Richard E. Thacker

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Dr. Richard E. Thacker

Richard E. Thacker and John W. Eisiminger were not ordinary doctors who just did abortions on a few patients. They were abortionists, and quack abortionists at that.

Marie Epperson, just 19 years old, was an early victim, who died in February of 1929. Thacker and Eisimger seemed to have grown skittish after Marie's death, since they managed to go for three years without killing another patient.

That all changed in 1932.

Isobabell Ferguson was the second known victim that year, with both doctors implicated in her April death. The very next day, Ruth Hall died of suspected abortion complications. Once again, Elsiminger and Thacker were suspects. Ethel Hestland, age 30, had died earlier in April from a criminal abortion; Thacker had signed her death certificate.

Eisiminger alone was the suspect in the abortion death of Virginia Lee Wyckoff, a 21-year-old student at the University of Oklahoma who died the 24th of April. That same day, Lennis May Roach died of suspected abortion complications, with both Elsiminger and Thacker suspected in the case. The next day, 17-year-old Nancy Joe Lee, a University of Oklahoma co-ed, died under the care of Thacker, who had had also been charged with murder in the abortion death of Robbie Lou Thompson, age 21, the previous week.

Geraldine Easley, age 19, admitted before her death in mid-March, 1932, that she had undergone a criminal abortion. After Eisiminger and Thacker had been fingered in the string of abortions in April, suspicion in Geraldine's death naturally leaned toward the two known quack abortionists.

Thacker fled the state after the deaths of Robbie Lou Thompson and Nancy Jo Lee, leading to a multi-state investigation, including an inquiry by the secretary-treasurer of the California Board of Medical Examiners regarding a suspicious man who applied for a medical license on April 26, three days after his disappearance from Oklahoma.[2] He was finally found and arrested in Springdale, Arkansas on July 19.

Thacker was sentenced to life in prison for Ruth Hall's death. "The 12 men on the jury, eight of them fathers, deliberated a little more than an hour last night, taking only four ballots." Thacker "maintained his composure at the verdict, but flinched as the clerk read the sentence." Thacker's attorney announced an immediate motion for an appeal, on the grounds that Thacker's other abortions should not have been admitted as testimony.[3]

Thacker, age 60, was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor. He was incarcerated at McAlester Penitentiary on December 1, 1932.

His friends tried to rally supporters to gain parole for Thacker, including asking for support from the Oklahoma City American Legion Post in 1936 since Thacker had been an Army doctor in WWI. The parole was not forthcoming.

Despite the sentence, he did not do hard labor but instead worked providing medical care to prisoners. He died of a heart attack shortly after midnight on April 1, 1937, while at his work in the trusty building.

A practical nurse, Mrs. Luther Bryant Price, operated a private sanitarium in the Oklahoma City area. She told the County Attorney that several young women had come to the sanitarium for treatment after being injured by Thacker, but insisted that the abortions had not been perpetrated on-site.[1]

Sources:
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  • "At Least Five Girls Dead After Illegal Operations in Oklahoma City District," Mexia (TX) Weekly Herald, Apr. 29, 1932
  • "Probe 'Epidemic' Of Illegal Operations in Oklahoma City," Elyria (OH) Chronicle Telegram, Apr. 29, 1932
  • "Accused Slayer Reported Found," Salt Lake Tribune, Jul. 20, 1932
  • "Legion Aid Enlisted in Thacker's Behalf," Miami (OK) Daily News-Record, May 28, 1936
  • "Doctor Dies in Prison," Miami (OK) Daily News-Record, Apr. 1, 1937

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