Pill Mill Doc's Murder: No Suspects, Many Questions

By Paul Gaita 06/27/17

Police are investigating claims that the doctor and his family had been threatened prior to the homicide.

police entering a house with a K9 unit

The unusual circumstances surrounding the murder of Ohio doctor Kevin Lake—who was awaiting sentencing for drug, tax and fraud charges in connection to operating a pill mill—has police sifting through a wealth of information and possible motives in hopes that one will reveal why the family practitioner and former Ohio University trustee was shot in his own home during the early morning hours of June 22.

Lake, who pled guilty to owning and operating a pill mill that dispensed more than 1 million doses of opioid painkillers a year to Ohio residents, was found shot to death in his own bed; upon arrival, police found that Lake was armed but never discharged the weapon. Police said they are investigating claims that Lake and his family had been threatened shortly before the shooting, and have not ruled out a random home invasion.

Detectives from the Franklin County Sheriff's Office have sealed the search warrant of Lake's home, but did report that a screen at the rear of the house had been cut. However, the window was not locked, and had been lifted up by the person or persons who entered the home. "At this point… what we are trying to determine [is] who, if anyone, actually did enter through the window, and exactly how many," said Major Steve Tucker of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office. 

Tucker also revealed two additional pieces of information in regard to the case: when Lake's son, Bryce, called 911 in response to his father's shooting, he told the dispatcher that they had reported intruders at the house several days before, but police had failed to address the situation. However, as Tucker noted, "we did not receive 911 calls or any calls for service from that residence in the days or weeks or months leading up to this particular incident."

Additionally, Tucker revealed that detectives were trying to determine why Lake, his son and wife were all armed at the time of the incident. "Why it was important for them to stay armed at all times… is going to be an important part of the investigation," he said.

While investigators could not link Bryce Lake's claims of a 911 call about intruders to any actual incident, they did note that they were working with federal authorities in regard to a letter sent by the family which alleged that their lives had been threatened shortly before Kevin Lake's death. "I can confirm that we do have a copy of the letter that was allegedly left at the house, and we are currently looking at the contents," said Tucker. Why the Lakes remained in the house—and with guns—after receiving the alleged threat, especially when considering that the family owned several other properties, remains a matter for further investigation.

At the time of his death, Lake was awaiting a judge's decision on whether he would receive a lighter sentence in exchange for cooperating with authorities to assist in other drug-related investigations. Lake had initially faced five years in prison and a penalty of more than $27 million in seized funds for distributing oxycodone and other controlled painkillers to as many as 400 people a day from 2006 until 2013. Some of Lake's patients died from drug overdoses, but U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said that there was not sufficient evidence to link him to those deaths.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.