Dentophobia is exactly what it sounds like—a fear of the dentist. Past negative experiences or fearing the loss of control can lead to dentophobia. For most folks, however, going to the dentist is a fairly mundane chore. Worst case, they might find a cavity. And let’s face it, paying the bill is never a pleasant experience. But you would never expect that the person poking around inside your mouth could, in fact, be a ruthless murderer. Or should that be… a killer driller?
Here are ten cases of killer dentists. So maybe the dentaphobes truly have something to fear after all!
10 Glennon Engleman
Well-respected St. Louis dentist Glennon Engleman was not the most handsome of men. In fact, it would probably be fair to describe him as physically unappealing. Yet Engleman somehow managed to manipulate several of the women in his life into taking part in his elaborate murder-for-money schemes.
After divorcing his first wife, Ruth Ball, he continued to give her money and dental care, and they still hooked up. Ruth’s new husband, James Bullock, was also one of Dr. Engleman’s patients. Not long into the marriage, Bullock was shot dead. Police suspected that the doctor and/or the grieving widow had some part in it, especially when Ruth collected on a $64,000 insurance policy. However, Engleman had an alibi, and there was not enough evidence against Ruth.
He later used his powers of persuasion on his dental assistant—unfortunately named Carmen Miranda—to convince her to marry a man she didn’t particularly care for, Peter Halm. When the bridegroom ended up dead, courtesy of a bullet to the head, his widow paid some $10,000 of the $75,000 insurance to Engleman.
When Arthur and Vernita Gusewelle were shot to death in 1977, their son Ronald inherited about a quarter of a million dollars. When he, too, was shot dead a couple of years later, that money went to his new wife, Barbara, as did a $190,000 life insurance policy. Before marrying Ronald, Barbara had been dating Engleman.
There was also a business associate of Engleman’s, Eric Frey, who ended up at the bottom of a well that blew up. Frey, who had recently married yet another of Engleman’s former girlfriends, was a partner with Engleman in a failing drag-strip venture. Sophie Berrera threatened to take Engleman to court over $14,500 he owed her for lab work she’d undertaken for him. A car bomb quickly put a stop to any need for Engleman to pay her.
Police had been struggling to prove their mounting suspicions about Engleman before they received help from an unlikely source, Engleman’s current wife, also named Ruth. He had the unsettling habit of bragging about the murders to her in bed after sex. She also began to worry that her homicidal husband would eventually target her. She agreed to wear a wire to record evidence for authorities.
After more than two decades of mayhem, Engleman was ultimately convicted of five murders and allegedly admitted to committing even more, but no one knows for sure how many. “It takes a certain kind of person to be able to kill another human being,” he bragged to a reporter. Engleman died in prison, where he was serving multiple life sentences, in 1999, from complications due to diabetes.
9 Colin Howell
In May 1991, when nurse Lesley Howell and policeman Trevor Stewart were found dead in a parked car with a pipe running from the exhaust into the vehicle, many suspected they had taken their lives because they were having an affair. However, others knew that their respective spouses, Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart, were the adulterers instead.
With their spouses out of the way, Colin and Hazel went public with their relationship three years later, only to have it fizzle out by 1996. Howell remarried and went on to have five children. Meanwhile, Stewart married another policeman. However, the profoundly religious Howell had a guilty conscience that he couldn’t shake. When his eldest son died in an accident, and he lost £350,000 in a scam, he believed God was punishing him. It drove him to confess.
Howell admitted to police that he had drugged his wife and ran a hosepipe from the exhaust of his car through the house and placed it in her mouth. When she unexpectedly awoke, he suffocated her with a cushion. Next, he loaded his wife’s body into the trunk of his car, then drove to the Stewarts’ house, where Trevor had already been drugged with tranquilizers. And once again, while being gassed, the intended victim woke up and fought for his life, only to be finished off by Howell. He then drove both victims to a vacant property, arranged the two bodies, ran the pipe from the exhaust into the vehicle, then scattered photographs of his and Lesley’s children around her body.
