progressive obsession. Prayers to Dr Howell and his family.

    -- Posted by lovinglifeinmy50's on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 9:21 PM
  • This is a really sad case. However, Roachdale is not a bad town. I think some of the information about the schools is not correct. Please make sure you have all the facts before you slander someone/school.

    -- Posted by joey1 on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 9:30 PM

    -- Posted by Michele1953 on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 9:45 PM
  • There are going to be a lot of unhappy drug addicted people around now who won't be able to get their drugs. Wasnt a nurse of his arrested last year for writing false scripts? Interesting!

    -- Posted by nikkilpn on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 9:58 PM
  • He was a very nice doctor to me.

    -- Posted by Apollo13 on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 10:18 PM
  • Not very Christian, huh?

    I always thought he was a bit creepy.

    -- Posted by ProblemTransmission on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 10:39 PM
  • I think anyone who knows Dr. Howell will attest that his behavior has been indicative of someone suffering from serious mental illness for sometime. It is unfortunate that nobody stepped up and intervened to get him out of practice before these events occurred. No justification but there are some underlying issues at the root of this. Just a sad story for all involved.

    -- Posted by jorge on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 10:45 PM
  • Thank you very much to the local, state, and federal agents involved in finally stopping this man who has not only possibly killed 4 people, or how many people became addicts because of his actions, who knows how many addicts he supported by suppling their fixes, and worst of all,the shame, embarrassment and heart ache he has brought to his wonderful wife, and children. Unfortunately it wasn't in time for a member of my family. I hope he burns in hell.

    As to the other topic of the night, the lady who molested the 15 year old boy. Her own daughter knew she was doing wrong, she must have been raised by her father instead of her mother, thank goodness. Maybe this generational cycle will now be broken.

    -- Posted by what were they thinking on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 10:56 PM
  • I don't see how they can say that Dr. Howell forced these people to take drugs. From all the interactions I've ever had with a doctor, it was my decision to take medicine or not. Doctors don't call patients and prescribe them something for no reason. Any interaction with a doctor where a prescription might be given must be initiated by a patient. You also have to remember that drug addicts come up with very convincing stories to get what they want. I also remember reading about one of Dr. Howell's former employees who was accused of stealing many of his prescription pads and writing numerous prescriptions. Could this have contributed to the drastically high increase? I think so.

    There are always two-sides to every story and it would be nice if our media would gather information from both sides before publishing.

    -- Posted by Knowthefacts25 on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 11:23 PM
  • over 2 years, i think they have gathered quite alot of info.......everything traces back to him, But I do agree, innocent until proven quilty, just looks like the finger is right straight at him, alot of strong strong evidense. The court will decide once all evidence is placed in hand. I don't think anyone wants to beleive any of it, but it is what is is, time will tell.

    -- Posted by crazeeworld on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 11:31 PM
  • The people who post on this site are so hateful and clueless. You have no idea what has gone on, but you should have a clue what your comments do to people like this man's family. Regardless of what he ALLEGEDLY did, his family is innocent and should be spared from your version of ignorance and hate. I hope they don't read the posts.

    I also know that a paper will lie there and let you write anything on it. Since when has the whole truth ever been printed in a newspaper. No doubt mistakes were made. License probably should be revoked for medical errors. But not based on the words of drug addicts given leniency in their own cases for their testimony against this doctor.

    An employee stole script pads. Was that mentioned? Guess maybe all those scripts did NOT come from the doctor, huh? He didn't create any addicts. People who drive 100 miles are already addicts. True, he should have cut them off rather than facilitate their problem -- but they were self-created addicts long before they met Dr. Howell.

    The doctor has volunteered his time, and money to go on at least 18 medical mission trips to Haiti. Sounds just downright evil, huh? Truth is that Dr. Howell does care about people. Probably too much, and that's likely what got him into trouble. He trusted the wrong people. He gave too many 2nd and 3rd chances (or more).

    He sure helped my family. He certainly did pray with us and for us -- many times . . . and now it's our turn to pray for him and his family. I'm not naive. No doubt he screwed up and I agree with jorge that there my be extenuating circumstances contributing to his choices. He's right -- it is a sad situation.

