For reprint permissions please email us the name of the requested post/article along with the publication name.
BOARD OF NURSING CASE NO. 05-0365
CAUSE OF DEATH: Drowning (in own blood) after a hospice nurse illegally administered fatal dosage of an unprescribed drug she’d stolen from another client
ORIGINAL INVESTIGATING AGENCY: Medicare, Iowa Board of Nursing and Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals
INVESTIGATION OF PROVIDER #16-1503 — HOSPICE OF NORTH IOWA
DATE OF DEATH: January 14, 2004
For in-depth information on Gary Lack’s 2004 homicide and the death of his son, Adam Lack, in July 2008, please visit Adam Lack’s page here on our website or download Adam’s Voice (PDF or Word document), a 39-page detailed and documented narrative Gary’s wife, Veronica Lack, wrote about Mitchell County’s ongoing illegal point-source pollution plume and the Lack family’s fight for their lives and the lives of neighbors, farm animals and family pets.
Many people believe Gary Lack died of colon cancer that had spread to his liver.
Lack, who lived nine miles northeast of Nora Springs in Mitchell County, Iowa, indeed suffered from colon cancer. It’s also true the cancer had spread to his liver.
Lack, however, did not die from cancer. He died Wednesday, January 14, 2004, at his home after a nurse from the Charles City, Iowa, Mercy Hospice Office first overdosed him January 12 with a drug she called Kayexalate powder and returned January 14 to overdose him with Haloperidol and DBR (Decadron, Benadryl and Reglan) gel — drugs the nurse had stolen from other patients and the Osage Hospital pharmacy.
According the Iowa Cold Cases founder Jody Ewing, trying to encapsulate the sheer number of atrocities and horrors inflicted upon both Gary and Veronica Lack in the 72 hours preceding Gary’s death would be like trying to condense an entire encyclopedia into 5000 words.
This account is, at best, an extremely “sanitized” version of unspeakable acts of neglect and cruelty, cover-ups, corruption and lies. Ewing says only one other cold case crosses so many professional boundaries in an extraordinary blatant disregard for human life. The other case is that of Gary Lack’s son, Adam Lack.
“Both cases border on crimes against humanity that far exceed a typical premeditated murder,” says Ewing.
Gary Lack died in his wife’s arms after the couple spent nearly three days trying to summon help to their home after Hospice nurse Linda S. Drewelow administered fatal doses of stolen medication.
The nurse wasn’t just any nurse. And, she hadn’t stolen the Kayexalate powder from just any pharmacy. She’d stolen it, after hours and with no pharmacist on duty, from the Prescription Shoppe pharmacy located inside the Osage Hospital. Mitchell County Attorney Mark Walk’s wife ran the pharmacy.
Ms. Drewelow also had stolen the drug Diethylstilbestrol (DES) from the Lack’s home. The drug is now banned in the United States because of its connection to birth defects, and the only way anyone (from the U.S.) can obtain it is through the Mayo Clinic Pharmacy. When the Rochester hospital discovered Gary’s prescription for it had been stolen, they urged Veronica Lack to try to recover it and to ask Medicare to investigate.
Medicare and the Iowa Board of Nursing conducted an investigation into Ms. Drewelow’s actions, which resulted in a Medicare report with 25 pages of citations against Drewelow and Mercy Hospice of North Iowa in five patients’ deaths … all of which occurred during a matter of hours.
Though hospice care is normally associated with end-of-life care, the Mayo Clinic — just two days before his death — had assigned Gary Lack “temporary” hospice care based on two facts: Gary had been to the Mayo Clinic Monday, January 12, and was scheduled to enter a new clinical drug trial for his cancer. Mayo Clinic would have liked Mr. Lack to remain at the hospital during the trial, but he didn’t want to leave his wife home alone; she had her own medical issues and a broken right leg. Mayo allowed the couple to return home so they could help each other.
After Gary’s death, Veronica and her son Adam dressed him in his favorite Hawkeye sweats for his children and grandchildren. Two young men arrived with plans to take Gary to the Champion-Bucheit Funeral home in Osage.
As Veronica and Adam set about notifying family members and close friends of Lack’s death, things were about to take another wicked, unimaginable turn.
Veronica Lack doesn’t believe the vehicle carrying her husband’s body ever made it to Osage. Some time after leaving the Lack’s home and while on route to Champion-Bucheit Funeral home, the two young men received a call from Dr. Paul Royer, a Mercy Hospice doctor who’d never once seen Gary Lack as a patient — dead or alive. Royer instructed the two to take Lack’s body to Mason City for cremation.
