Midwest City doctor faces murder charges in deaths of five patients

Dr. Regan Nichols, 57, faces five complaints of second degree murder in Oklahoma County. (Oklahoma County Jail)

A Midwest City doctor has been charged with murder in the deaths of at least five patients.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter reports that Dr. Regan Nichols, 57, has been charged with five counts of second degree murder. Hunter says that Nichols, an osteopathic physician working at Sunshine Medical Clinic, prescribed controlled dangerous substances to patients without a legitimate need. Nichols was arrested at her home June 23 on the charges.

In October 2014, an investigation into Nichols began by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics after at least five patients died as a result of multi-drug toxicity.

The five counts come in connection to the deaths of Debra Messner, Lynette Nelson, Sheila Bartels, Chealsy Dockery and Deborah Hutcheson. Hunter says data gathered from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control Prescription Monitoring Program shows that Nichols prescribed over 3 million dosages units of CDS between Jan. 1, 2010 and Oct. 7, 2014.

Of the deaths, three were prescribed a combination of narcotic opioid pain relievers, anti-anxiety drugs and a muscle relaxer. All five were prescribed more than 1,800 opioid pills in the same months of their deaths.

Messner died March 30, 2010. On March 24, 2010 she went to Nichols' clinic and was prescribed Hydrocodone, Aplrazolam and Carisoprodol. An autopsy showed she died of "acute combined drug toxicity".

Nelson passed away March 1, 2012 at age 46 of combined drug toxicity. Just one month before she was prescribed several CDS prescriptions by Nichols. A review of Nelson's file shows that in four years Nichols had only conducted one full medical evaluation, in December 2008. The affidavit shows that this was not enough evaluation to determine if Nelson had a legitimate medical need for the types and quantities of CDS prescribed by Nichols.

Sheila Bartels had a large prescription filled Nov. 21, 2012 after seeing Nichols. She died the same day at the age of 55 of "multi-drug toxicity". A review of Bartels' file by a medical expert shows she was prescribed an "irrational combination" of drugs.

Chealsy Dockery, 21, died of combined drug toxicity Aug. 4, 2013 just three days after filling a prescription issued by Nichols.

On Oct. 24, 2013 Hutcheson, 52, died of acute multi-drug toxicity. She was prescribed the drugs on Oct. 8, 2013.

Nichols voluntarily surrendered her Drug Enforcement Administration registration and her Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics registration in October 2015.

A warrant has been issued for Nichols' arrest.

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