It was on September 24th, 1980, when a Canadian man found a 1975 Oldsmobile Toronado abandoned on the side of the highway just north of Thompson, Manitoba—several miles south of Mystery Lake. A note was found on the window and the car was out of gas.
“Whoever finds this, keep it,” the note said. “I don’t need it anymore. I’m going back to the United States.” When Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the Thompson detachment recovered the car and ran its license plate, the RCMP saw that the car was one of several owned by an American fugitive, wanted in connection with a murder that took place several days prior in Kansas City, Missouri—more than 1,200 miles south of Thompson, Manitoba.
It was one of the final events in a series of tragic circumstances; an unexpected downward spiral by a former pharmacy student at the University of Missouri—23-year-old Richard Gerard Bocklage.
A native of St. Louis, Bocklage was born into a middle-class family in the St. Louis suburb of Afton on July 12th, 1957 to parents Patricia and Vincent Bocklage. Richard’s sister was born a few years later and they both grew-up as the “All-American” 1970s family at 9153 Coral Drive.
“Richard was a very sweet and precocious small child,” says Richard’s first cousin who grew up with him. “I remember one of the early things he said was ‘Falstaff’ and we all laughed because he could say that so early,” she recounts. “His father, my uncle Vince, was a bit of a clown and thought it was pretty funny to teach-a very small boy how to say the word ‘Falstaff’.” (One of Shakespeare’s most popular characters, Sir John Falstaff).
Richard’s first cousin emphasizes, “He was always very normal and kind and fit in with all of the rest of us cousins and families that are all very close.” She recollects Richard’s happier times and playing at, “Yearly summer picnics and family Christmas party every year.”
Growing up in Afton, Richard was sent to a strict but prominent Roman Catholic school where he played football and even did missionary work his sophomore and junior years. Richard graduated in 1975. His senior photo shows a clean-shaven different Richard Bocklage than most know today—a teenager who seemed to be on his way to a bright academic future in the late 70s. By all accounts, he was well-liked among his peers and had many girlfriends. He also loved to collect cars, cruising around the St. Louis skyline and spending plenty of time outdoors. He would spend weekends often camping with friends in the Mark Twain National Forest.
It was around the time that Bocklage was going through puberty, his cousin says, he developed severe axillary hyperhidrosis. In the 1970s, hyperhidrosis was not well-understood. Today, it is recognized as a social, emotional and work-related disability which affects 3% of the population. Individuals with hyperhidrosis suffer an extremely negative impact on their quality of life on a par with being severely affected by psoriasis. Some cases are worse than others. Most of the sufferers have the primary genetic form of hyperhidrosis.
“He would sweat before tests, he would start sweating on dates, he would leave class to change shirts,” one of his classmates recounts. “It was a serious problem for him that really effected his social life.”
By age 17, Richard Bocklage had enough. In the 1970s, the most common treatment for severe axillary hyperhidrosis was surgical excision of the sweat glands. Bocklage decided to have surgery done on his sweat glands to put an end to his debilitating sweat issues. His sweat glands were surgically removed and left vertical scars under his armpits—which would later become the most pertinent detail in his identification.
In late 1979, Richard compiled his high school transcript and recommendation letters from his gynecologist cousin, Paul, who was attending the University of Missouri—sending them to the admissions department which accepted him into their School of Pharmacy.
Richard, inspired by his educated and highly sophisticated family members, fell in love with the idea of becoming a pharmacist. Richard was to start in the Spring 1979 quarter but later switched to fall, which was when he moved to Kansas City.
In 1980, becoming a pharmacist was a very popular major among college students, as drug companies began to pour massive amounts of money into producing newly-developed synthetic drugs in an effort to help those with chronic health conditions; some which were thought to be revolutionary to the world of medicine. The pharmaceutical market was booming in the late 70s.
“You couldn’t convince him that he wasn’t going to become a pharmacist,” says retired Detective Warren Miller. Detective Miller calls it a “pipe dream”.
Richard’s cousin, Paul, attended the residency program at Truman Medical Center. So it was in January of 1980, when his fellow OBGYN colleague, a 35-year-old Yugoslavian native, attended a party Paul invited her to. At the same party happened to be the charismatic and attentive pharmacy student, Richard Bocklage. Richard asked her on a date and their relationship started off very well. Her name: Tatjana Kopric. But all her friends called her, “Tanya”.