No coroner or medical examiner had examined Lack after his death, let alone pronounced him dead or ordered he be diverted to Mason City for immediate cremation. There would be no autopsy. Neither Veronica Lack nor any of her children had signed any papers or given anyone permission to cremate Gary Lack, yet he was cremated the same day he died without ever having been officially pronounced dead. Veronica had not even been allowed to remove Gary’s wedding ring.
On Dr. Royer’s orders, Lack’s body — dressed in the Hawkeye sweats and his wedding ring still on his finger — quietly arrived in Mason City for burning and his ashes then swiftly returned to the funeral home.
When Veronica Lack, her son Adam and the family’s priest arrived Thursday morning at the funeral home so the priest could bless Gary’s body, the company said they’d not be able to view the body.
Instead, Champion-Bucheit Funeral Home presented Veronica with papers they said she needed to sign to “accept her husband’s already cremated remains.”
The papers — an agreement authorizing the funeral home to cremate a body — already had the date filled in: the previous day, January 14, the same day Gary died and was cremated without an autopsy and without the family’s permission.
Signing the document would be a false statement indicating Veronica had given the home “permission” to cremate her husband. Gary hadn’t wanted an open casket funeral, but neither had he expressed any wish for cremation. After all, both he and Veronica had already bought and paid for their future cemetery lots.
Mother and son looked at one another and then to the priest. How could Veronica, in good conscience, sign a back-dated false document? The family would never have allowed Gary’s cremation without first getting the priest’s final blessing. And, Veronica would have kept his wedding ring as a keepsake. She and her son sat stunned, wondering how the body they’d expected the priest to bless that morning had suddenly turned into a box of ashes.
The funeral home made it very clear — they would not be able to release Gary’s cremated remains to Veronica unless she signed the backdated false document. Worse, if she wanted her husband’s cremains for the funeral, she’d be forced to sign an illegal document in the presence of both her son and the priest.
Champion-Bucheit Funeral Home director Thomas L. “Tom” Bucheit had neither answers nor explanations for the family; he said he hadn’t known what happened the day before because he wasn’t even at work that day.
In a Thursday, May 5, 2016, telephone conversation with Mitchell County Attorney Mark Walk, Iowa Cold Cases’ Jody Ewing asked for the name of the physician who had signed off on Gary Lack’s death before his cremation — specifically, the name of the medical examiner or physician who’d pronounced Lack dead before Lack’s body was diverted to Mason City for quick cremation. Walk admitted he didn’t know if anyone had signed off on Gary Lack’s death. He also could not provide the name of any physician who saw Lack’s body and pronounced Lack deceased before Lack’s Mason City cremation.
Iowa Cold Cases learned that LPN-turned-RN Linda Drewelow had pronounced Gary Lack dead, and was later cited by the Iowa Board of Nursing for illegally assuming the role of both physician and medical examiner.
When asked, Walk had no answer as to why Dr. Royer had called the drivers transporting Lack’s body and instructed them to take Lack’s body to Mason City for cremation instead of taking the body to the Champion Funeral Home as initially directed.
No proof exists that Gary Lack’s body ever reached the funeral home in Osage before being redirected to Mason City for cremation without an official declaration of death or an autopsy.
In an ironic twist of fate, Lack had been to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester on January 12, 2004 — just two days before his death.
Dr. Prema P. Peethambaram at Mayo had wanted to switch Lack’s chemotherapy to a trial scheduled to open in two weeks, and encouraged Lack to remain at Mayo until the trial began. Lack, however, didn’t want to leave his wife alone on the farm as she currently had a broken leg. He’d need to look after her, and she could help look after him, Lack told Dr. Peethambaram.
Respecting Lack’s wishes, Dr. Peethambaram called Mercy Hospice in Charles City, Iowa, to set up an afternoon appointment to begin temporary hospice care for the period of the trial and as needed. The hospice care was deemed “temporary” because Lack was by no means in his final stages of death from cancer. The “temporary” hospice care distinction simply would allow hospice care for a period of time in which neither Gary nor Veronica Lack were fully capable of caring for the other.
