How a Keys Murder-Suicide Exposed a Disappearing Doc Who Faked His Own Death

In May 2011, I wrote a short piece for Riptide about an 80-year-old Keys man who'd shot and killed his wife and his pet cat before ending his own life. I called it the "saddest story of the morning." Like most of Glen Tucker's neighbors and the local police, I assumed Tucker's crime was a typically tragic end-of-life story.

Months later, I got a call from Jan Lehman. Our conversation began unraveling a three-decades-old mystery of a disappearing plastic surgeon who faked his own death to escape dozens of mangled patients.

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

Lehman's tale seemed too incredible to be true. Back in the 1970s, Glen Tucker had been among the most prominent plastic surgeons in Milwaukee -- until he began horribly mutilating his patients.

Tucker operated on Lehman's nose after her friend accidentally broke it with an ill-timed cartwheel. Three surgeries and a brutal few months of pain later, Lehman finally went to another doctor -- who was horrified to find an infected wad of gauze left in her nose through all the operations, plus serious damage to her cartilage.

With Lehman's help, I was able to tell the full story of what happened next in this week's cover story, "The Gun and the Scalpel."

As Lehman and a dozen other patients lined up to detail Tucker's mistreatment, the doctor faked his own death, fled to the Keys, and hid the truth from his neighbors for 30 years -- until his life ended in violence last May.

Lehman, who now lives in Texas under a different name, says she wanted to tell her story for two simple reasons: so that Tucker's other victims know he's no longer alive and to educate people about their rights as a patient.

"No one should have to go through what I went through," she says.

Lehman offers three tips she wishes she'd known back in 1978 when she first went to the ER for her broken nose.

First, patients can get a second opinion before any surgery; second, if there are complications after that operation, they should consult an unrelated doctor before going ahead with a corrective procedure; and finally, seriously injured patients need an advocate to watch out for them as they undergo treatment.

"When you're as seriously injured as I was after my first surgery," she says, "you're in no position to rationally look out for yourself." 

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink