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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Mother responds to sentence


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Libby Blackburn said Dr. Harold Sleight prescribed 600 methadone pills and 90 oxycodone pills to her son in July 2009.

And 12 days later, Brandon Bunkley, her only son, was dead from a drug overdose.

A few years later, and few hours’ drive north, Sleight began practicing Hope Pain Management Clinic at 1250 Mariner Blvd. in Spring Hill. An 18-month investigation by the sheriff’s office found that Sleight was trafficking in controlled substances and writing prescriptions for money.

Sleight was arrested on Nov. 1, 2011, along with Lynn Hutchinson, who was practicing medicine without a license. Hutchinson agreed to a plea deal in April that will send her to prison for one year and one day, and 10 years of drug offender probation.

Sleight, who faced up to 65 years in prison according to Judge Anthony Tatti, reached a deal that required him to pay a total of more than $134,000 in fines and court costs, and sentenced him to 15 years of drug offender probation.

Blackburn, who lives in Bell, said that she was “very happy” when Sleight was arrested in 2011, but thought the former doctor not serving prison time was “sickening.”

“No justice was served,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn said she found the pill bottles with Sleight listed as the physician after her son’s death. Bunkley was thrown into a depression after his father died in 2000, and started taking pills to dull the pain, and said he started taking oxycodone for an old knee injury. He tried quitting on his own, as well as rehab and counseling before slipping into a groggy shadow of his former self.

A 2012 letter Blackburn wrote to Tatti, asking for a severe punishment, is included in Sleight’s court file. On April 30, Sleight pleaded guilty to the 12 charges against him in exchange for the plea deal.

“This was a slap on the wrist,” Blackburn said. “I would love to see him violate his probation. That would be justice.”

Sleight, who lives in Punta Gorda, is serving his probation in Sarasota County. Hutchinson is set to be sentenced on July 9.

Tony Holt contributed to this report.

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