Tatjana F. Kopric was born on the 30th of June, 1945, into a long family line of doctors in Breza, Yugoslavia (now in the countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina). In 1970, Tatjana graduated from Belgrade University Medical School, in what is now Serbia. In 1975, she immigrated to the United States with dreams of building her own private practice. Her future fiancé was just graduating high school at that time. She settled in Montgomery, Alabama, accepting an internship at the Montgomery Medical Foundation. After a year of internship, she transferred to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Then, in January of 1978, she landed a two-year residency program at Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Tatjana was an impressive, strong-willed, and determined immigrant according to her peers and colleagues. By the time her fellow gynecologist and colleague introduced Dr. Kopric to his cousin, Richard Bocklage, she had established her own private practice called Prime Health where she was reportedly making a steady salary—sending money and gifts home to her family in Rijecka (a city on the northern Adriatic coast).
While Dr. Kopric enjoyed dancing, skiing, parties and picnics—there was also what her friends called a “reserved side”.
“She tended to be formal like many other Europeans.” Dr. Robert M. Kretzchmar who was the head of the OBGYN Department at the Truman Medical Center where Dr. Kopric was completing her residency says. “She was able to get along so well on her own and I’m sure she would have. She was a fine physician.”
Richard then moved in with his new girlfriend, sharing an apartment at 2933 Baltimore Avenue. Despite being 11-years-younger than Dr. Kopric, their romance continued to blossom into mid-1980. Tatjana’s friend, Louise Birt, who passed away in 2018 recalled the day Bocklage proposed to Tatjana. Richard showed-up at Louise Birt’s house just off the University of Missouri campus. In his hand was a wedding ring. Louise Birt would later tell the Sedalia Democrat she stood there on her front steps “stunned” to see Dr. Kopric elated at the proposal who eagerly accepted—immediately embracing her American fiancé. “I tried to be happy for her but something just did not sit right with me,” she said. Richard Bocklage started planning a future with the newly-established doctor who was said to have had a true gift for the science of OBGYN. However, Tatjana’s friends were concerned about the doctor’s relationship to Bocklage who they suspected was using the doctor for money. Reportedly, Richard Bocklage did use Tatjana’s credit card quite frequently.
Although Richard was intent of pursuing his dreams of being a Doctor of Pharmacy, Blockage’s tenure as a Pharmacy Student at the University of Missouri Kansas City was short—lasting approximately a year-and-a-half. During his last months of enrollment, he was trying to show Tatjana more attention than his studies—often skipping classes to travel with her. Richard even drove his OBGYN doctor fiancé to meet his parents in St. Louis (but he was missing classes to do so). Dr. Kopric, reportedly unaware of Richard’s increasing lack of attention to his studies, saw his hometown and toured the St. Louis arch. A receipt from a gas station in St. Louis would later be found in Dr. Kopric’s car. Richard’s fiancé payed, of course.
Richard’s professors at the School of Pharmacy noticed a lack of interest growing. His grades started slipping as he became distracted by his new relationship with the lucrative Dr. Kopric. His academic advisor, Jane Leigh, said he wasn’t willing to put in the amount of study a student of pharmacy must maintain.
By the Spring of 1980, Dr. Kopric realized her fiancé had a propensity for angry outbursts. Dr. Kopric began confiding in friends that her fiancé was having major highs and lows; often bursting into fits of anger. A friend of Dr. Kopric’s, Zlata Gregoric, recounts a time where Tatjana had visited Richard at his cousin’s house. Ms. Gregoric states, “[Bocklage] was acting crazy. He wasn’t drunk, but something else. He was laughing and acting very odd.”
On another occasion, Richard climbed onto the roof of their apartment, paranoid on-the-surface. He told his fiancé that he thought someone was breaking into their apartment. Seemingly symptomatic of mental illness or substance abuse (although they go hand-in-hand), the onset of schizophrenia for males is usually in their early 20’s. Richard was 23-years-old while engaged to Dr. Kopric.
“I never believed that he had any kind of mental illness,” says Richard’s first cousin. “We all felt that 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.”
Richard’s first cousin stresses that, “Richard was perfectly normal who grew up in a perfectly normal home with his sister and very loving, caring parents. He was just like my family; his mother and my father being siblings—they were very much alike. If anything Richard was maybe slightly spoiled as there were only two children in his family and 11 in mine”.