Howell was ultimately sentenced to a minimum of 21 years in prison. Despite also being convicted, Stewart has denied any involvement, claiming that she feared the homicidal dentist. However, Howell revealed they had plotted the murders together, telling the jury, “I may have been the lead partner in the waltz, but Hazel was dancing in cooperation.”
8 Charles Adelsen
Fort Lauderdale dentist Charles Adelson was charged in connection with the 2014 murder of his brother-in-law, Dan Markel, a prominent law professor at Florida State University. The arrest happened in April 2022.
It was alleged that when Markel was involved in a highly contentious divorce from his wife Wendi, her brother, Charles Adelson, hired two hitmen to kill Markel. Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera, who prosecutors say gunned down Markel in the garage of his home as he talked on his phone, were allegedly hired through Katherine Magbanua, a former girlfriend and employee of Adelson. Prosecutors claim that they were paid $100,000 for the hit.
Garcia was convicted of first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence for the killing. Rivera is serving a 19-year sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testifying against both Garcia and Magbanua.
Wendi Adelson apparently told authorities her brother joked about hiring a hit man as a divorce present but had decided to buy her a television instead.
7 Larry Rudolph
Pennsylvania dentist and big-game hunter Larry Rudolph was accused of killing his wife in 2016 while on a hunting trip to Zambia so that he could collect millions of dollars in life insurance. Prosecutors allege that Lawrence killed his wife Bianca, had her quickly cremated in Africa in order to avoid a formal autopsy being conducted, and then collected nearly $5 million in life insurance money by claiming her shooting death was accidental.
The couple traveled to Zambia so that Bianca, also a big-game hunter, could hunt a leopard. They were getting ready to leave their hunting camp in Kafue National Park when Bianca was shot in the chest by a shotgun. Lawrence allegedly told the local police that he heard the gunshot while taking a shower and then raced out and found his wife dead on the bedroom floor.
The consular chief at the U.S. Embassy in Zambia had an uneasy feeling about Lawrence. “He thought he was moving too quickly. As a result, he traveled to [the funeral home]… to take photographs of the body and preserve any potential evidence,” the criminal complaint alleged. Lawrence was described as being “livid” when he learned of this.
A friend of Bianca’s also told authorities she suspected foul play, claiming that Lawrence had cheated on his wife and had been having an affair at the time of her death. She suggested that “Larry is never going to divorce her because he doesn’t want to lose his money, and she’s never going to divorce him because of her Catholicism.’”
Authorities also said that Bianca could not have shot herself with that type of shotgun because of its long barrel. A medical examiner explained that “it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Ms. Rudolph to reach the trigger of this weapon even if it was placed in the case with the muzzle pressed against her chest.”
Lawrence has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
6 Gilberto Nunez
In 2015, Kingston, New York, dentist Gilberto Nunez was indicted on charges of second-degree murder in connection with the November 2011 death of Thomas Kolman. Kolman was found dead in his car in a parking lot, and the medical examiner would later rule that his death was caused by poisoning using the powerful sedative Midazolam. At his trial, prosecutors asserted that Nunez had been having an affair with Kolman’s wife, Linda. They alleged that Nunez met up with former friend and one-time neighbor Kolman in the parking lot. There, Nunez administered an overdose of the sedative from his dental practice to get his rival out of the way once and for all.
Prosecutors claim that Nunez was an obsessive and possessive lover who concocted a series of bizarre schemes trying to break up the couple. Nunez even allegedly impersonated his own mother, imploring Linda to leave her husband. When all efforts failed, prosecutors said, he killed his rival instead.
Nunez’s defense team argued that Kolman had died from a heart attack rather than from Midazolam poisoning, adding that it was impossible to prove that Nunez had administered the drug. While the trial found him not guilty concerning the death, two subsequent court proceedings found him guilty of forgery, perjury, and insurance fraud.
In 2017, Nunez was sentenced to a maximum of seven years in state prison. He was released early, after serving 19 months of a potential seven-year sentence in state prison.
