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 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 that 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 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 that 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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3 comments
edwartfruitman
edwartfruitman

These sort of suicidal cases are usually the result of depression or sometimes even of a disease like dementia or ADHD. For depression people usually opt for antidepressants which may involve serious side effects like sleepwalking. These side effects can be lethal and when such an incident occurs, it is hard to say if it was a suicide or murder. To avoid these side effects, you must avoid the drugs in the first place and choose other methods of treatment like TMS therapies or acupuncture.

kp.ryan
kp.ryan

Imagine, Tucker and Levy working side by side in the same hospital.  

 

I wonder if there were more.

mssnyder2012
mssnyder2012

You mentioned Milwaukee Plastic Surgeon  Dr. Donald Levy in the above story. You need to know that Dr. Levy, when going through a nasty divorce from his wife Mary , threatened his ex-wife that he had means to kill her without anyone knowing. Mary owned very expensive horses.  Dr. Levy was seen going into the barn one morning and injecting plastic into Mary's horses vein...resulting in the horse dying a horrible death.  Charles Skyes did an extensive feature story at the time in Mlwaukee Magazine.  Nothing happened to Levy.  He continued to be allowed to practice surgery.  It was awful and unfair.   

 
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