A Panhandle Doctor Sentenced to Life

A panhandle doctor has been sentenced to life in prison for causing the deaths of five of his patients through overdoses of highly potent painkillers.

Doctor Thomas Merrill, who practiced in Apalachicola, was convicted in January of causing patients' deaths by over prescribing addictive pain killers including morphine and oxycodone.

A federal judge sentenced the 70-year-old former air force doctor on 98 counts of wire fraud, health care fraud and distribution of controlled substances.

Prosecutors say Merrill wrote more than 30,000 prescriptions from January 2001 to May 2004 and over 80 percent of those were for controlled substances.