5 James Ryan
In 2022, Maryland-based oral surgeon James Ryan was accused of supplying his girlfriend with addictive anesthesia solutions and even administering them, ultimately leading to her fatal overdose. Sarah Harris, aged 25 at the time of her death, was a former patient of the 48-year-old dentist. Police later described how shortly after moving in with Ryan, Harris developed “and sank into a serious addiction involving multiple controlled dangerous substances provided by Ryan.”
Authorities built their case through autopsy findings, interviews with Harris’s friends and relatives, and using 10 months’ worth of text messages between the couple. “I feel so disoriented,” Harris texted Ryan, to which he replied, “It’s the ketamine, the combo (with) maybe the neurontin,” Ryan responded, referring to both an anesthesia and pain medication.
Ryan was likely addicted as well, as it was alleged that some of Ryan’s employees found him deeply sleeping and unresponsive in his office and used ammonia smelling salts in order to wake him up. Authorities felt that Ryan did not intentionally kill Harris, instead charging him with second-degree murder, given the “extreme indifference” to her life by continually bringing her the drugs and setting up a home-delivery system. They instead allege that as an oral surgeon, he knew how dangerous the combination of drugs was.
4 Bart Corbin
In the early hours of December 4, 2004, a couple in Gwinnett County, Georgia, was woken by knocking on their front door. It was their neighbor’s 7-year-old son, telling them that something was wrong with his mother. So they ran next door and made a terrible discovery. Jennifer Corbin was lying dead in the bed, with a gunshot wound to the head.
Authorities responding to the frantic 911 call discovered a .38 caliber pistol in the bedding. On the bed was a stack of documents relating to her divorce proceedings from her husband of eight years, Barton “Bart” Corbin. Bart had apparently gone out with friends the night before and had not yet returned home when Jennifer’s body was discovered.
When police tracked down Bart at his brother’s house, the brother confirmed that Bart had been out drinking and that he had slept it off at his place. Investigators observed no blood on Bart’s clothing, and a test for gunshot residue came back negative. The autopsy, however, revealed that the bullet had severed Jennifer’s brain stem, resulting in the loss of all motor function. It meant that it would have been impossible for her to place the gun where it was found underneath the comforter. When the gunshot residue test that was conducted on Jennifer’s hand came back negative, her death was ruled a homicide.
Around this time, authorities received a call from a woman who claimed her daughter, Dolly Hearn, had been found dead in June 1990, having sustained a single gunshot wound to the head in an apparent suicide. This was shortly after having rejected a marriage proposal from Bart, who attended dental school with her. Dolly’s death was re-examined, and blood splatter experts determined that Dolly could not have possibly shot herself from the position where she was found. She also tested negative for gunshot residue, while the gun itself had been wiped clean of any prints.
The motive for killing both Jennifer and Dolly was likely to have been the same: their rejection of Bart. Jennifer had started an online relationship with someone going by the name “Chris Hearn” (no relation to Dolly Hearn). Bart had discovered Jennifer’s messages to Chris, outlining how unhappy she was in her marriage and that she was planning on leaving Bart. When Bart saw the name Hearn, he assumed it was more than just a weird coincidence.
Investigators subpoenaed all the people who were with Bart the night of Jennifer’s murder. His friends all confirmed that Bart left early to go to his brother’s house. Bart’s brother said that Bart arrived around 3:30 am, and the time gap between Bart leaving the bar and getting to his brother’s house was consistent with Jennifer’s time of death. Forensic analysis of Bart’s cell phone also showed that his phone pinged a tower near his home around the time of her death.
Bart was arrested for Hearn’s murder in December 2004, then later charged with his wife’s murder in January 2005. In exchange for two concurrent life sentences, Bart pleaded guilty to two counts of malice murder.
3 Bert Franklin
In 2018, Tulsa dentist Bert Franklin was found guilty of causing fatal skull fractures to his mistress’s 19-month-old son, Lincoln Lewis, two years earlier. Franklin was also convicted on a conspiracy charge for attempting to arrange from jail the murder of Lincoln’s mother, Roxanne Lewis Randall, so she couldn’t testify against him.