The same day the couple returned home from the Mayo Clinic, the hospice nurse nearly killed Lack with an overdose of Kayexalate, a drug she mixed on her own that would render Lack nearly paralyzed within one day. Two days later she’d successfully overdose him with Haloperidol, a drug she’d stolen from Hospice patient Ray Power, who died just hours before Lack.
On Thursday, Gary Lack’s obituary appeared in the Globe-Gazette, side-by-side next to the obituary for Raymond Joseph Power.
There would be no criminal investigation launched into Gary Lack’s death, even after the county attorney received copies of investigative reports filed against the nurse by both Medicare and the Iowa Board of Nursing.
Iowa Cold Cases asked Mr. Walk why he hadn’t — after receiving copies of the aforementioned documents* — filed criminal charges against Linda Drewelow. The Iowa Board of Nursing and Medicare had completed their investigations and it was up to the county attorney to file appropriate charges based on those reports. Mr. Walk did not provide an answer to Iowa Cold Cases as to why he’d never taken action or filed criminal charges against Drewelow.
Both Gary and Veronica Lack started getting sick in 1995, and by April 1998 when the couple’s pigs were docked over half their dressed weight due to miscellaneous masses and tumors, Gary received his first terminal cancer diagnosis: inflammatory prostate cancer that spread to his bones while the tumors in his neck pinched off blood to his brain.
Through help from the Mayo Clinic, Lack’s cancer had gone into remission. It would be another four years before Lack’s son Adam would become a second casualty.
According to Veronica Lack, her husband’s and son’s murders were related to a cover-up — an ongoing point-source pollution plume from Mitchell County’s illegally planned drainage system — designed to drain Wetlands down sinkholes.
On Page 1 of “Adam’s Voice,” Veronica Lack included the following statement from her investigation into her son’s death and how things began:
Section 10 Cedar West Township, Mitchell County, Iowa (and sections to the south and west), never had any drainage outlet. It was an old lake bed or huge sinkhole swale that generally caused the crops to be ponded out. As those farmers in the Wetland wanted to switch from grass and pasture to higher income producing row crops like corn and soybeans, they needed to create a drainage outlet. All of my problems with water pollution, trespassing, theft of topsoil, flood damage, erosion and the deaths of my husband and son stemmed from these farmers’ need to create an outlet for water.
“My father, a Floyd County dairy farmer, had been a farm drainage advocate as a supervisor when the Avenue of the Saints was built through Floyd County,” Veronica said. “I had gone with him to film drainage problems when drainage disputes needed attention. I understood the importance of drainage to farmers.”
When feedlot or field runoff is channeled down sinkholes, those swales or sinkholes are direct conduits to downstream farmers’ aquifers and drinking water, Veronica told Iowa Cold Cases.
“Brad Johnson’s farm lies within a gigantic sinkhole swale that the farmers in that 2200-acre swale wanted to drain,” she said. Because of the limited soil depth, they could not tile some areas and had no legal outlet to drain their tile.
When Gary received chemo treatment at the Mayo Clinic on April 15, 2003, for his second terminal cancer since moving to the Iowa farm, Veronica said Roger Mayer, David Mayer and Mark Wagner trespassed on the couple’s farm with a bulldozer and excavator and started digging west through their property line fence and that of Dean Kleckner’s.
“No one should dig a flood channel without doing an environmental impact study first and they certainly should not trespass on another person’s land to dig through a line of existing, NRCS Surveyed and documented sinkholes to channel flood water,” Veronica said.
When she and her husband arrived home from the Mayo Clinic and caught them in the act, Veronica said she grabbed a camera and drove down into one of her family’s fields.
“I saw Mark Wagner driving the bulldozer, pushing our soil over onto Dean Kleckner’s land. We ordered them to put our soil back,” she said. “Gary’s chemo bandage was still on his wrist in the pictures I took of him yelling at David and Roger Mayer and Mark Wagner to put our soil back up to this level where he put out his arms.”
The men told the Lacks they were hired by William Brandau to dig a waterway.
“Dean Kleckner told the sheriff the soil would be put back and the fence replaced,” Veronica said. “Because we trusted Dean Kleckner, we thought the damage would be repaired. Dean Kleckner had showed up in a police car on the 16th of April 2003 and said he would have Mayer Digging reinstall our soil and replace our fence-line.”