    I hope his family is not reading these posts. If you are, please know that there are many people in this community praying for Dr. Howell and you. We love and are grateful to Dr. Howell, and we hope for healing and mercy. God bless you.

    -- Posted by DKTRUTH on Tue, Oct 18, 2011, at 11:50 PM
  • I agree DKTRUTH, but some know more than maybe you know and that may be the problem. Yes indeed his poor family and children and many friends he had, how horrible of a time for them and i pray for their understanding and peace. This man claimed to be a great and wonderfull powerful devoted christian man, but then there is this other part of his life, how do you justify that. The man is obviously very very mentally ill then and i hope he gets much help. God is in control and God will see what needs to be done to be done...PERIOD, lets pray for his family and let god do his work with him then.

    -- Posted by crazeeworld on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 12:08 AM
  • I have so much to say about this topic that I could write a novel (which would most likely include numerous foul words). Although I am choosing not to bash Howell too badly at this point in time (I chose not to use the word Dr. in front of his name due to the fact that he will most likely have his license revoked faster than you can say "loser") I would like to help you out with one piece of information. If a prescription pad is stolen from an office, they are usually aware that this has happened and/or the problem is stopped rather quickly. There is ABSOLUTELY no way that a stolen prescription pad can account for an increase in 7,404 prescriptions from 2006 to 2009. Addicts are everywhere. Horrible physicians are everywhere. Physicians have medical degrees and they can turn patients away or refer them somewhere else if they suspect foul play. Out of the addict and the physician, which one would you believe would need to have the integrity to do what's right? Hmmmmm.....

    -- Posted by Hi, My Name Is..... on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 12:37 AM
  • Doc Howell has always been a nut and his religion overtones have blinded him in to what his real job is to help the sick. My family had the misfortune to been care for by him and when they were sick he would tell them god will heal and give them the weakest antibiotics and they would be sicker than before. He may go to Haiti but it was to show off for the idiots at the church . He lost his admitting right at the hospitals and when you would say you were his patient they would laugh. In short hope he rots in hell or least the putnam county jail.

    -- Posted by exac1e on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 1:43 AM
  • I didn't read all the comments, but I did happen to read the one by KNOWTHEFACTS25..

    You are right, he may not have FORCED them to ingest the medication. But that isn't the point. He violated just to start with, the moral and ethical responsibility of a physician. He enabled these patients to abuse certain drugs by prescribing what was obviously unrealistic amounts. It is a physicians responsibility to treat patients, not give them the opportunity to abuse the medical system and prescribed medications.

    So, he may not have shoved the pills down their throats, but he allegedly gave them plenty of opportunity to overdose or use the drug far beyond it's medically intended usage/dose.

    -- Posted by SMEEBS on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 5:06 AM
  • exac1e... you may not have liked his medical practice but he was the only doctor I could find that would treat a sinus infection with antibiotics rather than "waiting" for it to be a serious infection. I found him to be a good family physician as far as that went. Even after I moved out of state I would go back to his office for many years and he would treat me and my children with the antibiotics that we needed. He would even treat me for free, knowing that I was a poor single mother trying to go to college and trying to get my life together. There were times that I paid his secretaries and he would not deposit my checks. There were times that the checks got cashed and he would cut me a check to reimburse me, eventhough I would have been glad to have paid cash for his medical care. HE LISTENDED TO his patience. If I said "I think I have strep" he would run a strep culutre and sure enough I did. The doctor I have not, doesn't listen or even try. I was sent away from the office three weeks ago with a MAJOR medical problem that could have killed me, and NO medication, NO Advice other than "if the pain gets worse call your doctor on Monday."

    Religon- I have always felt that the people who are "showing off" their relationship with God are the people who probibly have deamons that they are hiding.

    But he was a good man, with a family that loved him. He put his chidlren through private christian schools and tried to provide for them the best that he could. His medical missions were probibly his way of making favor with God to help control the deamons that he was fighting. But at least he was doing something to try and balance out his KARMA.

    All of you who are bashing this man need to remember that he has a family and children who love him. I too, hope and pray that they are not reading the horrible comments that hateful people are making on here. My heart goes out to the family that I have known and respected for _MANY_ years. I too am praying for each and every one of them, because they too are being hurt by this I am certain. and if they are reading this know not everyone is against you.

