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Former Neurosurgeon Sentenced To Life In Prison For Maiming Patients

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Christopher Duntsch has been sentenced to life in prison.

It took the jury one hour to sentence Duntsch to the maximum penalty for a series of botched spinal surgeries.  Thirty-two patients in all.  Two were paralyzed and two others were killed.

The DA's office called this a historic case with regard to prosecuting a doctor who had done wrong during surgery.

Dallas County DA Faith Johnson
Dallas County DA Faith Johnson speaks after the life sentence was handed down for Christopher Duntsch. (CBS11)

"This is a great day," said Dallas County DA Faith Johnson during a news conference shortly after the verdict. "We have done something historic. We are so elated about the life sentence."

The former North Texas neurosurgeon was convicted of intentionally injuring the patients he was supposed to be helping.

After the sentencing, Don Martin, whose said his wife died at the hands of Duntsch said, "We're overwhelmed. This was a voice for Kelly. And we're just so thankful. And hopefully move on with our lives."

"I'm just so grateful, from the bottom of my heart," said Caitlin Linhuf, whose mother died after a surgery performed by Duntsch. "This will not bring my mother back, but this is some sense of justice."

"Really who he is was someone who called himself a cold blooded killer," said Justin McCants of the Dallas County DA's Office. "Someone who calls himself a god at times. Who believed he was a god at times."

It took the jury just fours hours last Tuesday to find Duntsch guilty of intentionally causing serious bodily injury to an elderly person. Victim Mary Efurd testified in the case. Duntsch botched her spinal surgery in 2012 – a procedure that has left her wheelchair bound.

Prosecutors say Duntsch was malicious and reckless while he performed surgery. And apparently Efurd wasn't his only victim. Jurors heard from several people who shared their nightmares, saying he maimed them on purpose. Prosecutors accused Duntsch of also maiming four patients and causing the death of at least two, between July 2012 and June 2013.

Duntsch's attorneys argued he wasn't a criminal, just a lousy surgeon.

Mary Efurd said the verdict had been a long time coming. "Relief. Finally justice has been done after 4 1/2 years," she said. "And I hope I'm speaking for all the other families and their loved ones also. I think we feel real good about it. We feel like justice was done."

Efurd also said she's grateful the 45-year-old is no longer practicing medicine. "You know, when they finally got his license suspended I cried for two days. It was just relief that didn't stop."

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