In July of 1980, things slowly began to unravel for Richard Bocklage. Bocklage was notified on August 13th that his low grades made him ineligible for further attendance at the University of Missouri’s School of Pharmacy.
Despite his academic dismissal, Richard would sometimes go to class and sit in the back. “This was a kid who couldn’t face reality,” says retired Detective Warren Miller. “He’d go to labs and work on his own.” Eventually, Bocklage had to be forcibly taken out of the classroom.
Dr. Kopric’s sister, Zlotka, an orthodontist, was visiting her sister’s newly established life in Kansas City at this time.
Bocklage thought his fiancé’s reputation could get the Dean of Admissions to reconsider his academic dismissal. On September 2nd, despite an already stormy affair and arguments about finances, Richard asked Dr. Kopric to talk to the Dean of Admissions to give him a second chance at attending the School of Pharmacy. Dr. Kopric refused and (in the same moment) told Richard it was over between them. Dr. Kopric broke off their engagement and asked Richard to leave their apartment at 2933 Baltimore Avenue.
His first cousin says Richard was “devastated” and “shocked”. Richard Bocklage moved back in with his cousins at 7516 Locust Street. Richard confided in his cousin that his one-time fiancé and he were “having problems”.
Later that week, Dr. Kopric flew to Yugoslavia to visit family for a few weeks. With his ex-fiancé gone and his current academic dismissal, Richard himself left Kansas City for a while—traveling to Steamboat Springs to stay with family where he lied—telling them, “I’m just on break.”
This would be the last time Richard’s first cousin would ever see her younger cousin Richard alive. Richard’s cousin from Steamboat Springs recalls the day her disheveled and despondent cousin arrived at the ranch in his 1973 Buick Riviera. Richard’s cousin says that during his visit, he seemed “strung-out and not himself”.
“Nothing that concerned anyone; we just thought it was from road travel. He did act as though he were still in school and had just taken a break to come out to visit the family. I think the whole school thing was just an embarrassment that he had let a relationship interfere with his plans to become a pharmacist.”
Richard’s cousin says that during his visit, Richard seemed unsettled. After Richard spent a couple weeks at his cousin’s ranch in Colorado, pretending to be on break, he drove back to Kansas City—determined to get back into the School of Pharmacy without Dr. Kopric’s help. While Richard may have been prepared to be denied readmission, he was intent on writing a letter to the Dean of Admissions, begging him to reconsider and allow a return to class next quarter.
On September 17th, Richard began to crack under the pressure, beginning with his appeal to return to classes being denied. Richard’s stressors were compounding.
The same day, Bocklage was seen roaming around the university hallways with a manila envelope. Bocklage was seen with a large brown envelope in his hand and he asked several classmates if they knew where the Dean of Admissions was. The Dean of Admissions had left only several minutes before Bocklage arrived on campus. Bocklage stayed a full two-hours before finally giving up. Was Bocklage planning on killing the Dean of Admissions? Or did he have something else in mind? No one really knows; although it seems apparent the real source of his seething discontent was his ex-fiancé.
But one of Dr. Kopric’s friends, Vyeka Young says Dr. Kopric 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 had gone as high as she could hope to professionally.”
Dr. Kopric’s plane landed back in the United States on September 13th. She had no idea the fate that awaited her Thursday, September 18th, in the country she wanted to call her permanent home.
Thursday, September 18th, 1980, was, at first, a normal day for Dr. Kopric, working in private practice as an OBGYN at Prime Health. Just the day before, she had finally gotten Bocklage to remove all his property from her apartment. Despite the break-up, Bocklage had left much of his property at 2933 Baltimore Avenue; apparently hoping to leech onto Dr. Kopric for a while longer. Bocklage also demanded the engagement ring back.
“She was trying to get her personal life together,” says Young.
Shortly after 7:00pm that night, Tatjana spoke with her close friends, Zlata and Ivan Gregoric, over the telephone from her office at Prime Health. The Gregorics, who owned an auto body shop in Kansas City, stated that during the phone call Dr. Kopric ensured her close friends that “everything is fine” and thanked them for the repairs they had made on her car (one which would soon be destroyed). The Gregorics were known to have many qualms over Dr. Kopric’s relationship to the young pharmacist, even installing new locks on Dr. Kopric’s door after the break-up.
Despite Tatjana ensuring the Gregorics that she was okay, it was only a few minutes after that phone call, that Dr. Kopric called her close friend and colleague, Dr. Jolanda Nowonik.
