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Serial Killer Doctor of Omaha

On Thursday, March 13th, 2008, Thomas Hunter, a sixth-grade student, got off the school bus and rushed home to play video games. Tom was an avid gamer and most of his friends were actually online friends he had never met in person but gamed with online daily. His parents, both physicians at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, were not home. His father was at work and mother was out of town on a business trip. The weekly housekeeper, Shirlee Sherman, was present in the home when Tom arrived. When Dr. William Hunter returned home hours later, he found a ghastly sight.

Dr. Hunter made a 911 call that shocked the entire Dundee community of Omaha Nebraska. He found his eleven-year-old son and the housekeeper dead in the house. They had both been brutally murdered. When Dr. Hunter arrived home at six that evening, he saw Shirlee’s car still parked in front of the house. He assumed she was just running behind. When he entered the house, however, he found her body in the hallway with a knife sticking out of the flesh. As a pathologist, the head of the pathology residency program in fact, Dr. Hunter was familiar with death and assessing dead bodies. However, nothing could prepare him to find his own young son stabbed to death in the dining room with a knife from his own kitchen protruding from the boy’s neck.


Thomas Hunter (left) was the youngest of four boys born to Dr. William Hunter, a pathologist, and Dr. Claire Hunter, a cardiologist. Both worked at Creighton University Medical Center. Dr. William Hunter was the head of the pathology residency program at the teaching hospital. Their other three sons were all grown with the next youngest away at college in 2008. Tom was a sixth-grade student at a magnet school specializing in math and science. The boy had a bright future ahead of him, but that was tragically stolen from him on March 13th, 2008.

Shirlee Sherman (below) was fifty-seven-years old and had spent her entire life in Omaha. She had two children that she loved dearly and worked hard to provide for them as a single mother. As she got older, she started working less to accommodate time with her five precious grandchildren. She continued to work as a housekeeper part time for select clients, however, including the Hunter family. She loved gardening and crafts and was described as having an infectious laugh. Her death was a tremendous loss for all of those who knew her.


Police did not find any solid evidence in the home. The knives used to kill Tom and Shirlee were from the Hunter’s home. There was no forensic evidence such as fingerprints, DNA, or fibers found at the scene. There was nothing of value missing from the home, leading authorities to believe robbery was not the motive. Police did, however, have a description of a possible person of interest that was seen in the area the day of the murders. He was described as a heavyset olive-skinned man who drove a Honda CRV with out of state plates.

Detectives wondered if Tom Hunter had met someone online while video gaming who may have been a predator. They investigated every contact Tom made while playing his X-Box, but every contact was alibied and nothing suspicious was found. They then looked at Shirlee Sherman’s personal life, thinking she may have been the target. The only thing that could be discovered was a tumultuous relationship with Shirlee’s daughter’s boyfriend. However, the boyfriend was quickly ruled out as a suspect due to a rock-solid alibi.

The only other thought detectives had was perhaps Dr. Bill Hunter or his wife had been the intended targets of the crime. Why would someone want to harm two physicians? Had they done something to upset someone? Detectives discovered that sometimes physicians were terminated from the Creighton University Medical Center pathology residency program under the direction and authority of Dr. Bill Hunter. One physician had been very vocal about his termination from the program. Police questioned the doctor, and while he confirmed his frustration and perceived mistreatment by the hospital, he adamantly denied any involvement in the murders. He was over nine-hundred miles away at the time of the crime, working in another hospital. With no other leads, the double-murder case in this affluent neighborhood grew cold.

Five years went by without any progress in the murder case. Then, on May 14th, 2013, police were called by a piano mover. He had shown up at a residence to move a piano as ordered, but the residents of the home were not answering the door. He noticed that the front door was slightly open with a gun magazine lying in the doorway. Finding this oddly suspicious, the man called authorities to do a welfare check on the couple that lived here, Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife Mary. Inside, police found Roger and Mary Brumback deceased from multiple stab wounds and knives protruding from their flesh in much the same way as the 2008 homicide victims.

Dr. Roger Brumback was born in 1948 in Washington DC. After completing his undergraduate studies in less than two years, Roger became the youngest member of the inaugural class at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He was a pediatric resident later at John Hopkins University Hospital and then at Barnes Jewish Hospital and Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. Brumback had a long medical career including working in neurology, stroke prevention, Alzheimer’s Disease research, and co-authoring at least 19 books and 130 medical journal articles. In 2001, he was named the professor chair of the department of pathology at Crieghton University Medical Center in Omaha.

