Then Art Hackett showed up. He was a young producer for Wisconsin Public Television who got stuck one day with a mind-numbing assignment: a trip to the Patient Compensation Panel to report on infections at hospitals. As he disconsolately leafed through old records, an administrator stopped by and glanced at a file.

"He told me: 'Now, that case might be interesting. Boy, it's strange. This guy has been sued a whole bunch of times, but he drowned in Lake Michigan. Thing is, everyone says he's still alive,'" Hackett recalls.

Hackett realized he was onto something much hotter than infections. That afternoon, he began looking into the drowning and soon realized that even the police doubted Tucker had died. "But he wasn't charged with any crimes, and they don't go looking for people who didn't break the law," Hackett says. "As for the insurance companies, they were already paying out these claims. I got the sense they didn't exactly want Tucker in the courtroom anyway."

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.

Hackett enlisted the help of David Patrick, an investigative TV reporter. They'd heard rumors that Tucker was in Florida (a nurse he'd worked with even claimed to have spotted him at Miami International Airport), so they started poring over phone books. Nothing. The trail was cold.

Then, Hackett had the kind of breakthrough that seems ridiculously obvious in hindsight: Instead of looking for Glen, he checked the paper trail left by his wife. About six months after her husband's funeral, Joan Tucker had sold their house in Fox Point for $113,000, cleared their debts, and left the state.

Then Hackett found a forwarding address for Joan in a legal document. It was on Little Torch Key, near the end of Tortuga Lane in a development called the Jolly Roger. Hackett cross-referenced it with Florida property records and found the house had been sold in 1982 to a Martin Tucker. ("Martin," Hackett would later learn, was Glen's cat.)

Hackett called the house. A man answered but claimed he didn't know Glen Tucker. Patrick decided to fly to Florida.

After staking out the house with a cameraman, Patrick knocked on the door. Smiling sheepishly, Glen Tucker — drowning victim and disgraced doctor — walked out of the garage. When Patrick confronted him, he paraphrased Mark Twain: "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

Tucker invited the duo inside. The conversation was disjointed, flitting from angry denials to sly jokes. Asked why he faked his death, though, Tucker was crystal clear: "I was fed up and sick with the whole mess up there."

He didn't seem to feel any remorse for his con; at several points, he grinned and laughed easily. He told Patrick: "I have done the best that I think I could. Although it may not seem ideal to you or to others, it was the best, perhaps, that I could arrange."

Why not stay in Milwaukee and defend himself?

"I would have to contend with the ruining of my reputation and the shame associated with it," he replied. "It was an impossible situation."

Then, Tucker's mood turned dark. The spark for his escape, he admitted, came when Dr. Levy — the Columbia Hospital chief — opened an internal investigation. "The temptation to kill [Levy was] huge," he told Patrick.

Before Patrick left to file his story — and tell Tucker's disfigured victims that he hadn't drowned in Lake Michigan — the fallen doctor offered a final, chilling warning. "If I get driven too far into a corner," he said calmly, "if it got to the point where life was no longer worth living, then I would not want to go alone."


About six months after the boat washed up on the shore of Lake Michigan, Joan Tucker had lost all hope of ever seeing her husband again. Then the phone rang.

Glen's brother, Ross, who had cautioned mourners at the funeral to be wary, had news: Glen was alive and well in the Florida Keys.

"I did not know," Joan later told the Milwaukee Journal. "My God, we thought he was dead. We held a memorial service. We were ready to bury him."

Joan's first thought after Ross's call was, How can I get to him? How can I help him? She quickly sold their house in Milwaukee and joined him in Florida. There was a charming, magnetic side to this doctor who had mangled so many.

"He was a brilliant and self-reliant man who also struggled with depression for most of his adult life," says his daughter, Virginia Tucker. "For my mother and I, it wasn't a question of forgiving him. He needed our help."

Virginia was 24 when her father disappeared. Growing up, she had always been proud of her dad. Once, when he was still a resident in the Mayo Clinic's burn unit, he planned a family trip, but at the last minute one of his patients — a man gruesomely burned over most of his body — had been cleared to return home. He couldn't afford a ride, so Tucker volunteered to give him a lift.

"This man looked absolutely terrifying," Virginia says. "But [my father] pulled me aside before we picked him up and said, 'Look, this man has been thrown some really bad luck. I need you to buck up because we have to help him.'"

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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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