The indictment states that Dr. Kopric confided in her friend and colleague her fears and concerns about her ex-fiancé; his taking a ring from her and all his property from the apartment they shared. Dr. Nowonik was familiar with Bocklage who she had the occasion to run into at Baptist Memorial Hospital where Bocklage once worked as a student pharmacist.
When Dr. Kopric was finished with work, she left for the super market to buy groceries and drove back to her apartment at 2933 Baltimore Avenue. Witnesses saw Dr. Kopric pull-in at 7:53 PM, stalling her car as she waited for her neighbor to remove some of her children’s toys from her assigned parking spot.
While she gathered some papers, someone was stepping out of his car. She had no idea that her ex-fiancé had been lying-in-wait only a few cars away. She was still in her parked vehicle when two witnesses watched someone they recognized approach Dr. Kopric’s car. It was Richard Gerard Bocklage—her former fiancé.
According the indictment, both witnesses had been outside for approximately an hour with their children. In their sworn witness statements, they both state they observed who they recognized as Dr. Kopric’s former boyfriend get out of his car and walk up to the doctor’s newly-fixed vehicle with a “dark material” in his right hand. They state they watched Richard Bocklage extend his right arm into the open door of the Dr. Kopric’s vehicle. The witnesses watched the former missionary shoot Dr. Kopric right in the face, ejecting three-times from his large caliber .45 automatic pistol. The neighbors stated they watched in horror as the victim slumped down in the car and glass rained over the parking lot.
The witnesses immediately dropped to the ground; one even covered her child with her body. The witness statements indicate Bocklage stared at them for several seconds—but did not shoot. Bocklage then calmly strolled back to his black-over-silver Oldsmobile Toronado—driving it to the gate that was blocking the parking lot driveway. Idling, the college drop-out who just blew a gasket—three times—used a pre-punched card he apparently still had which was required to leave and enter 2933 Baltimore Avenue. After the gate opened, Bocklage drove off into the night.
Dr. Kopric was killed instantly. Her brutal murder ended a bright future for the doctor who had been on a long journey of success to a career in obstetrics and gynecology. In a brief instance, Tanya’s dreams of being an OBGYN doctor were shattered.
“It’s just such a loss,” said John Macek, the administrator of Prime Health at 373 West 101st Terrace in Kansas City where Dr. Kopric was in private practice. “It is very much a tragedy to see someone with such a future ahead of her stopped so suddenly. It’s such a rotten, rotten waste.”
Due to the fact two witnesses recognized Bocklage, he was quickly identified as the perpetrator and the next day, September 19th, the Jackson County warrant was issued. A Jackson County judge then signed a warrant for capital murder.
In addition to the two witnesses who watched Dr. Kopric’s murder, another witness told police that she followed a white male in a black-over-silver Oldsmobile Toronada into the parking lot where Dr. Kopric was killed only a couple hours later. Also, on the night of the murder, the same witness followed the vehicle in at 5:30 PM and saw the same car in the parking lot several times between 5:30 PM and just prior to the shooting. This witness also recognized the man as Dr. Kopric’s companion.
Police also searched his gynecologist cousin’s apartment at 7516 Locust Avenue. Richard’s cousin, Paul, told police that when he arrived home on September 18th, he found a note from his cousin Richard. The indictment states it was in regards to the trouble he was having with Dr. Kopric. The contents have otherwise not been revealed. His cousin stated that Richard and his ex-fiancé had been “having problems”. Paul had also checked for Richard’s gun on September 18th, a .45 automatic pistol used to kill Dr. Kopric. The doctor and former friend and colleague of Tatjana Kopric saw that it was missing in the same space of time he found the note left by his unstable cousin.
No doubt, Bocklage must have known the case against him could not be more airtight including the fact that capital punishment was (and still is) legal in Missouri. So it was no surprise to authorities when it was ascertained from Bocklage’s family members that he had left the area of Jackson County and then fled the state.
In addition to the Jackson County warrant, on October 27th, 1980, a federal warrant was issued charging Bocklage with Unlawful Interstate Flight to Avoid Prosecution for the crime of capital murder. Due to the fact Richard Bocklage had killed an immigrant and ditched his car in the boreal forests of Canada, the FBI joined the Kansas City Police Department in their search for Tanya’s killer.