Mary Brumback was outstanding in her own right. She was born in 1947 in Washington state. She met her husband in college while studying pharmacology. She was a pharmacist and mother to her and Roger’s children. She was involved in her community through philanthropic activities and had co-authored multiple books with her husband. She enjoyed cooking and baking and prided herself in using healthy ingredients. Additionally, she enjoyed gardening and genealogy research.

Police learned that on the day that the couple were murdered, another physician from the Creighton University Medical Center’s pathology residency program had an attempted break in at her home just an hour or so before the murder occurred at the Brumback’s home. Fortunately, she wasn’t home at the time and her alarm seemed to scare the perpetrator off. A small amount of DNA was taken from the door for comparison to suspects. Police linked the crimes together and determined that the motive was revenge on the physicians leading the pathology residency program. This was confirmed by a quote left at the Brumback murder scene “If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” (Washington Post, 2016).

Detectives did a deep dive into the records at Creighton University. One file in particular stood out to officials. A doctor named Anthony Garcia had been terminated from the program in 2001 due to unprofessional conduct. In fact, the physician whose home was nearly broke into on the day the Mr. and Mrs. Brumback died had described Dr. Anthony Garcia as “rude, lazy, adversarial, disruptive, arrogant, combative, mean-spirited” (Murderpedia). The physician had complained to Dr. Bill Hunter about Garcia’s lack of knowledge and poor attitude several times, recommending he be removed from the program. It was another incident, however, that eventually lead to Dr. Anthony Garcia being terminated from Creighton.

In 2001, Dr. Garcia was a resident in the pathology department and assisted in an autopsy on a larger woman, weighing over 350 pounds. After the autopsy, Garcia was left in charge of returning the body to the morgue. He turned the body over to get the remains back on the stretcher but left the woman’s body face down on the stretcher. When the body arrived at the funeral home, blood had pooled in her face causing disfigurement. The family was very upset, and the funeral home reported the incident to Dr. William Hunter and Dr. Roger Brumback. Dr. Anthony Garcia was terminated from Creighton after the incident.


Following his termination from Creighton, Anthony Garcia was terminated from several other residency programs and barred from practicing in some states. He was terminated in 2004 from the University of Illinois Chicago after frequent long-term absences and failure to communicate with his supervisors, but he remained licensed in Illinois. He had also been terminated from a program in New York and just weeks before the 2008 murders, he was fired from LSU Shreveport for lying on his application about being fired from Creighton. It seemed no matter where Garcia went, his problems at Creighton followed him.

Under investigation, it was determined that phone records placed Dr. Garcia in Omaha at the time of the Brumback murders. In fact, a restaurant receipt put him a mile from the physician’s home an hour before the crime and just a few minutes after the attempted break in which was just down the street from the restauraunt. His phone search history showed that he had searched for the Brumback address just before the murders. It is believed that he went to the first doctor’s home, but when he realized she was not home he went to get lunch and looked up the Brumback address. He then went to the Brumback home and murdered Dr. Roger and Mary Brumback.

The investigation showed that Dr. Garcia was spending large amounts of money on alcohol and at gentleman's clubs. He couldn’t seem to keep a job despite graduating from medical school in 1999. His home in Terre Haute, Indiana was largely empty and under foreclosure. It seemed Dr. Garcia had hit rock bottom. He was on the run when police showed up in Indiana to arrest him, with his phone pinging in Southern Illinois.

At this point, detectives knew that DNA from the attempted break in was a match to Dr. Anthony Garcia. Police were tracking Anthony Garcia’s phone and finally he was arrested in Jonesboro, Illinois in July of 2013. Upon his arrest, he had a blood alcohol level well above the legal limit and was clearly drunk. He was arrested for DUI and extradited to Nebraska to face murder charges. He was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and was facing the death penalty.


There were three years between Anthony Garcia’s arrest and the beginning of his murder trial. During that time, Anthony Garcia was confined and seemed to decline mentally. For one thing, he lost a significant amount of weight. Second, his attorneys claimed that his mental status was compromised and requested that a competency evaluation be done. He stopped talking to his own attorneys but was determined to be fit to stand trial. The trial began in 2016.

