Abby Daugherty's husband died of an overdose almost three years ago. The pain is no less today than it was then.
“I miss everything,” Abby said through tears. “Everything. I just wish he'd come and yell at me for a minute.”
Jackson Anderson started taking pain pills when he hurt his back on the job. He got addicted. He needed more. A friend told him about a family doctor in McKinney named Randall Wade.
“He was the pill doctor to go to,” she said.
Wade, 65, is now under a drug distribution indictment in the Eastern District of Texas. He is accused of prescribing massive amounts of painkillers to people who did not need them. The indictment specifically links him to the death of a Princeton man.
Wade recently surrendered his medical license to the Texas Medical Board.
The Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating at the deaths of at least eight of Dr. Wade’s patients, including Jackson and the man named in the indictment.
Daugherty said Jackson routinely made the 60-mile trip from their home in Gainesville to Wade's office. She says other addicts in Gainesville were also going to Wade. She watched as Jackson went downhill, going from a plump, baby-faced man to just a shell of himself. She begged him to stop.
“I'd watch him to make sure he was breathing,” Abby said. “It was scary. […] We went to the hospital so many times.”
Daugherty’s account mirrored the accounts of other families whose relatives died from overdoses after being prescribed painkillers and narcotics by Wade.
On Jan. 9, 2014, Abby took Jackson to fill his prescriptions from Dr. Wade. She was too afraid for him to drive. She left to run errands. Their youngest son, Adam, was there with him.
She said Jackson told Adam that he wasn’t feeling well. Adam asked him if he wanted him to call an ambulance. Jackson said no, but told his son that he loved him.
“I came back from Walmart and he wasn’t moving,” Abby said. “He was laying on a pallet on a floor and I dragged him off and then did CPR until they got there.”
DEA Agent Susannah Herkert, the lead agent on the case, testified about Jackson’s death in court last month.
“The death by the coroner was ruled a multiple or a polydrug intoxication death,” Herkert said. “He had alprazolam, hydrocodone, and several other drugs in his system at the time of his death.”
Dr. Deepika Bhargava, a board certified psychiatrist, had an office next door to Wade for five years in McKinney. She noticed the high volume of patients coming and going.
“We had some common patients who told you that they could not get to see him for three to four weeks, even when they were sick,” she said. “What would an appointment do in four weeks if you have a sinus infection?”
She said that, early on, Wade’s office referred patients to her for treatment.
“I was shocked to see a patient on eight milligrams of Xanax -- which is a very heavy dose,” Bhargava said. “I start out on half a milligram twice a day and this patient came on eight milligrams. When I suggested that the patient needs to be detoxed, he got belligerent in my office and we had to terminate his care.”
All of the people who came to her from Wade were on high doses of opiates or benzodiazepines, sometimes called “benzos.” Xanax is a type of benzodiazepine.
“When they are given prescriptions in those heavy dosages that were being prescribed, it does create a monster,” she said.
She often uses a cutting-edge alternative technique involving stimulating the brain with electrical pulses to treat depression rather than prescribing medications. When she does prescribe medications, Bhargava closely monitors them through drug testing.
It sickens her that another doctor would create addicts.
“He wasn't following the main principle that the whole field is based on,” which is to do no harm, she says.
Abby now lives in Bridgeport with their two teenage sons. She is haunted by her husband’s death.
“Those visions and the noises and everything they don't go out of your head,” she said.
Abby and Jackson were teenage sweethearts in Denton. They were still kids themselves when they had their first child and then a second.
“He was my soul mate,” Abby said.
Abby and Jackson were also friends of Thresa Morton, another of the eight deaths being investigated by the DEA.
“Mama T was awesome,” she said. “That's what we called her.”
Morton, 62, died this past march of an opiate overdose in Gainesville. She was a tiny woman who weighed just over 100 pounds. Herkert, the DEA Agent, testified that Wade prescribed Morton 700 hydrocodone tablets in the four months before she died.
A month before she died, Morton received prescriptions for heavy doses of both hydrocodone and alprazolam from Wade, Herkert said.
“I guess if you’re writing meds to a bunch of addicts, you'd eventually have to blame the person that’s writing them right,” Abby said. “He has no idea these families that he's affected.”
“Was it worth it?” she said she would ask him. “Was it worth it now?”