[Nameplate] Overcast ~ 52°F  
High: 61°F ~ Low: 48°F
Monday, May 2, 2016

Local physician pleads guilty to 5 counts in drugs-sex case

Friday, June 22, 2012

(Photo)
Ray D. Howell
Although he could barely utter the word guilty, a 57-year-old Roachdale physician pled that way Thursday in Putnam Circuit Court.

Dr. Ray D. Howell, facing 15 felony charges of unlawfully dispensing narcotics -- sometimes in exchange for sexual favors -- pled guilty to five of those counts in a plea agreement recommended by Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter and the defendant's attorney, Dennis E. Zahn of Indianapolis.

Sentencing has been set for 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13.

Howell, who was arrested Oct. 18 at his Heritage Lake residence, appeared before Special Judge Thomas Milligan of Montgomery County in a charge-of-plea hearing in the case.

When Judge Milligan asked Howell how he pled on each separate count, the doctor initially offered only "yes."

"Do you mean guilty?" Milligan asked Howell, dressed for his court appearance in a short-sleeve blue plaid shirt, gray pants and black-and-silver sneakers.

"Yes," Howell again answered without having to say "guilty" to make that point valid.

"He was not about to say the word 'guilty,' was he?" Prosecutor Bookwalter noted after the hearing.

Howell also became noticeably irritated when he took the witness stand and his own attorney ran though the list of counts to which he was pleading guilty.

"Didn't we already cover this once?" Howell asked in his longest statement of the day.

Throughout the proceedings, the defendant kept his responses to a minimum, usually just "yes" or "um, yes."

But his voice audibly cracked when the judge asked if he understood that the terms of the plea bargain meant he would never again hold a medical license.

"That's one of the most important things," Prosecutor Bookwalter said, "that he's giving up his medical license."

For all intents and purposes that had already occurred. Dr. Howell ran an advertisement in the Banner Graphic classified pages on Oct. 17, indicating he had retired, effective Sept. 30. He also reportedly posted a sign to that effect at his Roachdale office.

In exchange for the five guilty pleas, the state agreed to dismiss the other 10 charges against Howell.

As part of the plea agreement, Dr. Howell, who has operated Tri-County Family Medical Clinic in Roachdale for more than 20 years, agrees that he may never reapply for his medical license (currently suspended) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration "during his natural lifetime."

Howell pled guilty Thursday to:

-- Count I, unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, a Class D felony, dispensing Adipex to an Indiana State Police undercover officer.

-- Count V, unlawful dispensation of a controlled substance, Oxycodone, in excessive amounts to a patient.

-- Count VI, Unlawful dispensation of a controlled substance, Clonazepam, in excessive amounts to a patient, including such use as to facilitate sexual encounters.

-- Count XII, Unlawful dispensation of a controlled substance, Oxycodone, Methadone and/or Alprazolam to a patient in excessive amounts.

-- Count XIII, Furnishing false or fraudulent information or knowingly omitting information from a controlled substance inventory.

The doctor's arrest culminated a more than two-year investigation by local, state and federal authorities into his alleged reckless dispensing of narcotics and pain medication.

The drugs Howell allegedly overprescribed or unnecessarily prescribed included Oxycodone, Methodone, Adipex, Clonazepam, Lortab, Vicodin, Alprazolam, Xanax, Percocet and Hydrocodone.

The investigation also yielded reports of several incidents of alleged sexual encounters with a number of female patients to whom he had reportedly prescribed excessive doses of controlled substances.

Nine female patients were interviewed by investigators with six reporting unwanted sexual advances or actual sexual acts allegedly occurring as a result of visits to Howell's office.

At least three of the original counts alleged that the excessive amounts of controlled substances he prescribed were ostensibly written "to facilitate sexual encounters."

Bookwalter indicated sentencing will require at least two hours of courtroom time. He plans to call on patients affected by both Howell's purported reckless prescription writing and his sexual advances.

"I consider this a serious case," the prosecutor said, "because in the last 18 months, prescription drug abuse has overshadowed meth in our community."

Officials from the DEA are also expected to testify concerning the number of prescriptions Dr. Howell was writing, a figure that topped 11,000 per year at one point.

"When I first saw those numbers, I didn't believe them," Bookwalter admitted Thursday.

