Guest Post by Ian Granstra
Thirty-five-year-old Tatjana “Tanya” Kopric had accomplished a lot during her short time in America. Five years after emigrating from the former Yugoslavia to study medicine, she was a practicing resident at the Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Dr. Kopric was dedicated to her profession and was greatly liked and respected by patients and colleagues. They, along with friends, believed the intelligent and attractive career woman had only one flaw: her choice of suitors.
Tanya fell in love with Richard Bocklage, a college student ten years her junior. The couple was a study in contrast. Whereas Tanya worked hard and was dedicated to her profession, Richard had little ambition and was barely making the grade.
Richard Bocklage could not accept responsibility for his failures, nor could he commit himself to his studies. Instead, the struggling collegiate became committed to killing.
A gynecologist who worked with Tanya introduced her to his cousin Richard, a University of Missouri Pharmacy student, in March of 1980.
A whirlwind romance ensued during which Richard lavished Tanya with gifts and compliments. Within a month, he moved into Tanya’s apartment; two months later, the doctor and the pharmacy student were engaged.
Tanya was bubbling with excitement at the prospect of spending her life with the dashing younger man and future pharmacist.
Many of Tanya’s friends, however, had misgivings about Bocklage. Though he showered her with praise, those closest to Tanya believed he was sponging off her financially. Tanya was making a good living, and Bocklage was the proverbial “starving college student.” He was using Tanya’s credit cards more for purchasing toys such as hunting and fishing gear instead of buying college materials. Bocklage told Tanya he was committed to her, but he was clearly not as committed to his education. As he was spent more time with Tanya, he spent less time in class. Unbeknownst to Tanya, midway through his sophomore year at Missouri, her beau was on the brink of flunking out.
The skipping of classes finally caught up to Bockalge on July 19, 1980. That afternoon, he opened a letter from University of Missouri officials informing him that he was academically ineligible.
A desperate Bocklage pleaded for Tanya to use her connections in the admissions department to get him re-admitted. She refused, saying the matter was his responsibility.
Tanya tolerated Bockage’s mood swings for three weeks, hoping her fiance would get his life in order. When it became apparent that that was only wishful thinking, Tanya finally conceded defeat. She knew she had made a mistake and realized her friends and colleagues were right when they said that she could do better in her choice of men.
Part of what had attracted Tanya to Richard was what she thought was a shared love of the medical field and of helping others. She looked forward to her fiance, working in a field related to her chosen profession. It was now clear, however, that Richard did not have the work ethic to be a pharmacist.
On September 2, 1980, Tanya broke off the engagement and ordered Bocklage out of her apartment.
Increasingly desperate, Bocklage wrote a letter to University of Missouri administrative officials, begging them for one more chance. On September 18, however, the admissions committee unanimously denied his appeal. The committee’s secretary called to tell him of the decision shortly after 3:00 p.m. At 3:45 p.m., two professors saw Bocklage driving toward the Dean’s office. He was then seen by several people inside of the building, carrying a large manila folder as he anxiously roamed the hallway. Although he was told that the Dean was out and likely would not be returning that day, Bocklage insisted on waiting for him. He did so for nearly an hour before leaving.
Three hours later, Tanya returned to her apartment after work. A woman saw Bocklage walk up to her as she exited her car and shoot her point-blank in the head three times. By the time police and paramedics arrived, she was dead. The witness had taken cover behind a parked car, and Bocklage did not see her. She recognized him as the man who had dated Dr. Kopric. The gun used to kill Tanya was determined to be a .45 automatic. Police found that Bocklage had purchased such a gun several days earlier, but it was not found in his apartment. Some believe the gun was the object which Bocklage concealed under the manila folder, and that he had planned to kill the University of Missouri Dean of Admissions as well.
A warrant was issued for Bocklage’s arrest, charging him with the first-degree murder of his former fiance. Six days later, on September 24, Royal Canadian Mounted Police found Bocklage’s car in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada, over 2,000 miles from Kansas City and over 1,100 from International Falls, the northernmost point of Minnesota. Two area residents saw Bocklage before he dropped out of sight. In the ensuing 39 years, there have been few leads to his whereabouts.
Two months after Tanya was murdered, her parents in Yugoslavia received a letter postmarked September 16, 1980, two days before their daughter’s murder. The letter was typed, but the address had been written in Bocklage’s handwriting. The letter was a vengeful diatribe written in the tone of a manifesto. It read in part, “Dear. Kopric family. Your daughter Tanya Kopric has been executed in Kansas City, Missouri. She has caused so much grief, anguish, and turmoil to so many Americans that this act was necessary. Her execution was inevitable.”
Some believe Bocklage may have committed suicide in the rugged terrain near where his car was found in Canada, but searches failed to find any evidence. Bocklage is a native of St. Louis and his parents have both died. A person on “Websleuths” says the FBI was at both of his parents’ funerals to see if he would show, but with no luck. The Websleuth writer also says Bocklage has a sister who still lives in St. Louis.
Richard Bocklage has eluded detection for nearly 40 years and remains one of Kansas City’s longest sought fugitives. Richard Bocklage would today be 63-years-old. If you have any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Kansas City at 816-234-5000 or the Kansas City FBI office at 816-512-8200.
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