Former ‘pill mill’ owner no-shows court, becomes federal fugitive
By J.J. Kindred | (email@example.com)
KNOXVILLE — The former owner of a Maryville pain clinic failed to appear at her trial Tuesday and became a federal fugitive.
An arrest warrant was issued for Tamral (Tammy) Guzman, 42, the former owner of Maryville Pain Management and Detox Clinic, who has been on trial for the past week in U.S. District Court.
Guzman’s attorney, Michael Menefee, told U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan he attempted to call his client after she failed to appear, but her phone had been disconnected.
Menefee said Guzman had left a note with her mother, which read, “I will always love you all. Sorry about everything. You all take care. Love, Tamral.”
Guzman is on trial for allegedly writing false prescriptions, conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone, hydrocodone and other dangerous drugs.
She was out on a personal recognizance bond, which allows a defendant to be released without posting any money or surety with the courts.
Representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said they will evaluate and decide if there will be any additional charges against Guzman for failing to appear in court. Meanwhile, U.S. Marshals are conducting an active search for her.
Guzman’s mother, Sandra Gardner, who lives in her daughter’s house in Maryville in a basement apartment, was subpoenaed by federal prosecutors and was summoned back to court immediately Tuesday, a day after she had testified as a defense witness.
Lt. Robert Nease, of the Blount County 5th Judicial Drug Task Force, told prosecutors on the witness stand that he was asked to place the call to Gardner, and was then told about the note.
‘She felt scared’
Gardner testified that she found her daughter’s note on her bedroom dresser at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. She last saw her at 11:30 p.m. Monday after they had attended a prayer meeting.
“She said she felt scared,” Gardner said. “After we went to the prayer meeting she said, ‘I’m going to be OK.’ She said good night, I love you and see you in the morning.
“She felt frightened and felt like she wanted to run away, but she changed her mind and felt better once we left the prayer meeting,” Gardner added.
Gardner said her daughter may have taken off in a black Hyundai, which was registered in Gardner’s name. She may have left with her boyfriend, who was present during the trial.
“I’m not sure if the dresser was open, but when I saw the paper, I got the feeling something was wrong,” Gardner said. “I called her daughter and her attorney to let them know she had left. She is on the run right now.”
The jury was not present for Gardner’s or Nease’s testimonies.
When Menefee cross-examined Gardner, he asked her if they had conversations about the case and if she knew she could potentially go to prison.
“She felt like things were stacked against her,” Gardner said, adding that her daughter was aware that the case could end Tuesday and if the jury came back with a verdict, she could be taken into custody.
Gardner said she did not try to call her daughter when she discovered her missing, adding that she gave no indication that she was going to change her mind again and leave. She said her daughter routinely used her vehicle, and did not consider it stolen.
Menefee requested to put the case on hold until Guzman is found and then move forward, but Varlan and prosecuting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kolman did not make that an option.
“This trial is not a convenience for her,” Kolman said. “She voluntarily decided to flee and she violated her bond conditions.”
The trial resumed during a short session with the jury present. The defense presented two more witnesses, including one of Guzman’s former employees.
Retha Alexander, who served as a nurse practitioner from May 2010 until the clinic’s closing, testified that she was a recovering drug addict herself and has been clean for eight years.
She said that she and Guzman had planned to open a clinic in Vonore where she lives, but she decided to do it on her own when Maryville Pain Management closed down. Her clinic, Vonore Pain Management, closed down after 15 months.
In April of last year, Alexander had her nursing license revoked by the Tennessee Board of Nursing because of diversion of controlled substances.
The trial resumes today at 9 a.m., as defense witness testimony continues and closing arguments are expected to begin.