It was months later, after Richard’s car was found abandoned in Thompson, Manitoba—a package sent by the Kopric family in Yugoslavia was received at the Kansas City Police Department. Retired Detective Warren Miller warned me he doesn’t remember much about the case; but one thing that lingers with him was opening the package sent by Tanya’s mother.
Inside the package was an air-mailed envelope addressed to the Kopric family in Yugoslavia—in Richard Bocklage’s handwriting. Opening the envelope, inside was a typed-letter with a salutation to the family members of the doctor he had just murdered. Although excerpts of the letter were shown on the 1991 Unsolved Mysteries segment, the real letter, Warren states, “was too graphic to show on TV.”
Beneath the narcissistic ramblings and a couple theatrical paragraphs typed with several grammatical errors, was a spiteful message to his ex-fiance’s family—informing them, essentially, 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 Richard was using the doctor for money, Richard accused Tatjana of doing just the same in the letter: “It became clear her only purpose of being in this country was to become rich at the expense of anyone and anything.”
“We think he had found letters in the doctor’s apartment and that’s where he found her family’s address,” retired Detective Warren Miller said.
The letters left at Tanya’s apartment contained statements that Tatjana told her family, her relationship with her fiancé was “fleeting” and that he was, “like a furry, totally going crazy and behaving imprudently.” Police speculate this was the reason he chose to attack Dr. Kopric’s family with the vengeful letter—attempting to deflect the unspeakable act he had just committed. Jane Leigh said of Richard’s culpability, “Richard always gave me the impression that nothing was ever his fault.”
“Please realize, this act was performed by professional assassins and that no acts of revenge are possible.” Only the final line of the note would prove true to this day—Bocklage has never been apprehended.
Also remarkable about the letter was the fact it was sent on September 16th—two days before the murder. To Kansas City Police, it was enough proof of premeditation, leading to Jackson County, Missouri’s capital murder warrant.
Bocklage’s ability to elude capture for over 40-years has sprouted many theories and insinuations online—some including conjecture that Bocklage’s family has helped him stay in hiding. It’s been speculated on many websites and forums that Bocklage’s relatives may have even sent Richard money while on-the-run and helped him evade authorities.
In addition, it was in 1991, the detective assigned to the case appeared on the TV series Unsolved Mysteries, and told a national audience that Richard would be “tired of living that far north with no family”—almost passively and somewhat inadvertently hinting that Richard’s family may be aiding him as it had been 11-years at that point that Kansas City Police officials could not locate nor apprehend Bocklage.
In Mystery Lake, Manitoba, Richard’s Oldsmobile was recovered with the ambivalent note left on the window.
“I had always thought his parents or someone in the family was helping him, but nothing there either,” says retired Detective Warren Miller.
Warren also told, “Next I heard of him was in St Louis, Missouri at his sisters wedding.”
I missed a phone call from Warren when we said he’d explain the sighting at his sister’s wedding which happened in 1981. But I talked to him after discussing this with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office.
“We had this case on America’s Most Wanted twice and Unsolved Mysteries,” the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office says. “98% of the tips were unfounded or unreal. It was also aired in Canada on their similar-America’s Most Wanted-show.”
Retired Detective Warren Miller’s assignment on the case didn’t last too long but he did explain more of his 1981 findings: “[I] do not remember where the tip came from. I think (not for 100% sure) but the tip went to the Homicide Sgt., who then called the FBI (not our jurisdiction), who dropped the ball in getting someone to the wedding. By the time the information traveled through the hands in the offices, and agents dispatched, he was gone. At least this is what we were told. Never heard from him, or about him, again.”
In a later e-mail, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office tells me the sighting at Richard’s sister’s wedding was never confirmed—that it could have been one of his many cousins who resembled Richard at the time.
With these accusations in mind, after telling Richard’s first cousin about the many allegations insinuated over the years, she agreed to set the record straight and I asked Richard’s first cousin the obvious question.
“When was last time you or anyone in your family have seen or heard from Richard?”
Richard’s first cousin submitted the statement on behalf of the Bocklage family:
“The last time anyone in my family heard from him was before the murder. We have never heard from him and we all assume at this point that he is deceased. The whole situation was very shocking to everyone and we’ve never really understood exactly what happened. He was actually a very nice young man. The whole thing was just a sad affair”.
Richard’s first cousin admits, “I have never seen the Unsolved Mysteries episode or even read articles about my cousin. I guess I was just trying to forget about it because it’s such an unfortunate incident.”
I asked Richard’s first cousin what Richard’s motive was and if he was possibly developing schizophrenia, a psychological condition that most often appears in the early 20s, as Richard was.
She wonders if, “Perhaps taking some sort-of speed to study became an addiction which eventually affected his relationship. I think he devoted too much attention to a woman he was in love with and failed to pay more attention to college, not realizing that he could be seriously booted out without forgiveness. I’m sure that alone shocked the heck out of him as well as the apparent lack of empathy from his fiancé.”
Richard’s cousin continued to tell me what she knows about her cousin who she says had a very close bond with and was great fun at her wedding—one of the last times she saw Richard.
Richard’s first cousin recollects, “At first, of course, we were in shock and disbelief and couldn’t believe that Richard could do such a thing. However, when he did come to the ranch and seemed to be not himself, a little agitated and strung-out. We just assumed that it was because he had been on the road for 15 hours.”
“The FBI questioned everyone and searched the ranch and even the old gold mines at Hahns Peak,” Richard’s cousin revealed.
“I feel as though he just spiraled down after letting his grades slip and realized that he had poured too much into a relationship that caused him to fail at his classes and probably blamed her for that even though it was his own choice,” Richard’s first cousin believes. “Between the possibility of drugs; the failure of classes and then the break up of his relationship—it was just too much and he just flipped out.”
True, in the 1991 Unsolved Mysteries segment, Dr. Kopric’s friend and car mechanic elaborated, “I thought he might be under drugs or alcohol because his behavior was changing,” said Ivan Gregoric. “He was sort of becoming like a wild person”.
However, his first cousin says, “As far as his temper, none of us ever saw him have a temper but hot tempers do run in our family. Not violence though.”
Richard’s first cousin also concedes, “At the time of the murder it was not uncommon to use speed when you’re on a road trip—something like No Doze?” The trip between Kansas City and Thompson was a 19-hour drive.
I also asked Richard’s first cousin what the Bocklage family bases their belief on Richard’s being diseased.
“We kind of assumed he was deceased because no one had ever heard from him,” she says. This is inline with Richard’s father’s 1988 obituary stating that he was the father of, “the late Richard G. Bocklage”. Richard is listed as predeceased before his mother.
I asked about the speculation surrounding Richard’s interest in gold mines and Detective Miller’s theory that he may have gone to Canada to try gold or nickel mining—supposedly a dream he held onto almost as much as being a pharmacist.
“I’m pretty sure the whole gold mining thing was just because he was interested in them while he was at our ranch,” Richard’s first cousin recounts. “There were a few old gold mines up in the forest on Hahn’s Peak that he liked to poke around. We all rode horses up right by them.”
After Detective Miller stated that on Unsolved Mysteries, “I personally believe he is back in the United States. I think he’s back. I think he’s back here somewhere”, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when Richard’s first cousin told me, “It is not believed he stayed in Canada”.
Richard’s gun—a .45 automatic—was not in his car when it was searched by RCMP.
Leads in the case have never surfaced online or by word-of-mouth. But Richard’s first cousin divulged a lead never made public until now.
“The FBI,” she states, “the last time they visited, 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.”
Indifferent to the FBI’s belief that Richard returned to the states with an outstanding warrant for capital murder, Richard’s cousin says, “His parents were sure that he had wandered off into the wilderness of Canada,” she recounts before their passing.
“His parents thought that he had wandered into the wilderness and died because he never tried to get in touch with them and they believe that would’ve been the only reason—if he had deceased. His parents were very close to him.”
Richard’s father, Vincent F. Bocklage died suddenly on June 4, 1988. In his obituary, he refers to Richard as his “dear son”. Richard’s mother, Patricia Bocklage, died on September 21, 2002. Patricia Bocklage’s obituary states that her only son had predeceased her—writing, “the beloved mother of the late Richard G. Bocklage”.
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 theory that Richard wandered off into the wilderness in northern Manitoba and died of exposure, has always been a long held theory in the eyes of Kansas City Police Department. The temperatures in Thompson could fall into the negatives and it could be snowing by early October, depending on the year. Richard abandoned his car a week before October.
Locals say the area surrounding Richard’s car is full of muskeg and uneven terrain. It is easy to get lost in the bush, according to Thompson residents. Manitoba residents will tell you if it is in a very thick difficult area, a body may never be found.
John Barker, a Canadian journalist and long-time Thompson resident says, “It’s not unusual for people to wind up in the rugged bush around here and never be seen again, usually because they die in the woods because it is a very unforgiving environment.”
