Murder-Suicide in the Keys Unravels a Doctor's Decades-Long Mystery

Murder-Suicide in the Keys Unravels a Doctor's Decades-Long Mystery

As he mills around his sandy front yard, Douglas Harrison, a tanned 69-year-old, worries about his neighbor, a gray-haired retiree named Glen Tucker. For more than two decades, the two have lived on one of the quietest blocks in South Florida.

Tucker has always been reclusive, usually staying inside his '60s-style bungalow on Little Torch Key, a remote islet 27 miles from Key West. But ever since his second wife, Joan, was partially paralyzed by a stroke, he has been flat-out depressed.

This morning, though, he looks perfectly calm as he shuffles out with his trash, barefoot in blue-and-white pajamas. It's ten minutes before noon.

Glen Tucker was one of Wisconsin's most prominent plastic surgeons.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Public Television
Glen Tucker was one of Wisconsin's most prominent plastic surgeons.
"Mary" was 27 when Tucker mangled her breasts in a botched implant surgery.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Public Television
"Mary" was 27 when Tucker mangled her breasts in a botched implant surgery.

Harrison asks Tucker how he's feeling, but the old man ignores him. So Harrison carries over an onion. Tucker sniffs it and mumbles, "Thank you," before going back inside.

Twenty minutes later, gunshots ring out. They're steady and relentless: one, two, three, four, five.

Harrison sprints to the Tuckers' front door. It's locked. He runs around to the back and then stops in shock. Through a window, he can see Joan propped upright in her wheelchair, her neck arced straight back, her mouth and eyes stretched wide. Blood streams from her chest, staining a pink sweater. A TV screen flickers silently behind her.

Glen Tucker walks out a side door, clutching a blued-steel Colt .45.

"What the fuck are you doing?" Harrison screams. "I'm calling the police."

"Don't call the police," Tucker replies, climbing a staircase to an upstairs bedroom.

Harrison is sure his neighbor plans to kill himself. The week before, the older man had quietly confided, "When life gets unbearable, I'll be gone." So Harrison tries desperately to stall. He asks Tucker about his beloved pet, a Siamese named Luther. "What about the cat?" he says.

"I'll do it first," Tucker says calmly and heads inside.

Harrison runs to the street to wait for police. Two more shots shatter the still, salty air.

When Monroe County Sheriff's Det. Manny Cuervo arrives a few minutes later, he enters the bungalow, glances at Joan's dead body, and finds Glen in the master bedroom, face-down in a pool of blood, the back of his head exploded by a bullet. Luther the cat is also dead, cradled flat against Tucker's stomach.

The evidence is clear: Five empty nickel-plated casings litter the floor around Joan Tucker's corpse. Two identical shells lie near Glen and his cat. His stiffening fingers still clutch the murder weapon.

The motive soon becomes obvious too. As Harrison describes his neighbor's despondency, the detective can tell the case will be easily solved. Follow-up interviews with children and acquaintances confirm the narrative: Family strife. Declining health. A stroke. Death, perhaps, is merciful for everyone.

Two months after the murder-suicide, on July 12, 2011, a sheriff's deputy fires Tucker's gun inside the police range but doesn't send the bullets for forensic testing. "Comparisons would not alter the facts in this case," he writes. "This case is closed."

A long life that ends violently, though, has a strange way of spilling old secrets.

Long after this case is filed away in the bowels of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, it becomes clear there's more to this murder-suicide than just a quiet old man who lost the will to live.

The 80-year-old, in fact, had been a prominent plastic surgeon in Wisconsin before his life went horribly wrong. More than a dozen patients lined up to testify he'd sadistically mangled them. A million dollars in claims threatened to destroy everything he'd built. Then, in the middle of it all, Tucker suddenly disappeared.

That bloody Wednesday on Little Torch Key finished a decades-long mystery that could have unraveled only in this tiny corner of a subtropical island perched at the edge of the world.


More than three decades ago, Jan Lehman crossed paths with Glen Tucker — an encounter she's still reeling from today.

Lehman's dad, Joseph Lehman Jr., was a decorated World War II veteran who served as a surgeon with the Army in North Africa and Italy. After the war ended, he finished an ear, nose, and throat residency in St. Louis and opened a practice in suburban Chicago. Lehman was raised there.

Between her dad's commanding presence and a strict Catholic upbringing, Lehman grew up fascinated with medicine and wanting to help people. She attended Marquette University, where she earned a dental degree. When she was just 24 years old, she landed a job as a faculty member in the dental school.

One night — on March 16, 1978, to be exact — Lehman's life changed during a card game in her small Milwaukee apartment. When her roommate got a good hand, she leaped up and did a cartwheel. The flip was ill-timed, though, and one of her feet caught Lehman square in the nose. Blood spurted, so the pair quickly drove to the ER. At 10:30 p.m., the on-call plastic surgeon came to see her.

It was Dr. Glen Tucker. His hair was brown and parted, his jaw square, and his smile toothy and quick. Like Lehman's dad, he was an Army vet.

"He looked very fit and seemed in command," Lehman recalls. "He presented himself as a surgeon who had seen it all before. He made me feel comfortable right away."