    He will get whatever the law finds he julstly deserves.

    -- Posted by angel123 on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 11:33 AM
  • I am happy to see that there are some people out there that know what the word Love means....we are to Love one another and pray for others and our enemies as well. Dr. Howells family is who I am concerned about at the present time and we all need to remember we never know what tomorrow holds.

    -- Posted by andara on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 7:42 PM
  • I'm entirely intrigued by the paradoxical statements that condemn this man to hell. Its as if this satisfies our misguided human concept of justice. To delight in someone's potential eternal separation and isolation in hell is entirely savage no matter what the accusation is. In addition to that, to make mention of the actual location implies the truthful nature of its role as an eternal punishment. To remove even the remotest nature of Christianity from it (which is ridiculous but for the heck of it, I'm going to) there is a logical reason for a heaven. To imply these places exist is in its nature a supposition that their Creator also exists. Now that we've arrived at a concisely documented existence of God, we are free to examine the next aspect of this paradox people so casually exhort in their premature guilty verdict.

    If we are agreeing now that Hell exists and its literal nature, derived from the Bible is the basis for Dr. Howell's (yep, as of now he's still a Dr.) condemnation then there are some very important aspect of Christianity that are very cavalierly being overlooked. Taking the Bible as the authoritative, perfect, inspired word of God and that every word in it is entirely infallible based on His perfection I am reminded of a few choice concepts within Romans. "For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God" Romans 3:23. Last time I checked, "ALL" is a rather inclusive group. In fact, I'm not entirely sure how you can even opt out, if possible. The follow up to that would be "The wages of sin is death." - Romans 6:23. I don't use these verses flippantly. But what these two convey is that not one of us is deserving of anything less than an eternity separated from Christ. By HIS own Word, we deserve Hell. Doesn't matter if we murder 1,000 people a day or tell one little white lie. Sin, is sin , is sin. The wages are death. End of story.

    I completely anticipate the naysayers that want blood. The people thirsty for swift "justice" or whatever visage of that we've come to accept in our fallen culture. What is entirely forgotten is that Jesus did not come to hang out with the people that have it together. You don't read in Luke where Jesus counts the number of steps he takes on the sabbath with the Pharisees. You'll never hear a sermon on how Jesus pats all the "good" people on the back and then winks and lets them know their new mailing address in heaven. Jesus came and changed the entire game for ALL of us. There's that ALL again. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us"- Romans 5:8.

    So really and truly I say all this because while our human minds enjoy categorizing people into boxes and shout "Crucify him!" as we wait for the judge to bang the gavel and rid our ever-so-righteous society of another horrible evil contained within this man, he will answer for his actions. He will pay the costs of whatever he is guilty of. But to think you'll be able to gloat from your cloud with your harp thinking you are so much better than this man is ridiculous. If it weren't for Christ, we'd be sitting next to him in judgment. So, not to be cliche but if anybody is looking for another rock to throw at this man, please come and get it. Please make sure you are ready to explain to the Father, just how deserving YOU are to throw it at his other son, Dr. Ray Howell.

    -- Posted by Who_needs_a_stone? on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 12:10 AM
  • Well, I agree with some of you and I disagree with some of you. My husband used to be a patient of Dr. Howell's back in 2010. His was one of those files that got taken in for investigation by the DEA. I seen the Dr for one month before he got in trouble the first time and could not write narcotic prescriptions. After that there was no point in us going because that is the only reason we went. He was writing my husband 120 15mg oxycodone and 120 30 mg a month plus 90 xanax (1mg). We were making a killing... thats 10$ each for the 15s and 20$ each for the 30s. Of course my husband got addicted to them, but he would keep a few and I would sell the rest. Dr. Howell prescribed me 120 10mg Hydrocodone for "chronic" pain, 90 1mg Xnanax for "chronic" anxiety, and 90 Somas for "chronic" headaches (soma is a muscle relaxer not really for headaches. Anyways, I have to say that there is no way that his patients did not know what they were taking. The patients testifying that "oh my, I didnt realize 8 oxys a day was a lot" Bull crap the patients were addicts and thats why they went. It is true that going to an ER or anywhere that you had to tell them that you were his patient got you laughed at. This is because they knew that you were a pill head. I do have to say that Dr. Howell had good intentions, and while he thought he was doing the right thing its obvious that he wasn't. He would always talk about God and meditation. He would actually say the exact same thing everytime we went to an appointment, like "do you know what the definition of doctor is?" and of course after being told numerous times, I would answer with "teacher". I think that he meant well because the office cut people off all of the time, I heard the nurses cuss people out on the phone before. And I am pretty confident that it is those people that were ****** off at the Dr and the office staff that decided to turn against him. I do not know the Dr on a personal basis, but I do not believe that he is guilty of any type of sexual misconduct. He seemed to be a decent guy, kinda nutty but pretty decent. However, he knew that he was being investigated so why didnt he be more cautious. There are many many many people, especially in Montgomery and Putnam county that are gonna be very very very sick because of this. There is a big big big chance that heroin and meth will make a big comeback.

