This story reminds me of Dr. Hannibal Lector and it might do the same to you. In fact, a former patient of this surgeon even likened him in a media interview to Lector. True, Dr. Glen Tucker didn’t kill and eat his patients, but he committed atrocities on them during his spectacularly brutal 10-year career in the U.S. In the end, Tucker did everyone a favour and took himself out. Sadly, he also killed his family and their cat.
Tucker was once an eminent and highly successful surgeon. He performed surgeries on patients with burns and severe deformities. His daughter Virginia, looked upon her father as a martyr. She loved him for helping people even though she admitted that when plastic surgery became a highly popularized procedure, he cashed in well for himself and his family. Somewhere along the line, Tucker seemed to have become mentally ill. He began to suffer from depression and left it untreated. In fact he kept up a rigorous hospital schedule. It was around this time that Tucker’s work got weird. Horror-movie weird. He began torturing and deforming patients, yet somehow he escaped notice and complaint for almost ten years.
Finally, lawsuits began piling up. At that time, according to his daughter Virginia, Tucker snapped. On June 27, 1982 Tucker left home for the last time for a fishing trip. After hours passed, Tucker didn’t return home. Growing concerned, Mrs. Joan Tucker phoned the police because Tucker had not returned home. His canoe was found flipped over and a jacket belonging to Tucker washed ashore several days later. A body was never recovered, In spite of this evidence, authorities refused to believe that Tucker had drowned. They felt he was faking his death to avoid the lawsuits. They turned out to be quite right.
Two friends of Tuckers’ claimed they had seen Tucker walking down the road about five miles away from his home. A life raft and a knife were later recovered in the woods near the area Tucker was fishing, hidden beneath a bundle of sticks and leaves. However there was no crime involved in faking one’s death and all the police could do is document him as a missing person. For six months no one found Tucker. Even his wife gave up hope for her husband. During this period six more complaints from former patients were filed against Tucker and Tucker’s insurance was forced to pay out over $1 million dollars on Tucker’s behalf. Then one day Joan received a startling phone call. It was Tucker’s brother Ross. He told Joan that Tucker was living in Florida. Joan must have been a weird as her husband. She sold their home in Milwaukee and joined him there.
Then a young producer for Wisconsin Public Television named Art Hackett got stuck one day with a mind-numbing assignment: a trip to the Patient Compensation Panel to report on infections at hospitals. Wow. Story of the year. 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 realized he was onto something much more than infections and seized his moment. He and a television reporter named David Patrick flew to Little Torch Key. After staking out the house with a cameraman, Patrick knocked on the door. Smiling sheepishly, Glen Tucker, supposed drowning victim and definitely disgraced doctor, walked out of the garage. When Patrick confronted him, he freakishly paraphrased Mark Twain: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
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.”
Eventually Tucker would make good on his creepy promise.
Small wonder that Tucker’s insurance company was paying lawsuit settlements. Some of the atrocities Tucker committed against his patients were the stuff of horror movies. The creepiest one involved a woman named Jan Lehman. Working and living in Wisconsin, Tucker “treated ” the woman who came to him with a broken nose after she had performed an unsuccessful cartwheel (this story keeps getting stranger). A broken nose. Big deal. Tucker however determined her nose needed surgery. He prepped Lehman for the procedure and provided painkillers. Lehman awoke the next day to searing pains through her sinus cavity. Her eyes looked as if they had been blackened in a fist fight. She routinely followed up with Dr. Tucker for two months with little improvement. Tucker suggested that she needed a second surgery. Lehman found it odd that a broken nose turned into such a complicated affliction. Too bad she didn’t seek a second opinion.
The second procedure was right out of a horror movie. It was unusual from the beginning. While under anesthesia she awoke to find Tucker wheeling her from the surgical prep room down a hallway by himself. He attempted to take Lehman into an operating room, which was still being cleaned by a janitor, and instead he took her into a second room, which was completely unoccupied. No nurses, no other hospital staff, only Tucker and Lehman. When Lehman awoke from the procedure she still had tubing in her nose that Tucker cruelly grabbed and ripped out, tearing all of the stitches within her nose. Ouch. Lehman knew something was not right, and was filled with the fear that Tucker had made her nose worst. Lucky for her that was all Tucker did to her and she was allowed to leave.
For a month Lehman was in severe pain. She rinsed her sinuses regularly with saline and did everything someone recovering from nasal surgery is instructed to do but nothing had helped. Incredibly she continued to report to Tucker. At one point she blew her nose into a tissue, producing a nearly neon yellow mucous. When she showed it to Tucker he stated the tissue was clear. Later it turned out to be caused by gauze that Tucker had left in her nose. He claimed that Lehman just “didn’t want to get better”. By now the poor woman was quite deformed. Her face would never be the same.
As an aside, this case reminds me of a terrible procedure Sigmund Freud had performed on one of his depressed patients, 27-year-old Emma Eckstein. He recommended she have surgery on her nose by a surgeon friend of his named Wilhelm Fliess because the woman suffered from a non-existent condition called ‘nasal reflex neurosis’ wherein the nose and the genitals share a connection producing neurotic symptoms. The surgeon botched the job and left her deformed. It took another surgeon to find and remove a piece of gauze Fliess had left behind in her nasal passage. Maybe Tucker was the reincarnated Fliess.