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31 comments
clytamnestra
clytamnestra

seems like the 'running form debtors' rumor is probably true if he had a successful and well-paying career, lived in an expensive house. but also was still paying of his student-loans and only had a few thousand in savings.

clearly this guy was bad with money. (but he wouldn't have admitted to that, or to anything else that didn't fit in the 'he was a brilliant man' narrative that his daughter is still parroting)

coffeetea
coffeetea

To not feel any remorse for the atrocities he's committed (or to even acknowledge that it was wrong) shows signs of sociopathy. The fact that his daughter is still defending him, despite being shown evidence of his violent offenses, makes me think that she's either delusional or takes after her father... If she's anything like him, then I would not want her anywhere near a medical center.

imagineforever
imagineforever

I can't believe Virginia still defends him. She's in complete denial and should probably get checked out herself by a psychiatrist for living in a delusional fantasy. I'd be afraid of her being my nurse after hearing her disagree against hard evidence. Sigh.. like father like daughter.

deeeh
deeeh

it amazes me that somone this incompetent could make an excellent living and fly below the radar of the medical establishment for so long, while his disfigured patients stacked up at the medical review board. interesting, the final question we're left with: was he sadistic or just a crappy doc?  his treatment of some patients went far beyond malpractice and sub-standard care, to sadistic treatment bordering on torture.

Au79Ag47
Au79Ag47

This is a fascinating story reminiscent of "Dr. Hannibal Lector", or of "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde". There is, of course, one salient difference: this story is NOT fiction. The murderous psychopath, Dr. Glen Tucker,  who eluded the typically ineffective law enforcement agencies for decades was ultimately discovered by a TV producer and a TV investigative reporter to be living comfortably in the pristine and beautiful Florida Keys just 27 miles from Key West, (FL). Murderous butchering psychopath, faked drowning victim,  "respected" physician with both money and connections living care-free for three decades in the picturesque Florida Keys evokes thoughts of a Hollywood movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Al Pacino. To the writer of this story, Tim Elfrink, I sincerely commend your riveting writing style encompassing both clarity and coherence. I look forward to reading more of your excellent work.

carolinehjenkins
carolinehjenkins

Very well written story about a fascinating, evil individual. I guess it's not that unusual for a grown daughter to have different memories than those whose lives he ruined without remorse but it makes for an interesting comparison. I am so glad that I discovered the Miami New Times being the true crime junkie that I am.

Yaymike20
Yaymike20

@_MrsLibby_G taxi story woah

Xo_Jc
Xo_Jc

@_MrsLibby_G crazy story.

The_Yeti_Knows
The_Yeti_Knows

Must have been some onion...... I'm more of a Rutabaga man myself.

merl.allen
merl.allen topcommenter

he killed his cat?? what kind of monster does that?

Chris Ball
Chris Ball

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fratdawgg23
fratdawgg23

Well-written article. Also, scary as he11 because of how prominent and respected the doc was in the community while occasionally disfiguring or maiming patients. His lack of a conscience and empathy are key traits of a sociopath; the infliction of pain is, indeed, psychopathic.

The doctor's daughter mentioned his bouts of depression makes me wonder if those depressing periods corresponded in any way with the botched surgeries. Specifically, was he otherwise a competent surgeon with satisfied patients, then during a depression period the psychopathic side took over?

clytamnestra
clytamnestra

 @coffeetea

yeah, scary to think she's a nurse.

i'd say she is a combination of in denial and being trained by her dominant and manipulative father all her life to  give him what he wants (being 'unquestionable loyalty and adoration') . seems that she has the same personality-flaw as her mother: hanging onto someone 'strong' and defending all his crimes by pretending he was just depressed and those victims are being unreasonable etc etc.

Larry
Larry

 @merl.allen Are you kidding?  You read what he did to humans, right?

clytamnestra
clytamnestra

 @fratdawgg23

i don't think he was all that depressed anyway, just delusional and psychotic.

 

was he a good doctor at some times? it's possible, i suppose.

but you should also take into account that he was in a rapidly expanding medical field, so in those circumstances it must have been relatively easy for an unfit doctor to make the cut (lot of demand for booby-doctors, and little supply until a new batch finishes med-school)

timelfrinkmia
timelfrinkmia

@carvperformance Thanks! It's truly an only-in-Florida crime story ...

Yaymike20
Yaymike20

@_MrsLibby_G super crazy! How's the preggo life treating u?

justin_khase
justin_khase

@Larry: No Larry, I don't think merl.allen was kidding.

Yaymike20
Yaymike20

@_MrsLibby_G de pipi I feel for u my friend ! It should go away soon! Everyone is good my princess growing be the day wifey is amazing :)

_MrsLibby_G
_MrsLibby_G

@Yaymike20 dude, sick as fck. Lol 3months and 2 wks. So hopefully the nausea and stuff goes away soon! How's the princess? Wifey?

ana_priest
ana_priest

 @Charles  @Larry  @merl.allen Same. I feel kind of guilty that I instinctively empathize more with the cat than anyone else in this story. He doesn't deserve that anymore than they did.

 
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