OTTAWA — Christopher Phillips was hospitalized for depression and anxiety related to a debilitating addiction to painkillers in the U.S. while he was also trying to start a new life in Canada.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security identified Phillips, 42, as the man police took into custody at an Ottawa hotel Wednesday morning following an overnight investigation related to the discovery of a stash of chemicals in Nova Scotia.
The former eye surgeon who served in the U.S. Navy first came into the spotlight when he married Olympic gold-medal gymnast Shannon Miller at an elaborate wedding in her hometown of Edmond, Okla., in June 1999, according to multiple media reports.
The butter-cream frosted cake was almost as tall as Miller and the bridal party featured other Olympic athletes such as gymnast Kerri Strug, who famously helped her team win the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta by performing a second vault with an injured ankle.
A LinkedIn profile for Phillips depicts an impressive career as a physician — including training as an eye surgeon at Boston University — who also studied medical and business law, but court documents and police records obtained by the Star suggest he had long been struggling beneath the surface of his accomplishments.
Seven years after marrying, Phillips and Miller finalized an acrimonious divorce following two-year battle over money, with Miller telling The Oklahoman newspaper in 2006 it was a “painful experience.”
The next year he had moved to Renton, Wash., having purchased the Lomas Lasik and Eye Care Center there, which he then closed abruptly about five months later while, according to court documents, he was in hospital for psychiatric problems related to substance abuse.
His time in Renton also included run-ins with the police, including charges of supplying alcohol to minors, breaching the peace and making false statements to a law enforcement officer after he claimed he had been sleeping and did not know how teenagers came to be drinking beer at his home.
“Phillips became extremely agitated with me, telling me that he was a lawyer and that I had no right to accuse him of a crime,” the officer at the scene wrote in his December 2007 report.
Although that home was in Renton, the police report lists his address as 43 Parkedge Cr., in Cole Harbour, N.S., one of the residences that was under investigation by the RCMP Tuesday.
By this time he was also married to Dr. Gosia Phillips.
Christopher Phillips filed for bankruptcy in July 2008, declaring $4.7 million in liabilities and assets of $962,109.
According to documents filed in bankruptcy court, Phillips injured his feet while serving in the U.S. Navy in 1992 and was treated with prescription painkillers, developing an addiction to methadone, oxycontin and morphine that continued during his subsequent career as a physician.
“Defendant testified that the effect of withdrawal from narcotics continues to this day, expressing itself in sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, anger and weight loss,” a judge wrote in a 2009 finding of fact as part of bankruptcy proceedings.
After the clinic closed, patients filed formal complaints with the Medical Quality Assurance Commission at the Washington State Department of Health, accusing Phillips, who was a board-certified ophthalmologist, of “unprofessional conduct.”
The complaints were resolved in March 2010 through an “informal disposition,” which stipulated that Phillips, whose licence had expired independent of the complaints, agreed not to renew it or continue to practice.
“He has no intent to return to practice in Washington,” a document from the state health department says, noting that Phillips, by that time, was living in Nova Scotia with his spouse, a licensed physician.
In one of several libel lawsuits — subsequently dismissed — he launched against media outlets for the way they covered the closure of his clinic, Phillips claimed he was stabbed near his home in April 2009.
“The individual identified Phillips from media coverage. The individual then assaulted Phillips. Phillips defended himself. The individual pulled a knife and then subsequently stabbed Phillips,” read a May 2011 statement of claim against the Seattle Times Company.
Phillips blamed the media coverage for his decision to file bankruptcy and also for the fact that his patients had filed complaints.