The evidence against Anthony Garcia included the DNA that was matched to him from the attempted break in as well as his grievances with the doctors at Creighton. His phone records showed he was in Omaha at the time of the murders. His search history showed he looked up the Brumback address and for quotes on revenge. Prominently displayed in his home was the termination letter from Creighton signed by Dr. Brumback and Dr. Hunter as well as a list of reminders such as “park down the road”, “use tape on your fingers”, “buy common shoes” and other items that seemed to be a killer’s to do list (Dateline, 2017). The murders followed terminations from other programs, some related to his misconduct at Creighton.

A gun found near Anthony Garcia’s Indiana home was missing the magazine and determined to be a match to the magazine found at the Brumback house. It was registered to Dr. Anthony Garcia. Dr. Garcia also matched the description given by neighbors in 2008 when Tom Hunter and Shirlee Sherman were murdered: he was overweight with olive colored skin and drove a silver Honda CRV with Louisiana plates in 2008. Finally, a stripper came forward and testified that Dr. Garcia once told her he had murdered “an old woman and young boy” (Dateline, 2017) when she informed him that she only dated bad boys. The evidence didn’t look good for Dr. Garcia.

Dr. Garcia spent the majority of the trial sleeping and looking non-interested in the proceedings. This caused an uphill battle for his attorneys, led by Robert Motta Sr. and Robert Motta Jr. Robert Motta Sr. once defended infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy. The attorneys pointed out the circumstantial evidence as just that and argued there was no rock-solid evidence to connect their client to the murders. They claimed the digital forensics were improperly handled and may have been tampered with. Despite their best efforts, the defense teamed failed to poke enough holes in the prosecution’s case.



Dr. Anthony Garcia was found guilty on call counts in October 2016. Due to concerns on Anthony Garcia’s mental fitness, sentencing was delayed following hearings again to determine if he was mentally fit. In September of 2018, the sentencing was finally ready to happen. Before the sentence could be handed down, the lead judge suffered a medical emergency and was taken out of the courtroom by ambulance. Another judge replaced him, and Anthony Garcia entered the court room via a wheelchair. He had gained back weight and appeared to sleep through his sentencing hearing just as he had his trial. He was sentenced to the death penalty for his crimes.

“You can’t begin to enumerate what an event like this has had on us, on the entire community” Dr. Claire Hunter said following the sentencing (Beck, 2018). The families of Tom Hunter, Shirlee Sherman, and Roger and Mary Brumback found some peace in the verdict but will forever suffer the terrible loss of their loved ones at the hands of this vengeful doctor, the serial killer doctor of Omaha.

References

Dateline (2017) Dateline: The Haunting; Season 25 Episode 24; Available on Peacock

Washington Post (2016) ‘Shall we not revenge?’ after 15 years, doctor convicted on 4 gruesome murder charges; National Post; Retrieved at: 'Shall we not revenge?' After 15 years, doctor convicted on 4 gruesome murder charges | National Post

Lincoln Journal Star (2008) Father finds son, housekeeper slain; Lincoln Journal Star; 15 Mar 2008; Retrieved at: 15 Mar 2008, 10 - Lincoln Journal Star at Newspapers.com

Beck, M. (2018) Death sentence for ex-doctor who killed 4 people in Nebraska; Associated Press; Retrieved at: Death sentence for ex-doctor who killed 4 people in Nebraska | AP News

Murderpedia (2021) Dr. Anthony Joseph GARCIA; Retrieved at: Anthony Garcia | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers

Pelisek, C. (2016) A doctor’s twisted revenge killing spree- including the murder of an 11-year-old boy; People; Retrieved at: Dr. Anthony Garcia: A Doctor's Twisted Revenge Killing Spree | PEOPLE.com

Dizikes, C. & Cohen, J. (2013) Checkered past of doctor recently charged in 4 killings fell through the cracks in Illinois; Chicago Tribune; Retrieved at: Doctor accused of murder had troubling past - Chicago Tribune

FindAGrave (2021) Thomas C. Hunter; Retrieved at: Thomas C. Hunter (1996-2008) - Find A Grave Memorial

FindAGrave (2021) Shirlee Kay Waite Sherman; Retrieved at: Shirlee Kay Waite Sherman (1950-2008) - Find A Grave Memorial

FindAGrave (2021) Mary Helen Skinner Brumback; Retrieved at: Mary Helen Skinner Brumback (1947-2013) - Find A Grave Memorial

FindAGrave (2021) Dr. Roger Alan Brumback; Retrieved at: Dr Roger Alan Brumback (1948-2013) - Find A Grave Memorial

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