Former Oklahoma City doctor pleaded guilty to murder in the overdose deaths of eight patients.
Dr. William Valuck, 71, entered the guilty plea as part of an agreement reached with the state.
Prosecutors amended the charges to eight counts murder in the second degree. Valuck was initially charged with nine counts of murder in the first degree. The state also dismissed 57 counts of distribution of controlled dangerous substances.
The courtroom was filled with family members of his late patients who asked to remain anonymous.
"I hope you're haunted by all of the pictures of our loved ones who are not here," one family member said on behalf of the patients who died of drug overdoses while under Dr. Valuck's care.
Valuck offered no explanation or apology for the 20 family members present in court.
"I wish he would have told them he was sorry, but I wasn't going to make that part of any plea agreement," said Scott Rowland, Oklahoma County First Assistant District Attorney, following the sentencing hearing. "An apology that's coerced by the law is no apology at all, and I'd rather him [Valuck] say nothing to the families then give them some hollow apology."
Although Valuck's plea offered no solace for the family, it did confirm the allegations that Valuck operated a "cash only" pain management clinic, Advanced Care, in southwest Oklahoma City.
Valuck was charged in 2014, but he was over-prescribing all of his patients the same cocktail of prescription drugs including Lortab, Xanax, Soma and Oxycodone – a combination of highly addictive, controlled dangerous substances, as early as 2012.
Valuck was sentenced to 10 years. He will serve eight years in prison and two on probation.
One family member said, "It's not enough. I know they think eight years is a life sentence for Valuck, but we can't get our loved ones back, and that's our life sentence."
Rowland pointed out the plea will at least spare the families the pain of going through a trial and possible appeals.
He also said this outcome will send a message to others.
"Doctors who want to put the dollar ahead of patients safety and think they are not subject to criminal law and prescribe outside the boundaries of the law, I hope they rethink that now," Rowland said.
Valuck will be 80 years old before he is eligible for parole.
Valuck must still face malpractice lawsuits filed by some families of his victims.