But the investigation intensified after pharmacists in Greencastle, Danville and Crawfordsville refused to fill Dr. Howell's prescriptions and investigators saw a pattern of out-of-county patients "coming to tiny, little Roachdale" to get excessive amounts of prescription medication.

Authorities noted that they were seeing vehicles with Fayette County license plates "every day of the week in Roachdale."

Dr. Howell could receive a maximum of five years on each of the five separate counts to which he has pled guilty.

The plea agreement also indicates he agrees to pay restitution in an amount currently undetermined to any victim or victims.


Comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on bannergraphic.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

This is so sad. Howell isn't a nice person and he wasn't a good doctor. The AMA should've suspended his license long before they did. So many lives were wrecked by the meds that he over-prescribed. He was "overly" friendly with too many of his female patients and definately did not behave in a way that would make the medical community proud.

Howell talked so often of the Bible. IMO, he didn't know the Saviour of whom the Bible speaks. He needs Christ, he needs our prayers and he needs to face the consequences for his actions.

I've known Howell and his family for a long time. His arrogant, self-righteous attitude doesn't surprise me in the least and it's nauseating to see it displayed even in the courts of law. He could try showing a little respect. However, showing others (even the law) respect is not something that Howell was ever good at.

Praying that he gets the maximum on each count.

-- Posted by just1me on Fri, Jun 22, 2012, at 1:26 PM

THESE ISSUES HAVE BEEN GOING ON FOR YEARS. HOW ANYONE COULD HAVE THE GALL TO HAVE A "RELIGIOUS MESSAGE" ON HIS TELEPHONE ANSWERING SERVICE, AND THEN SPEND HIS TIME SELLING PAIN MEDICATIONS FOR SEXUAL FAVORS. THIS IS SICKENING. HIS ARROGANCE ON THE STAND JUST PROVES WHAT A SELF CENTERED, ARROGANT, AND "HYPOCRITAL SO-CALLED CHRISTIAN" HE IS. WHEN INDIVIDUALS FROM GREENCASTLE AND THE SURROUNDING TOWNS IN PUTNAM COUNTY START DRIVING TO ROACHDALE FOR MEDICAL CARE, THERE IS DEFINITELY AND OBVIOUSLY A PROBLEM. I WILL NOT WASTE MY PRAYERS ON HIM; HE SHOULD FACE THE CONSEQUENCES ON HIS OWN AND SPEND THE REST OF HIS LIFE THINKING HOW MANY LIVES HE HAS RUINED. I BELIEVE A DOCTOR LIVES BY THIS QUOTE, "FIRST DO NO HARM." OBVIOUSLY HE FORGOT THIS YEARS AGO.

-- Posted by lhmh on Fri, Jun 22, 2012, at 4:38 PM

I hope prosecutor Bookwalter feels very lofty and selftighteous. Even the best of us can sometimes

become ill.

-- Posted by oldlady on Fri, Jun 22, 2012, at 4:42 PM

Howell isn't physically sick. I hope Bookwalter has enough evidence against him to put him away for a long time.

-- Posted by just1me on Fri, Jun 22, 2012, at 5:41 PM

I do hope that the Banner Graphic will stop calling him "doctor" in future articles. He isn't a doctor anymore.

-- Posted by just1me on Fri, Jun 22, 2012, at 6:01 PM

Maybe you should have all the facts before you say he is not ill. Also you should probably should not judge others. People mess up. We all are human. Some do things worse then others.

Not saying what he did is not wrong. It is awful. His family is suffering to and that who needs your prayers. People live secret lives sometimes.

-- Posted by imesdriver on Fri, Jun 22, 2012, at 11:00 PM

I DO FEEL SYMPATHETIC FOR HIS FAMILY. IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT HE RUINED HIS CAREER ALL FOR SEXUAL FAVORS. HE HAD TO KNOW WHAT HE WAS DOING WAS WRONG; HE SHOULD HAVE SOUGHT MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING AND ATTEMPTED TO HELP HIMSELF BEFORE IT GOT SO OUT OF HAND. MAYBE HE THOUGHT HE WOULD NEVER GET CAUGHT......OR MAYBE HE JUST DIDN'T CARE.

-- Posted by lhmh on Sat, Jun 23, 2012, at 9:15 PM

If he was that sick he shouldn't have been practicing medicine.

-- Posted by just1me on Wed, Jun 27, 2012, at 1:37 PM


Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: