(CNN) — Dr. Conrad Murray was suffering financially with nearly $435,000 in judgments and liens against him over the past two years, according to court documents. Then he decided to leave his practice and work for Michael Jackson, getting paid $150,000 a month.
Before working with the King of Pop, Murray spent most of his time operating clinics in both Nevada and Texas after graduating from Meharry Medical College, a historically black school in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1989. He spent his internship and residency years in California.
At the clinics in Houston, Texas, and Las Vegas, Nevada, his patients had been surprised to learn that he would be leaving his private practice to work with Jackson. Watch profile of Dr. Conrad Murray »
Many told news outlets they support their former physician as he faces scrutiny by authorities investigating Jackson’s death.
“I don’t care what nobody says. He’s a damn good doctor,” Mary Webb, a former patient, told CNN affiliate KTNV-TV.
But he was a doctor with financial woes that became evident not long after he graduated from medical school.
He filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in 1992 and accumulated $44,663 in state tax liens in Arizona and California from 1993 until 2003, according to court documents. The doctor, who was with Jackson on the day he died, has offices in Houston and Las Vegas and specializes in cardiology and internal medicine, according to state medical boards.
Murray’s financial troubles continued after opening the clinics — though outsiders may not have known it, based on his million-dollar home in a gated community next to the Red Rock Country Club in Las Vegas.
Murray has been hit with several judgments related to unpaid bills, child support payments, defaults on educational loans and payment for equipment said to have been rented to him.
In a statement on his Web site, Murray’s attorney said that the doctor continues to travel to see his patients in Houston. The cost of maintaining those relationships exceeds any payment or income he receives for his work, attorney Ed Chernoff said in the statement.
Murray saw his patients in addition to his new role as Jackson’s doctor.
He was hired by promoter AEG to work with Jackson for this summer’s “This Is It” tour, after the 50-year-old singer requested Murray be around to care for him during the grueling rehearsal and mammoth 50-show tour.
The pair met in Las Vegas in 2006, when Murray treated one of Jackson’s children at the recommendation of one of Jackson’s bodyguards.
Murray’s attorney says the relationship went beyond just a doctor and a patient.
“Dr. Murray was not a doctor first,” Chernoff told CNN four days after the entertainer’s death. “He was a friend first. They were close personal friends. Michael Jackson really treated him as family.” Watch discussion of doctor’s relationship with Jackson »
But now, some Jackson family members have accused the doctor of wrongdoing. He has also been the target of three searches by police . Murray’s office in Houston was searched last week, and on Tuesday, authorities searched his Las Vegas home and office. No charges have been filed against Murray.
The searches came a day after a source confirmed to CNN that Murray administered a powerful drug that authorities believe killed the singer. The drug, known as Diprivan or propofol, is an anesthetic that is normally administered in a hospital setting.
But Murray also has no hospital privileges in California, so he could not have treated Jackson in a hospital setting, even on the day he died.
Murray hasn’t spoken publicly since Jackson’s death. Chernoff, his lawyer, told CNN that Murray did not “prescribe or administer anything that should have killed Michael Jackson.” He also said Murray did not prescribe any powerful painkillers to the star.
John Thomas, Murray’s friend, said he spoke to the doctor three days before Jackson died to invite him to an event in Las Vegas.
Thomas, a regional sales manager for Pit Bull energy products, met Murray when the doctor invested with a distributor to try to bring Pit Bull to his native Trinidad, Thomas told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“He couldn’t have been happier then,” Thomas told the newspaper, reflecting on their last conversation. “He was apologetic about not being able to come to the opening, but he said he was busy with Michael.”
In their last phone call, Thomas told the newspaper, Murray seemed upbeat and said and he “liked being in the limelight, meeting all the celebrities.”
Thomas added that it was also clear in their last conversation that the celebrity salary he was receiving was aiding Murray with “some of the financial troubles he talked about.”
Although Murray remains the target of authorities’ scrutiny, those who knew him before Jackson’s death struggled to comprehend what could have happened.
Webb, one of Murray’s Las Vegas patients, said he helped save her life.
Webb told CNN affiliate KTNV-TV that she has coronary artery disease and went to Murray, who put in five stents. Through all the pain, Webb insists, Murray would tell her to take only ibuprofen or Tylenol.
“One time I told him, ‘If you don’t give me something for this pain, I’m checking out,’ ” she told KTNV. “[But] because he did not believe in giving drugs, he did not.”
One of Murray’s former patients in Houston also praised the doctor, saying he helped save her life when he discovered blockages in her heart.
“If I had to rate Dr. Conrad Murray from 1 to 100,” Ruby Mosley told CNN affiliate KHOU-TV, “I’d give him every bit of 100.”
Mosley said that without the discovery, she might have had a heart attack, a stroke or an aneurysm.
“He found them,” she said. “I credit him and God.”
Webb told KTNV that her faith in her doctor remains strong despite the allegations lodged against him.
“If there was any way in Dr. Murray’s power to save Michael, he would’ve,” she said.