The key piece of evidence to secure the conviction was a video recording taken from a home surveillance camera. Prosecutors alleged the video depicts Franklin kicking Lincoln before slamming the toddler head first to the floor. However, who or what Franklin was interacting with cannot actually be seen in the recording due to a dividing wall inside the house.
Franklin claimed it was not Lincoln being kicked and thrown in the disturbing video but rather the family dog. “He just threw the dog,” defense attorney Scott Adams told the jury. “It wasn’t Bert Franklin who inflicted these injuries… He didn’t kill Lincoln Lewis.” However, when Lincoln is first seen in the footage, he is upright and awake. Just minutes later, after the assault took place just out of full view of the camera, the toddler is seen being carried by Franklin. He is no longer upright but lying horizontal, like a “ragdoll,” according to Assistant District Attorney Ryan Stephenson. “Bert Franklin destroyed that child’s life,” Stephenson told the jury. “That limp body tells the whole story right there.”
His hatred of the boy’s father may have motivated the deadly assault, prosecutors alleged. The married father of four also would get jealous when his mistress Roxanne would put her child before him. “The evidence, in our opinion, was overwhelming of his guilt,” Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger told news reporters afterward. “It’s hard to fathom a man who can do what he did to this little baby and then coldly and calculatedly plan to solicit the murder of this child’s mother.”
2 Hartmut F.
A German neo-Nazi dentist, known only as Hartmut F. due to strict local privacy laws, was charged with a triple murder committed in May 2021. First, he shot and killed his ex-wife Hanna F. and her surfer boyfriend, Tobias H, with an Uzi sub-machine gun. He then went on to kill his best friend, Carsten B., blaming him for the collapse of his marriage.
Hartmut confessed to authorities that he used an Uzi submachine gun to shoot Hanna and Tobias out of jealousy. He then admitted that he had killed another of his wife’s suspected admirers, his close friend Carsten. He had also planned on killing his wife’s lawyer but did not carry it out.
According to local media, the couple was married for 16 years and had four children. Unhappy with her marriage to the Nazi-loving dentist, Hanna separated from her husband and moved to the city of Kiel in Northern Germany with their children. There she met Tobias, a professional surfer.
Enraged with jealousy, the dentist attacked his ex-wife on several occasions. In one instance, she was hospitalized with severe head injuries and a broken nose. When she obtained a restraining order against him, he snapped. He drove to Tobias’s house, where he knew he would find them together. He shot the couple before fleeing.
However, he turned himself in to the police and confessed he had also shot his former best friend, who also lived in Kiel. A colleague of Carsten’s later recalled how “Hartmut had once seen Carsten go to Hanna with a bag of bread rolls. He threatened him: ‘If I ever see you here again, I will kill you.’” Carsten was shot in the face twice with a handgun, then finished off with three more bullets as he lay on the ground. Hartmut is alleged to have killed his friend as he suspected that he had told Hanna about the dentist’s numerous infidelities involving prostitutes and porn actresses.
Under German law he faces life imprisonment if convicted.
1 Gabriel Wortman
Deranged Nova Scotia denturist Gabriel Wortman fatally shot 22 people and set fires in 16 locations throughout the Canadian province in a killing spree that spread over two days in April 2020. It is currently the deadliest in Canadian history to date.
The rampage was carried out by Wortman as he dressed as a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer, driving a replica police cruiser. He began in the small rural seaside village of Portapique and ended some 100 kilometers (62 miles) away over 12 hours later with his death at a gas station outside Halifax.
According to authorities, the rampage “appears to be, at least in part, very random in nature.” One of those killed was RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran and married mother of two. She was shot and killed while responding to the active shooter incident.
While some of the victims were deliberately targeted by Wortman, many were simply random victims, either in the wrong place at the wrong time or even attempting to assist Wortman, mistaken in the belief that he was an RCMP officer. “This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in the province’s history,” Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil stated. “We’re in shock that such a thing could happen here in Nova Scotia.”