An Inverness forensic artist could hold the key to solving a notorious Stateside murder riddle.
Hew’s reputation brought him to the attention of author and criminologist Logan Avalos who wants him to help him crack a 41-year-old murder mystery by creating images of the perpetrator as he would look now, aged 65, for a new appeal.
Pharmacy student Richard Bocklage went on the run in September 1980 after slaying fiancée Dr Tanya Kopric in a car park in Kansas City.
He was recognised by several eyewitness, and his abandoned car was found in Canada shortly afterward. He has a capital murder rap on his head- but where is he now?
The case became notorious through exposure on the TV shows America’s Most Wanted, and Unsolved Mysteries – but the trail seems to have gone permanently cold.
Logan, who researched the case extensively as part of his studies, said: “I am interested in the case because Kansas City Police Department is not.
“I decided to turn my research into a blog and Last Traces website to appeal for information in memory of the victim, and possibly solve this tragic mystery.
“Everyone has always thought the age progression used in the 1991 episode of Unsolved Mysteries was very poor.
“Hew created the 65-year-old Bocklage using photos of Bocklage’s closest living relatives – mainly his sister who is a spitting image of him, his cousin and several other next-of-kin.”
Hew, who went to art school in Edinburgh and on to Dundee University to do an MSc in forensic art and facial identification, said: “One would take pictures of as many family members as possible throughout time to see familial traits, that being general appearance and how they themselves aged, then factor all of those things in.”
Normal all-American childhood
Richard Gerard Bocklage was born on July 12 1957 in the St Louis suburb of Alton to parents Patricia and Vincent Bocklage.
Logan says he and his sister, born a few years later, grew up comfortably in an ‘All-American’ family, with his first cousin remembering him as ‘a very sweet and precocious small child, very normal and kind’.
Bocklage attended a strict Roman Catholic school, was bright, played football, was well-liked and had many girlfriends.
Logan said: “His first cousin stresses that Richard was perfectly normal, grew up in a perfectly normal home with his sister and very loving, caring parents.
“She says if anything Richard was maybe slightly spoiled as there were only two children in his family and 11 in mine.”
A problem emerged in puberty
But in puberty, a shadow crossed his life – something which may also help identify him beyond doubt.
Logan says: “It was round the time that Bocklage was going through puberty he started having severe axillary hyperhidrosis, which causes profuse sweating.
“He would sweat when he was nervous, before dates, he would have to leave class to change shirts. It was a serious problem that really affected his social life.”
“By age 17 he had enough.
“He decided to have surgery done on his sweat glands to put an end to his debilitating sweat issues.
“His sweat glands were removed and left vertical scars under his armpits, which would later be a pertinent detail in his identity.”
In 1979, Richard was accepted into the School of Pharmacy at the University of Missouri.
His cousin Paul, a gynaecologist, was also attending the university, and Richard moved into his apartment to start his studies.
Fatefully, not long afterwards. Paul invited fellow gynaecologist Dr Tatjana F Kopric to a party also attended by Richard.
Attractive, charismatic Tatjana was twelve years older than Richard, at 35, but that didn’t stop Richard asking her on a date.
She came from a long line of doctors in Breza in Bosnia-Herzogovina.
Logan says: “In 1975 she emigrated to the United States with dreams of building her own private practice.
“In 1978 she landed a two-year residency program at Truman Medical Centre in Kansas City in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology.
“She was well-liked among her peers and colleagues.”
Tatjana established her own private practice called Prime Health, and by the time she met Richard was doing well financially, able to send money and gifts home to her family.
The romance moved fast.
Richard moved in with Tatjana and things appeared to be going well – so well that the couple announced their engagement.
But friends had their doubts, as Logan reports in his blog.
“Tatjana’s friends were concerned about her relationship to Bocklage who they suspected was using her for money.
“Reportedly Richard Bocklage did use Tajana’s credit card quite frequently.”
Bocklage’s studies went into rapid decline as he skipped classes to be with his fiancée, and there was worse to come.
Logan says: “Dr Kopric realised that her fiancé had a propensity for angry outbursts.
“She began confiding in friends that he had major highs and lows, often bursting into fits of anger.
“Friends reported that he could act crazy, not drunk, but something else. He was laughing and acting very odd.”
Bocklage even climbed onto the roof of their apartment one day, telling his fiancée he thought someone was going to break in.
Logan says: “Today, some may believe that someone having delusions of robbers breaking into their apartment might be symptomatic of schizophrenia or substance abuse.
“The onset of schizophrenia in males is usually in their early 20s, Richard was 23.”
Richard’s family takes issue with the schizophrenia theory.
His cousin told Logan: “I never believed that he had any kind of mental illness.
“We all felt possibly he was doing some sort of drugs – speed or whatever – because he did act odd the last time we saw him at the ranch, just before the murder.”
In July 1980, things started to go badly wrong.
Bocklage’s grades weren’t good enough for him to continue at the University of Missouri’s pharmacy school, but nonetheless, he would sometimes go to class and sit in the back.
Retired Detective Warren Miller, who was on the case at the time, told Logan: “This was a kid who couldn’t face reality.
“He’d go to labs and work on his own.
“Becoming a pharmacist was a pipe dream.”
