Then there was "Mary," as she asked New Times to identify her. The 27-year-old went to Tucker for breast augmentation in August 1979, a little more than a year after Lehman's final nasal surgery. Like Lehman's nose, Mary's breasts ended up horribly infected; two more surgeries followed, each equally unsuccessful. Once, he jabbed a seven-inch needle into her breast with no anesthetic. Another time, he ripped part of an implant out of an incision, also without pain medication.

"The nurse had to tell him: 'You're hurting her. Stop!'" Mary recalls. "He showed no emotion. Before the third surgery, I was so worried he'd kill me I wrote a letter about what he'd done to me before I went in."

She survived that operation, but one of her breasts ended up square-shaped, she later told the compensation panel. Both breasts were covered with such bad scarring they resembled "football stitching."

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.

By 1982, Tucker faced 13 malpractice suits — and those were just the ones that had navigated Wisconsin's doctor-friendly process. The pile of complaints was the largest against any doctor in the state, according to William Bissett, then the head of the Patient Compensation Panel. They ran the gamut from botched surgeries on faces, feet, and arms to three breast reductions and five nose jobs.

On June 24, 1982, Tucker's problems worsened. That's when Dr. Donald Levy, chief of plastic surgery at Milwaukee's Columbia Hospital, one of three facilities where Tucker worked, announced an internal investigation had been launched.

Justice, it seemed, would finally catch the man who had mangled Jan Lehman's nose and Mary's breasts.

Then, three days later, he was gone.


The overturned canoe washed onto the reedy shoreline of Lake Michigan around noon, right in front of the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, a hikers' refuge just outside Milwaukee.

Earlier, Joan Tucker, Glen's wife, had called 911 because her husband hadn't returned to their lakeside home from his usual 6 a.m. Sunday fishing trip. Police quickly confirmed the boat was Tucker's. The Coast Guard spent 24 hours combing the lake before calling off the search.

One local cop continued investigating, though, and turned up some strange clues. First, although Tucker's jacket washed up a few miles away, his body never surfaced — a rare occurrence with the lake's currents. Even weirder, though, were witnesses' accounts. Two people — one of them a doctor who knew the Tuckers personally — reported they'd seen Glen hours after his alleged drowning, calmly walking along Green Bay Road five miles from his home. And then, a few days later, a hiker found Tucker's emergency raft; it had been slashed with a knife and hidden under a pile of branches.

Still, there wasn't much the cop could do. He classified Tucker as a missing person, presumed drowned — then tacked this note onto his report: "If the guy wants to leave, it isn't a crime."

Six days later, Joan organized a memorial service. Glen Tucker's family and colleagues packed into the North Shore Congregational Church, a handsome brick hall with a tall iron spire. Even at the funeral, there was uncertainty. Glen's brother, Ross, was candid as he spoke from the lectern.

"Glen has disappeared before," he warned the crowd. "He may have done it again."

Indeed, Tucker's life had been equal parts brilliance and eccentricity — with hints of mental illness.

Born in 1930, he abruptly ran away from home during the Korean War — and didn't speak to his family for seven years. He joined the Army Airborne, though not much is known about his service. When he suddenly returned, he rarely talked about his time in uniform. He'd already become a practicing dentist and had married Joan, a pretty girl his age with an open smile and curly brown hair.

He enrolled at the State University of New York in Buffalo, where he earned a medical degree, and worked his way into residencies first in Buffalo and then at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. By 1970, he'd settled in Milwaukee and begun building his practice as a plastic surgeon. In the decade before his disappearance, he'd made a name in a field just hitting its post-'60s zenith; he and Joan lived on the water in Fox Point, one of Milwaukee's toniest neighborhoods.

Now, after his disappearance on the lake, all of that was finished.

The dozen malpractice suits didn't vanish with the doctor, though. Over the next two years, they inched their way through Wisconsin's labyrinthine system. Ralph, the man whose arm was amputated, won $500,000 from the hospital's insurer. The woman whose skin was damaged got $697,000, partly from insurance and partly from a state compensation fund. Other victims settled for $45,000, $20,000, and $15,000 from Tucker's insurance company, the Milwaukee Journal reported; three other former patients settled for undisclosed amounts.

Jan Lehman, eager to move on, settled for a mere $1,000 after refusing to return to Milwaukee to face the Patient Compensation Panel. "I wasn't a good witness," Lehman says. "I was a mess. I was sick and really emotional... I just wanted to make a case so there was a public record and move on."

By 1984, only three open cases remained. His victims, like Lehman, would never forget his name, but in Wisconsin, Glen Tucker was close to fading from memory.

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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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