Crime & Courts

Former Eagle River nurse practitioner guilty on all counts in federal opioid overprescribing case

After a four week trial, an Anchorage federal jury found a former Eagle River nurse practitioner guilty on 10 felony counts of overprescribing opioids prosecutors say caused “addiction, suffering and deaths” across Alaska.

Jessica Spayd, 51, was convicted last week in Anchorage federal court of five counts of distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death, four counts of dispensing controlled substances and one count of “maintaining a drug-involved premises.”

Federal prosecutors contended that Spayd, the former owner of an Eagle River pain medicine clinic, prescribed her patients a vast number of highly addictive and dangerous opioids without medical justification, prescribing close to 4.5 million pills between 2014-2019. At the beginning of the trial, prosecutors highlighted the stories of several Alaskans who died from opioids prescribed by Spayd.

Spayd’s attorney had argued that the nurse practitioner’s intent was not to hurt her patients, and that she had been trying her best to help a difficult clientele with severe and complex medical issues.

Spayd was originally charged in 2019. She surrendered her nurse practitioner license in 2020.

The 51-year-old faces serious prison time: Tough federal sentencing guidelines mean that the convictions carry mandatory sentences of 20 years to life in prison. Spayd’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 17, 2023.

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.