Eventually Bocklage had to be forcibly taken out of the classroom.
And his engagement was also unravelling.
Bocklage thought Tatjana could get the Dean of Admissions to reconsider his academic dismissal, but she refused.
Engagement broken off
The relationship had become stormy and argumentative, often about finances, and Tatjana now broke off their engagement, telling him to leave their apartment.
Bocklage moved back into his cousin’s apartment, saying he and his fiancée were ‘having problems’.
Tatjana flew home on a family visit and Richard left Kansas City for a while to visit a family ranch where he seemed ‘strung out’ according to his cousin, acting as though he was still in school and had just taken a break to visit the family.
Logan’s research shows that by September, Bocklage was beginning to crack under the pressure of having his appeal to return to class denied.
Roaming about on campus
“On September 17, Bocklage was seen roaming around university hallways with a manila envelope.
“He asked several classmates if they knew where the dean of admissions was.
“Mercifully he had left minutes before Bocklage arrived on campus.
“Bocklage stayed a full two hours before finally giving up.
“Was he planning on killing the dean of admissions? No one really knows.”
But it seems the real source of his seething discontent was Tatjana, for whom he sacrificed his grades and was absent from many classes to be with, Logan says.
On the other hand, Tatjana’s friends say she herself had sacrificed a lot. “She wanted to get married, buy a house and have a couple of kids. Life was ahead of her.”
She arrived back in the States from her family visit on September 13 and had been trying to get Bocklage to remove his property from her apartment where, despite the break up, he had left much of his property.
Terror in the car park
On September 18, she started work again at her Prime Health office, and that evening, after buying groceries, returned to her apartment just before 8pm, stalling her car as she waited for her neighbour to remove some of her children’s toys from her parking spot.
Meanwhile, someone was stepping out of his car and heading towards her car.
Logan says: “Two witnesses watched someone they recognised approach Dr Kopric’s car – it was her ex-fiance, Richard Bocklage.
“According to the indictment, both witnesses had been outside for approximately an hour with their children.
“In sworn statements they both state they observed Bocklage get out of his car and walk up to Tatjana’s vehicle with a ‘dark material’ in his right hand.
“They watched Richard Bocklage extend his right arm into the open door of her vehicle and shoot her right in the face, ejecting three times from his .45 calibre automatic pistol.
“They watched in horror as the victim slumped down in the car and glass rained all over the parking lot.”
Terrifyingly, the witnesses reported that Bocklage stared at them for several seconds – but didn’t shoot.
He got into his black and silver Oldsmobile Tornado, used a pre-punched car to get out of the car park and drove off into the night.
Tatjana had been killed instantly.
Car found in Canada
Six days later, Bocklage’s car was found abandoned in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada, 900 miles away.
He was seen by two local residents.
Investigators believed that he later returned to the United States.
Two months after the murder, Tanya’s parents received a letter from him, postmarked two days before.
In it, he stated that she had been executed and that her death was necessary and “inevitable”.
Logan says the letter was a spiteful message to his ex-fiancée’s family – informing them that Tatjana had to die for being a “communist bitch” and that she had been executed by “professional assassins”.
The note said: “Tanya had lost all sense of her parameters – she mocked our country, she mocked our people. She attempted to dictate her perverted will on everyone”.
When most people thought Bocklage was using the doctor for money, Bocklage accused Tatjana of doing the same in his letter: “It became clear her only purpose of being in this country was to become rich at the expense of anyone and anything.”
Trail went cold
No leads have appeared to do with Bocklage since.
But Logan found something out from Bocklage’s unnamed first cousin: “They indicated that he had been seen and associated with some sort of robbery and they believed he was in the States committing some sort of thefts.”
The family say they assume he is dead.
Logan writes: “The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office who worked the case since 1980 concedes, ‘we never have been close to catching him. The last evidence of him being alive is when he ditched his car in Canada and left a note.
“The FBI were present at his mother as well as father’s funeral in St. Louis thinking he might show but no luck.”
The families want answers
Logan says he hopes someone spots Richard Bocklage or comes forward saying, “I know what happened to him.”
“Not only does the Kopric family still want answers but the Bocklage family have also been deeply affected.
“His sister is deeply religious and wants to know what happened to her brother.
“She wants to find his remains so he can be buried in their plot.”
The Bocklage family still has so many unanswered questions, they say.
He added: “I wouldn’t say I am fully convinced Bocklage is alive but I do think we need to assume he is until proven otherwise.
“Tanya was brutally murdered and then her family was tortured with the letter he sent.
“There is still a lot of overwhelming interest in this case and it would also satisfy the Unsolved Mysteries and America’s Most Wanted communities to see him behind bars.”
Meanwhile he’s waiting to hear if the FBI will use Hew’s progression on their own website.
Hew has his own thoughts on the fate of Richard Bocklage.
He said: “We simply don’t know that much about where he has been or what he’s been up to, but looking into his psychology, behavioural traits and what not, he was a very vain, arrogant, self-entitled and narcissistic person.
“I personally feel this would not have changed, if he had the gall to do what he did, then write a letter to the victim’s family taunting them after the murder, I don’t think he would feel bad about carrying on as normal, only in a different location.
“He may very well have started a new life with girlfriends, even a wife and children.”
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