Bond set for Clayton doctor charged with murder in overdose deaths

Dr. Narendra Nagareddy, the psychiatrist recently charged with killing at least three of his former patients who died of overdoses, was granted bond by Clayton Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons during a hearing Monday. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

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Dr. Narendra Nagareddy, the psychiatrist recently charged with killing at least three of his former patients who died of overdoses, was granted bond by Clayton Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons during a hearing Monday. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

The story so far

Previously: A doctor has been indicted on 62 counts, including three felony murder counts involving patients who died of drug overdoses.

The latest: Bond was set at $456,000, with a requirement to wear an ankle monitor.

What’s next: One of the doctor’s attorneys expected him to be out on bond Tuesday.

A psychiatrist facing murder charges in the overdose deaths of three patients will be confined to his McDonough home and wear an ankle monitor if he meets the terms of a $456,000 bond set by a Clayton County judge Monday.

Dr. Narendra K. Nagareddy has been in jail since May 18, shortly after a grand jury indicted him on 62 counts, including three felony murder counts. The indictment says Narendra K. Nagareddy murdered Audrey Austin, 29;David Robinson, 49; and Cheryl Pennington 47.

The three died of overdoses after allegedly going to Nagareddy for prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl and amphetamine salts, powerful and highly addictive drugs. The remaining 59 counts are for charges of writing prescriptions outside the normal professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, or not signing or dating prescriptions on the date they were issued.

At Monday’s bond hearing, some two dozen family, friends and supporters came to court on behalf of the 57-year-old psychiatrist who is facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

Nagareddy, who has been practicing medicine in Georgia since 1999, sat stoicly in court wearing an orange jail jumpsuit as he listened to testimony from state witnesses and those vouching for him. A gray beard framed his face.

Nagareddy’s 23-year-old daughter Bhavana, who will be entering medical school this year, testified on behalf of her father, saying the family would be there to lend support if he was released on bond.

A bond and monitoring company executive Charles Floto said Nagareddy had been a model client during the time his company monitored him. Floto also said his firm would continue Nagareddy’s bond, including give credit toward the new bond set Monday.

Local gastroenterologist Dr. Jay Prakash told the court he has referred patients as well as family members to Nagareddy and had seen him work with the indigent.

Clayton District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson argued Nagareddy could be a flight risk. He is a citizen of India facing the possibility of three life sentences. A special agent called by the state noted that Nagareddy has traveled outside the United States at least 15 times in the last two years, before his legal troubles. Although he has surrrendered his passport he could easily request a replacement through the Indian consulate, the agent said. The agent is not being identified because he works undercover.

Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons set the bond at $100,000 for each of the three felony murder counts plus $1,000 each on the 56 counts connected to the prescriptions. Before his arrest last month, Nagareddy had been free on a $100,000 bond he posted in January after his initial arrest in the case. That amount also is part of the bond set Monday. Nagareddy has already surrendered the Clayton County building that housed his practice as well as his Mercedes Benz as part of an earlier deal connected to the case. He is no longer allowed to practice medicine.

Graham Lawson declined to comment after the ruling.

“We’re thoroughly pleased the court considered our argument and deemed it appropriate to grant his bond,” Steven Frey, one of Nagareddy’s attorneys, said Monday. Frey added that he expected Nagareddy to be out on bond by Tuesday afternoon.

Nagareddy’s legal woes began Jan. 14 when a Drug Enforcement Administration task force raided his home and office, the culmination of a year-long investigation.

He was charged with one felony drug count for illegally prescribing pain medications. At the time of that arrest, about three dozen of his patients had died while he was prescribing them controlled substances, investigators allege. Investigators said they confirmed through autopsy reports that 12 patients died of prescription drug overdoses but declined to give details on the other 24 patients.

Nagareddy was known as the go-to doctor for people looking for prescription medications, according to documents. Patients’ relatives complained of his excessive prescription-writing but nothing seemed to done about it, records show.

State and federal data also show Nagareddy was among the state Medicaid program's top prescribers of one of the most abused prescription drugs. Other psychiatrists at Southern Regional Medical Center didn't come close to prescribing as many pain medications, according to an investigator's comparison of prescriptions signed by Nagareddy and three other psychiatrists at the hospital.

In an 11-month period ending in July 2015, Nagareddy prescribed 10,329 doses of oxycodone. The three psychiatrists wrote no prescriptions for that medication during that time. Nagareddy also prescribed 296,396 doses of alprazolam compared to 29,165 doses of the three other psychiatrists combined.