I asked John Barker to give some insight into Thompson’s weather and terrain—what kind of elements Richard was up against in September of 1980.
“It might very well depend on the particular year’s weather, but it is possible in a good (warm) fall to perhaps survive in the bush around Thompson in late November for a night or two, but you would need a coat and at least some kind of makeshift shelter, as hypothermia would be a substantial risk. Beyond that, pretty hard to imagine surviving long in that environment unless they were very experienced in the bush of Northern Manitoba, which includes a lot of muskeg and uneven terrain.”
“Many years there is a lot of snow around here by November, and temperatures overnight can fall to -30°C or colder some falls that time of year.”
I asked about Provincial Road (PR) 280 (page heading) which is the name of the road Bocklage’s car was abandoned on. John Barker says, “Provincial Road (PR) 280, northeast of Thompson to Split Lake and Gillam, is an all-weather gravel road that remains one of the worst roads in Manitoba 40-years on from 1980.”
John Barker, giving some insight says, “I wouldn’t say it was absolutely too rough for a car to drive on, but it is not advisable either. Lots of big chunks of loose gravel flying around leading to many cracked and broken windshields and countless flat tires. The road is better navigated in a truck, but still a challenge.”
“Mystery Mountain Winter Park is located on PR-280 about 20-minutes Northeast of Thompson. These days, it is where the road gets quite rough and perhaps serves as an indicator of what may lay ahead,” sparking the theory that Bocklage may have just ditched his car due to the roughness of PR 280—actually possibly originally planning to drive further into Yukon Territory.
“Generally,” John Barker says, “the roads were more difficult to travel the farther back in time you go.” Richard’s 1988 FBI Wanted poster stated “Bocklage is reportedly an avid outdoorsman who could survive a long time in the wilderness.’
A nation-wide manhunt in 2019 for fugitives Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky, who allegedly ended the lives of three people on a killing spree that started in British Columbia, was mostly encompassed by hiding in the bush of northern Manitoba. The RCMP followed several sightings that led them to Thompson; then even further north to Gillam and Split Lake where their car was found burning. The accused murderers had to survive on-the-run in the Canada’s most unforgiving, rugged lands around Manitoba—the same environment Richard Bocklage was up-against. However, in August, the fugitives’ trail ended when their bodies were found along a steep shoreline in northern Manitoba. The two fugitives had committed suicide.
Richard’s cousin says, “As far as being an outdoorsman, our family does do a lot of camping and hunting, but to my knowledge Richard was maybe an average outdoorsman at most.”
While certainly possibly Richard died by exposure, hypothermia or simply succumbed to the elements—possibly even a bear attack, suicide remains a remote possibility especially considering Richard’s gun was never found.
“No one thought that he had killed himself—only that he had gone unequipped up until the wilderness,” says Richard’s first cousin. “We all had mixed feelings on that.”
Richard’s first cousin also told me some interesting details that I did not know.
“My brother had found out that he stole his drivers license and was registering vehicles in his name because he was told by his parents and I think maybe motor vehicle office that he could not own so many vehicles,” Richard’s first cousin revealed. “So he started registering these vehicles in my brother’s name and ended up causing my brother to nearly get arrested as a murderer, which was very shocking to him.”
Richard Bocklage has used aliases such as Dick Bock and Dick Bockledge. “We did not find out about the IDs until after the murder so when my brother was pulled over and arrested, my brother understood immediately what the misunderstanding was but it took a little bit of time to get the police to understand that. No, he was never accused of helping him—they knew that [Richard] had taken my brother’s ID. The ID stolen and the car registrations were in my brother’s name. I just think my cousin, Paul, had said that he couldn’t register anymore cars and his name is why he used his ID’s. It started off as just a car registration thing because he loved to collect vehicles and loved cars as any young boy would, starting when he was 16.”
Richard’s cousin says that when the FBI visited the family ranch in Steamboat Springs, “The FBI questioned us about helping him with money and everything but we all assured him that we would convince him to turn himself in to authorities. The FBI would contact different members of my family throughout the years asking if we heard from him but none of us ever did.”
Richard’s cousin calls it a serious crime.
“None of us ever saw anything unusual with the exception of his last visit in the early 80s to the ranch—he seemed to be hyped-up on something.”