Armed with antibiotics, she spent weeks fighting infections and abscesses in her sinuses but the damage, went beyond the gauze. Her cartilage was so mangled that one side of her nose would later collapse; years later, she’d wake up to find cartilage protruding from her skin. As Lehman tried to figure out what to do, her terror grew. Then, one day, driving home from Marquette, she swore she spotted Tucker was in his car, carefully following her. She knew then she had to leave town. Within three weeks, she’d fled to Austin, Texas, where friends had recommended she hide out. Once there, she continued pursuing a complaint she’d filed against Tucker.
The pile of complaints was the largest against any doctor in the state, according to William Bissett, then 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.
Mary and her Mammaries
Another woman, Mary, went to Dr. Tucker for breast augmentation surgery. Like Lehman, Mary left with a horrible infection and excruciating pain. She agreed to undergo two more follow-up surgeries. On the last one Mary left a note describing everything that she had been through with Dr. Tucker, fearful that she may not survive the surgery She said that the horrible scarring around her now rectangular breasts resembled football stitching, and she endured much worst physical and emotional pain than just a botched boob job.
During one procedure Tucker had stuck her in the breast with a large needle without anesthetic. She claimed in another incident Tucker pulled part of an implant out of an incision, again with no anesthetic to dull the pain. Ouch. Even after the nurses protested, seeing that Mary was in pain, Tucker sat stone-faced and continued on with his procedure. Someone should have changed his name to Dr. Frankenstein.
Two other cases emerged. One man sought the help of Tucker for spasms he was experiencing in his left arm. After Tucker botch the surgeries he performed on the man, the arm had to be amputated. A woman having just lost over 100 pounds hoped Tucker could assist her by removing excess skin around her abdominal area, arms, and breasts. Like the other cases, the woman’s operation required over a dozen follow-up surgeries to correct Tucker’s work. Although Wisconsin was known to have leniency towards doctors in malpractice suits, four of the six cases found Tucker medically negligent, something of a legal precedent.
The Great Escape
This was when Tucker hatched his harebrained scheme to leave Wisconsin for Florida, under the guise of having drowned. When Joan and Virginia heard the news they decided he was struggling emotionally and they wanted to help him. Virginia actually felt that with proper psychological treatment, Tucker’s depression and the malpractice allegations could have been prevented entirely and allowed her father to live a functional life. Tucker should have become a patient of Freud’s. Or better still, Fliess.
Tucker knew that he would never be able to live in Wisconsin due to the harassment over his botched surgeries, or ever work within his field again. Virginia claimed that the truth was Tucker was emotionally broken and needed to leave for a fresh start. His fresh start however also turned into a disaster. When Tucker’s first wife died at 73, Virginia felt that he was completely lost. She encouraged him to use a dating service and through the internet he met his second wife, also named Joan. Sweet Jesus. No wonder dating sites are potentially dangerous. Let this be a lesson to anyone who uses them.
He moved the new Joan into his home and officially married her in 2005. Joan suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair. Eventually she was taken to assisted living, but later pulled out against Tucker’s wishes and brought back to his home. Tucker resented the fact that he had to care for Joan and even confided in neighbors that he did not want her there. If ever there was a warning sign, that was it.
In May of 2011, Tucker was living in a 60’s styled bungalow on Little Torch Key. Tucker’s neighbour, Douglas Harrison noticed the now 81-year-old Tucker, who was barefoot and wearing blue and white pajamas, as he put out his garbage at 11:50 a.m.. He called out to Tucker who ignored him. So Harrison carried him over an onion. Tucker sniffed it and mumbled “thank you” before going back inside the house. Moments later Harrison heard gun shots. He ran around to the back of Tucker’s house and stopped in shock. Through a window, he saw Joan propped upright in her wheelchair, her neck arced straight back, her mouth and eyes opened wide. Blood streamed from her chest, staining a pink sweater. A TV screen flickered silently behind her.
Glen Tucker walked out a side door, clutching a blued-steel Colt .45. “What the fuck are you doing?” Harrison screamed. “I’m calling the police.” “Don’t call the police,” Tucker replied, and climbed a staircase to an upstairs bedroom holding his Siamese cat. Police found Joan shot to death, as well as Tucker who was holding the family’s dead cat. Weeks before hearing the shots, Harrison recalled a conversation he had with Tucker. Tucker stated point-blank, “When life gets unbearable, I’ll be gone.” When Harrison jokingly enquired about Tucker’s cat, Luther, Tucker shot back, “I’ll do him first”.
When word got out about the murder-suicide in Florida, former patients of Tucker’s heard the news. Lehman read the article and described Tucker as a “monster” who had left her face permanently disfigured. She compared Tucker to Hannibal Lecter and is convinced that the murder-suicide was Tucker’s last chance to inflict pain upon another human being.
Other patients also corroborated Lehman’s opinion that Tucker was interested in nothing but dedicating his life to pure evil. Virginia defended dear old dad. She agreed her father performed bad surgeries, but he didn’t purposely disfigure or injure anyone. She still believed her father was a good doctor who devoted his life to helping people. When he took his life, along with his wife’s, it wasn’t because he wanted to hurt anyone. He was simply in despair and couldn’t bear to think that no one would be around to care for his wife, or little Luther the cat, and that death was the only option for all of them.
Jeckyll or Hyde
Incompetent doctor struggling within the throws of depression, or a sadistic madman? No one may ever know the real story behind the disgraced Tucker, or know what drove him to kill his wife and cat before turning the gun on himself. The only thing that is certain is that at least a dozen patients have suffered life-long injuries at the hands of Dr. Glen Tucker. Myself I believe the man was mentally unstable and displayed sadistic, evil tendencies. Somewhere in the DSM lies the answer to the Tucker riddle.