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Kevin Cullen

They were a couple of healers. Now one is charged with murdering the other

Dr. Ingolf “Harry” Tuerk and his wife Kathleen “Katie” McLean devoted their lives to healing people. Now she’s dead and he’s accused of murdering her in a horrific case that shows domestic violence knows no boundaries.

A teddy bear and flowers  were placed outside the Dover home that Kathleen McLean shared with Ingolf Tuerk.
A teddy bear and flowers were placed outside the Dover home that Kathleen McLean shared with Ingolf Tuerk.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

They got married in Las Vegas 11 days before Christmas.

Fifty-one days later, he was out of their house in Dover.

She filed for divorce two months after their wedding.

Three months after that, she was dead.

In five months, from the moment Kathleen “Katie” McLean said “I do,” to the moment State Police divers found her body Saturday in a pond near the home she shared with her husband Dr. Ingolf “Harry” Tuerk, her marriage and life dissolved into a disturbing text-book case of domestic violence.

Even after her husband choked her, even after filing charges against him, even after filing for divorce, Katie McLean took him back and tried to reconcile. Maybe because, as survivors of domestic violence in their desperation sometimes hope, she thought that might get him to stop hurting her.

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She withdrew her divorce papers. She asked Norfolk County prosecutors to drop the conditions that kept her husband out of their home, but Assistant District Attorney Michael Pirrello refused and two judges agreed with him. But when she withdrew the restraining order, Tuerk was back in.

Now prosecutors, who carry the sobering knowledge that men who choke their wives in a fit of rage don’t change overnight, will try Harry Tuerk for the strangulation murder of his wife.

Despite their age difference, Tuerk, 58, and McLean, 45, had something in common. They were healers. He was a renowned urologist, an especially prolific surgeon. She was a practitioner of Reiki, a non-invasive alternative approach that stimulates the body’s natural healing process.

At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Tuerk was an Olympic athlete for his native East Germany and remained an imposing figure, towering over his colleagues during surgeries, which, according to a 2004 Globe profile, he performed in bare feet while blasting classic rock.

But, after Tuerk’s career ended abruptly, what might be seen as quirky behavior could also manifest itself as controlling, such as his refusal to tell his wife the code for their home’s thermostat. According to police, after McLean took out a restraining order, Tuerk remotely dropped the temperature in the house to 54 degrees.

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On Feb. 7, according to records, McLean told Dover police officer Joseph Woollard she worried that her husband would retaliate against her for filing charges. Woollard reassured her that Tuerk had not yet received a summons, so there was no immediate threat. But he advised her to change the garage door entry code and said police would perform regular checks on the house.

She began to see her husband’s behavior in a more sinister light. She told Woollard that her husband had mentioned that one of his patients had offered to kill his ex-wife. Initially, she thought he was joking, but now worried. Woollard said she declined to make a formal report about those remarks.

Just as quickly as she had recognized Tuerk’s disturbing behavior, she decided to give their marriage another shot.

In an affidavit, State Trooper Jeffrey Kotkowski said that when he interviewed Tuerk in Norwood Hospital on Saturday, Tuerk admitted to strangling Katie after the two had argued, and to disposing of her body. When State Police divers found her body, there were rocks in her pants.

Katie McLean’s murder might get more attention than most, because the batterer who became her alleged murderer is a physician, and the crime took place in one of Boston’s most affluent suburbs.

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But those are distractions that merely prove a larger point, that domestic violence pays no attention to status or ZIP codes. Some accomplished men try to control women with violence the same way men of no accomplishment do.

In his affidavit, Kotkowski wrote that Tuerk claimed Katie started the fight, but also cited a text message Tuerk sent to one of Katie’s friends, seemingly to explain why Tuerk killed her.

“Sorry, brother,” Harry Tuerk allegedly texted, “but she is a vindictive devil, she played us all . . . she manipulated us all.”

It’s the oldest excuse in the book, the standard of batterers who become murderers: She started it, she was the devil, and the devil made me do it.


Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at kevin.cullen@globe.com.