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Once a star surgeon, Dover man now charged in death of his wife

A Facebook photo of Dr. Ingolf Tuerk and his wife Kathleen McLean.
A Facebook photo of Dr. Ingolf Tuerk and his wife Kathleen McLean.

Before a former top surgeon at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center was accused by authorities over the weekend of killing his wife, she told police he had repeatedly abused her during their months-long marriage.

Dr. Ingolf Tuerk, of Dover, was scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Dedham District Court for the killing of Kathleen McLean, according to the Norfolk district attorney’s office. The two had married in December, after being together for more than two years.

The allegations against Tuerk, 58, formerly the hospital’s head of urology and a former Olympic star in his native East Germany, stand in contrast to his public reputation as a pioneering physician at the top of his field.

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McLean, 45, ran Birch Tree Energy and Healing in Sudbury, a business that offered Reiki services to clients.

Tuerk was already facing charges filed in February that he had repeatedly attacked McLean over the past few months, including strangling her and cutting her with scissors. McLean had secured a restraining order against him that month.

But by early this month, the two had reconciled — in court papers, McLean asked for the restraining order to be vacated and said she did not want to pursue criminal charges. They committed to couples counseling, and Tuerk — who uses the nickname “Harry” — would also seek individual therapy.

“I feel safe and would like to bring my family back together with my husband,” McLean wrote in a May 2 court affidavit, later adding, “My goal is to salvage our family including reuniting with my husband as father and stepfather to my children.”

On Saturday night, police found her body in an outdoor area near her Valley Road home in Dover, according to the Norfolk district attorney’s office. Authorities said McLean was last seen in her home on Thursday evening. Police had been investigating the circumstances of her disappearance when they developed information about her possible location and found her remains, the DA’s office said. Authorities did not release any other details, including a cause of death.

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On Sunday, those close to McLean mourned a generous mother of three who brought joy to those around her.

John DeLima, who said he has been a close friend of McLean since they met as teenagers, called her the "kindest person I’ve ever known.”

Loree Gunn, a friend and Reiki client of McLean, called her “pure magic."

“She had a huge heart and a big purpose in this world and the world will not be the same without her in it,” Gunn said. “Her work was incredibly transformational. She was one-of-a-kind.”

McLean’s business offered Reiki workshops and classes to clients that were intended to “nourish mind, body, and soul.” according to her LinkedIn page.

But her relationship with Tuerk was marred by violence, she confided to friends, who urged her to report her concerns to police.

DeLima said McLean had described her husband as angry, he said.

“Several times I heard things. ... Just that he was angry and very controlling and that he put hands on her in the past,” he said.

In a Dover police report, McLean told officers on Feb. 3 that she was being physically abused by Tuerk and was seeking a divorce. He had lost his job, she said, and just sat around the house.

“She said she was afraid of Ingolf and did not know what he would do once she had filed for divorce,” according to the report. She told family members and two friends who were police officers about the abuse “in case something happened to her.”

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Tuerk is the father of two teenage boys; McLean has three children of her own, according to court papers and a Dover police report.

Larry Corcoran, 50, who was an acquaintance of McLean’s, said in an interview Sunday that McLean confided in him that Tuerk had grown despondent and began drinking heavily.

“The slow deterioration of his career as doctor and surgeon is when he started getting more violent,” Corcoran said, based on her account.

Tuerk was once a star of the region’s medical community. St. Elizabeth’s even used his image on a billboard posted along the Massachusetts Turnpike in 2009.

He was a member of the East German Olympic decathlon team in 1980, but quit athletic competition when he entered medical school, according to a 2004 Globe profile while he was practicing at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington. He taught himself surgical techniques while working at the Berlin Charite Hospital in East Berlin.

Tuerk was lauded by a colleague at Lahey for his innovations in performing laparoscopic surgery.

At Lahey, he would play classic rock music during surgeries. During one procedure observed by a Globe reporter, Tuerk chose Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

In 2012, while chief of urology at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Tuerk was featured in a video profile posted to Steward Health Care’s Youtube channel that described him as “not your typical surgeon.” He’s featured rolling up to the hospital on the back of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and described as standing 6 foot 3, with an athletic physique.

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The video highlights his work with robotic surgery and the relationships he built with patients, including those with cancer.

But in recent months, Tuerk has faced public sanctions.

In February, he was formally terminated from Steward Medical Group, which operates St. Elizabeth Medical Center, according to a statement from Patrick Lombardo, a Steward executive vice president of human resources. Tuerk has not seen or treated patients as part of Steward Medical Group for more than a year, the statement said.

In November, Tuerk agreed to pay $150,000 to resolve allegations that he caused his employer to inappropriately bill the state’s Medicaid Program, according to the Massachusetts attorney general’s office.

Tuerk had billed for portions of surgical procedures that never took place and office visits he did not attend or supervise, the attorney general said, and he had to implement a multi-year compliance program at his own expense if he continued to practice medicine after 2019.

The state Board of Registration in Medicine assisted in that investigation. George Zachos, the agency’s executive director, said they have reached out to Tuerk’s attorney to see if he would voluntarily surrender his license.

“If not, the board can take immediate action to suspend his license,” Zachos said in an e-mail.

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Howard Cooper, Tuerk’s attorney, declined comment to the Globe on Sunday.

In the February Dover police report, McLean told officers that she and Tuerk got into an argument in December while they were in bed.

During the fight, Tuerk slammed her head into the headboard, then used one hand to strangle her, while covering her nose and mouth with the other.

“McLean stated that she felt like ‘she had trouble breathing and though she was going to die’ and ‘everything went black,’” according to the police report. “During the incident she screamed and one of her kids heard her.”

In January, McLean told police Tuerk picked her up and threw her to the ground during an argument — she hit the floor so hard, the shoes she wore were knocked off, she told police, according to the Dover report.

After both incidents, Tuerk told McLean he loved her.

And in another incident McLean called “bizarre,” Tuerk picked up a pair of scissors, and told her, “I’m the king of this castle... you are only a guest."

He then cut off a small piece of her hair, McLean said, slicing her hand as she tried to stop him. The attack occurred in front of her son, she told police.

She also told police Tuerk would track her location using her iPhone, and in one instance, Tuerk called everyone on her recent contact list to find out who she had spoken with.

In a separate interview with Dover police, Tuerk said there had been no physical violence, and the only time he had touched her was when she tried to take his phone.

Once the restraining order was issued in early February, Dover police officers who served the order on Tuerk confiscated three long guns, two handguns, and ammunition from his home, according to a police report. Tuerk also handed over his license to carry firearms to police.

Tuerk became upset when he learned of the order from police, the report said.

“As we entered the house Tuerk stated that he was ‘just trying to provide a nice house for McLean and her kids to stay in and now he had to leave,’" according to the Dover police report.

Outside McLean’s home on Valley Road on Sunday morning, a teddy bear could be seen leaning against a tree, a purple daisy in a pot nestled between its arms.

Jill Chen, who has lived in the neighborhood for five years, said she saw police cars outside the home a few days ago.

She was shocked to hear the news, she said. “We didn’t realize something bad had happened until today."

Jessica Rinaldi and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.









John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.