“I’m still fairly certain that he just snapped after he realized he had failed out of school, something that just wasn’t done in our family. He was living with two cousins who are extremely intelligent who became successful doctor and architect, eventually, and I’m sure he felt pressure to get his life back on track and blamed his fiancé; possibly for the distraction of love caused neglect at school. The professors could’ve been more helpful in guidance and giving him another chance and it may have saved the life of his ex-fiancé. I think the combination of both pushed him over the edge.”
Richard’s cousin admits it was likely in March of 2001, when Richard was profiled for the second time on America’s Most Wanted, FBI agents started receiving tips that Bocklage was back in the United States, possibly committing robberies. “The FBI thought it might be Richard that was committing robberies across the states. They seem to believe it was him from descriptions. There were no fingerprints that I know of but they seemed fairly certain that it was him just from descriptions.”
Richard’s cousin also informed me, “The FBI really just wanted to know if we had seen or heard from him, when the FBI came up to the ranch and searched it.”
“However, the FBI did come back to Steamboat Springs years later with questions about contact. When they returned years later, it was when they let us know about the robberies and asked about contact. We were surprised to hear from them but we asked him why they were there at that time to ask and they said he had been spotted committing robberies across the country on interstate freeways”.
“We did discuss with the FBI and with each other what we would do and it was unanimous we would convince him to turn himself in,” she states.
“We have joked over the years about Richard just showing up someday although it’s looking less and less likely. He really was just a normal kid up until the time that happened. Even though I was three years older, I still think of him as just my younger cousin who made a terrible mistake at a vulnerable time in his life.”
I asked Richard’s cousin if she believes Richard would have the resources and capabilities of starting his life anew and evading capture for over 40-years.
“I believe that Richard is smart enough to be able to get a new ID and possibly live out as an alias person somewhere possibly with a family and children by now. I think he just snapped, it was hopefully a one-time-thing and hopefully someday he will have to pay for what he’s done.”
On the 40th anniversary of Dr. Kopric’s murder, world-renowned forensic artist Hew Morrison created age-progressed images showing what Bocklage may look like today. The forensic work of Hew Morrison—who graduated with an MSc in Forensic Art and Facial Identification from The University of Dundee, has been featured on UK television, BBC News, CNN and Smithsonian Magazine. Hew Morrison wanted to give Tanya and her family the quality age-progression she deserves.
Richard Bocklage had mentioned to several family members that he may want to try gold mining someday. Not surprisingly, one of Manitoba’s largest mining facilities is in Thompson.
Retired Detective Warren Miller tells me, “The Mounties found the car and checking found it was wanted in a homicide in the US. It was out of gas. There were several items found in the car belonging to Bockledge, but he was nowhere to be found. Somewhere along the investigation I found out he had given thought to prospecting or being involved with mining. There were several mines in the area and the Mounties went there looking for him; but with no luck. It seemed he just disappeared at the car. I had a step uncle who was heavily involved in various gold mining operations in Canada. I contacted him and he put the word out to be on the lookout for Richard, but that didn’t get any responses either.”
“He was just gone,” the retired Kansas City East Patrol police detective states.
Richard was never found working for the Thompson mining company, now known as Vale Operations.
In 2017, Tanya Kopric’s brother uploaded a picture of her grave, on the island Rab, to the official Unsolved Mysteries website—a painful reminder that people would never forget his sister’s brutal murder and the many healthy newborns she would have delivered by now.
Richard Gerard Bocklage is 6-feet and 2-inches tall. He has brown hair and brown eyes.
He has family and friend ties to St. Louis and Minnesota.
Richard Bocklage has long surgical scars running vertical under each armpit.
A warrant for Unlawful Interstate Flight to Avoid Prosecution – Capital Murder is held at the Kansas City FBI office. Contact the Kansas City FBI at +1 816-512-8200 or go to fbi.gov/tips.
Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office
Kansas City Star
Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel Henke
Dr. Huet (Providence Medical center)
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Nickel Belt News
The Daily Record – Kansas City
Rick Lee Cowan
Manitoba Crime Stoppers
UMKC – School of Medicine Records Clerk
Special thanks to staff at Truman Medical Centers/University Health
If you knew Dr. Kopric or have any other information you’d like to share in memory of Tanya, my contact details are below.
Find more Hew Morrison art on Facebook:
Hew Morrison Forensic Art (Facebook)
Contact the author: 40YearsatLarge@gmail.com
Follow Last Traces on Instagram: