By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
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."
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 that 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' 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.' "
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.