    -- Posted by amberdawn123 on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 12:16 AM
  • yes i agree he has a family , I Was a patient i just sen him Sept , 30 ,2011 the date on his phone that said he retired , i know what he did to me and my family , he liked the pretty girls yes , but he did not like someone that was little over weight , he screamed at me called me names told my husband to leave me if i did not loss weight , i was stuck to not by choice but by my inceriance who locked me into him for 5 years , i cant get a dr becouse of him they are afraid u guys dont understand there was people like me not going to get 500 pills but to get my sezier meds and blood presser now i dont have it , what will happen when i a big sezier and die huh i have 2 kids i have a family 2 this doc after every visit had me so upset i cryied all the way home i hated to go see him i stoped calling the office my husband had to they would yell and then hang up on you and yes he huged me many times and it was not till the last few visits he turned nice and talking crazy talk , he need to go to jail for the rest of his life and i want to be there ,not fair now i got to find a doctor that is willing to see me and not think i had sex or gave him money to be treated , to his wife i hope she gets trough this and she is just as bad for staying with him , he talked about u need to pray lol i did and do , ty dr for making my life just a lttle harder thanks to him i lost 50 due to stress alone .

    -- Posted by indianaroma on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 12:56 AM
  • ps its just not drs fault either to you drug seekers thanks to you , you make it hard for real people that have problems to have pain managment and doctors anymore , becose they are afraid of low lifes like you. My dad is in the hospital dieing of All Acut Lukimia and he is on barley no pain meds , sorry for people that loss family member to drug over dose but even if he writes it u take and know its wrong !

    -- Posted by indianaroma on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 1:05 AM
  • He was my doctor. He got me seriously hooked on clonzepam. He told me that it was non-addictive. The more I took, the more of a tolerance I developed and the more he prescribed. He made several unwanted sexual advances.

    He went to our church. I knew his wife and children and grandchildren. I was told over and over again what a great doctor he was. I was told that his advances were imagined.

    I started wondering if there was something wrong with me.

    Nope, it wasn't me. I'm so glad they are finally doing something about this very dangerous man.

    -- Posted by victimnomore on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 1:21 AM
  • pray for one another....for the patients, the addicts, the families, the staff, the community, the investigators, the judge, the pharmacists, the doctor, and the media. We may not understand, but God does.

    -- Posted by Sputty on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 5:04 AM
  • Too bad he couldn't prescribe something to treat spelling problems.

    -- Posted by ProblemTransmission on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 9:34 AM
  • @amberdawn123, your story is pretty much the exact problem with the entire medical treatment system. Medicaid pays all but $3 per prescription for massive amounts of opiates and benzos for pill seekers. Seekers then either misuse or sell the pills that the taxpayers have paid for. Howell was one of the worst offenders, but there are plenty of others, and almost every single doctor out there has written BS prescriptions for pill seekers.

    -- Posted by Clovertucky on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 4:53 PM
  • I quit going to this doctor about 13 years ago because I knew he was an idiot when he insisted on praying before he would help me. He told me that if I had everything right with God that I wouldnt need medicial help. I am surprized it took people this long to relize what sort of doctor he was.

    -- Posted by Karen2332 on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 7:37 PM