Tampa psychiatrist investigated for painkiller trafficking dies of apparent overdose, authorities say

TAMPA — As federal investigators built an oxycodone trafficking case against him, a psychiatrist who treated patients for substance abuse died of an apparent drug overdose, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

Dr. Blake D. Barton, 50, who ran a Corey Avenue practice in St. Pete Beach, was found dead at his Tampa home on June 29. An autopsy is pending.

A day after Barton's body was discovered, an agent with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration filed court records accusing him of prescribing at least 32,777 units of oxycodone between February 2009 and October 2010 to girlfriend Lea Ann Locklear and two other individuals, one of whom cooperated with authorities.

Locklear, his on-again/off-again girlfriend since 2008, was present at Barton's home on June 29 when authorities arrived to investigate his death, according to the agent's affidavit.

She was charged in federal court on June 30 with conspiracy to distribute and possess oxycodone. The complaint, which also makes allegations about Barton, was filed in support of Locklear's arrest.

Locklear "admitted that she obtained oxycodone prescriptions from Dr. Barton, filled those prescriptions, then distributed a majority of the oxycodone pills to Dr. Barton and kept the remainder for herself," the affidavit says.

The investigation began last year after an unnamed "co-conspirator" who had been arrested in February 2010 told law enforcement officers about Barton, according to the federal documents.

The source told authorities that he or she had sold cocaine to Locklear back in 2006. Around 2008, Locklear introduced the source to her new boyfriend, Barton, who showed up in a black sport utility vehicle.

Barton allegedly told the source that "being a doctor was the best profession in the world because you can write all the prescriptions you want," records say.

Between 2008 and early 2010, the co-conspirator admitted, he or she sold crack cocaine to Barton and Locklear and also participated in a scheme to sell oxycodone.

That scheme followed a basic pattern, according to the court records: The conspirator would go to Barton's medical office and park in the back. Barton would provide the source with one or more prescriptions for about 240 pills of oxycodone plus the money to pay for the prescriptions.

The source would then go to a "mom and pop" pharmacy selected by Barton or Locklear to fill the prescriptions. After filling the prescription, the source would return to Barton's office or residence and give most of the pills back to the doctor, while also keeping a cut.

The source told authorities that Barton was selling some of the oxycodone pills and ingesting others.

Barton's medical license is in good standing, and no complaints had been filed against him.

He graduated from the University of Tennessee and completed his residency at the University of South Florida.

He was married for 23 years to Kelly Barton, a fellow Memphis native, until their divorce was finalized in May. Their $470,000 waterfront home in San Marino Bay Estates is where Barton was found dead and where Locklear also was staying.

Kelly Barton told the Times that she and Blake separated three years ago. They have two teenage sons.

She said her ex-husband had long had a partying streak. But she said she didn't know how it had taken such a dark turn.

"He got hooked up with the wrong people," she said. "And they dragged him down."

She said a couple of years ago, his addiction became evident to her: graying skin and teeth, twitching eyes and lips. "He looked like he was 90," she said.

A year ago, she said, she helped him get clean. She said she thought he remained clean, and she said she believes the autopsy will show that he did not die of a drug overdose but of a heart attack or lifelong kidney problems.

Kelly Barton said her ex-husband did not stop going to work. She said he seemed able to counsel patients even if he was struggling with his own personal problems.

Locklear was also separated for the last six years from her husband, Herbert Locklear. They have two daughters, ages 12 and 19.

Herbert said his wife could be a good mother and had held good jobs, including at banks. But he said their younger child has lived full time with him for the last year because of her mother's struggles with drugs.

"I don't know where the fork in the road happened," he said. "It's kind of a shock to me."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com.

Tampa psychiatrist investigated for painkiller trafficking dies of apparent overdose, authorities say 07/08/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 9, 2011 12:02am]

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