After her husband’s homicide but before her son’s murder, Veronica said of the situation:
“It wasn’t since William Brandau later purchased Dean Kleckner’s farm and the Brandau’s lied under oath in the 2007 trial that they and Mayer’s Digging employees were in that visit instead of Dean Kleckner. The Mitchell County Sheriff refused to give me a copy of the 2003 trespass charges and the disposition of those charges until 2008, after the civil case the IDNR said I should file, was lost, the disposition stated Dean Kleckner would have Mayer Digging restore our soil and property line fence at the prior grade, but they did not restore it.”
Iowa’s NRCS director Paul Sweeney said in early 2007, “They are channeling it over the road (at Echo Avenue by Brad Johnson’s).”
“We could not taste the anhydrous ammonia, atrazine, and lead dumped into our drinking water supply; the manure had been visible, smelly, and disgusting,” Veronica said.
Over a period of years, the Lacks spent around $150,000 to install new well and plumbing systems, including an extra protection whole house reverse osmosis filter system. Veronica Lack, however, continued to battle the contaminated water effects on her own health; she underwent a double mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis, had about 80 lymph nodes removed, underwent a hysterectomy and numerous other surgeries, and spent more than a decade seeing Mayo Clinic dermatologists for blistering rashes. Her esophagus became badly damaged from the anhydrous ammonia still leaking into the family farm’s water supply.
Once the Mayo Clinic learned of Lack’s death, they not only encouraged Veronica Lack to try to recover the drugs Drewelow had stolen from the Lacks — in the wrong hands, Diethylstilbestrol could case birth defects — but they also suggested Veronica contact Medicare and ask them to investigate.
During the investigation, Hospice nurse Drewelow, Veronica Lack said, admitted to stealing drugs from the Lacks as well as Ray Power, and also bringing Power’s DBR gel over with the Haloperidol pills and administering them to Gary Lack when Lack had no prescription for either. She also admitted to taking the Kayexalate powder from the Osage Hospital Pharmacy on the night of January 12, 2004, with no pharmacist on duty.
Medicare investigators provided Veronica Lack with a copy of their investigative report: it contained 25 pages of citations against Drewelow and Mercy Hospice of North Iowa in five patients’ deaths within a period of 48 hours.
Medicare cited Drewelow for stealing Ray Power’s drugs and illegally dispersing them to Gary Lack, resulting in Lack’s death. Medicare also cited Drewelow for not providing Ray Power with proper care; she’d picked up his prescriptions the week before he died but never delivered them to him.
Veronica took Medicare’s investigative findings and handed the 25-page report — along with her own records and notes – over to Mitchell County Sheriff Curt Younker and then to Mitchell County Attorney Mark Walk.
“Neither would charge [Drewelow] nor investigate the deaths of any of the five people who were killed under Linda’s care,” Veronica stated on page 18 in her “Adam’s Voice” testimonial.
Dr. Paul Royer suffered no ill consequences of his actions, either.
The Iowa Medical Examiner’s Board sent placed a simple letter in Dr. Royer’s permanent file. In the letter, the Board warned him “not to lie on death certificates as to cause of death.”
Dr. Royer refused to correct his lies, Veronica said, leading to yet another battle with the couple’s life insurance company.
After Gary Lack’s death, his son Adam remained in Iowa to protect his mother and family’s farm and continue his fight against the upstream point source polluting Mitchell County farmers and the officials who protected them.
In the night’s dark hours, vehicles frequently began parking at the end of the Lack home’s driveway, letting mother and son know they were being watched. Whenever Adam or his mother went outside to confront them, the drivers would spin out, shooting rocks at the homeowners and the house. Gary Eggers, a nearby neighbor, told Iowa Cold Cases he endured the same type of harassment.
Adam’s truck, Veronica’s Blazer and the family’s Trailblazer were routinely vandalized — windshields broken, brake lines repeatedly cut, and other damages — and the Lacks had gone to Sheriff Younker to file charges related to the vandalisms.
Veronica said he’d told them he couldn’t do anything unless they provided the vandal or vandals’ license plate numbers as proof of who’d actually vandalized their vehicles. Doing so proved nearly impossible, as the offenders usually shrouded the front license plates with cloth or other coverings.
The bullying tactics went on for years after Gary Lack’s homicide.
By July 2008, Adam Lack, an operations supervisor at Hanlontown’s POET Bio-Refining ethanol plant, had been dealing with a “Hot Ferm” and had just accomplished something never before done at an ethanol plant; he’d been working to get the ferm’s heat to spread to other ferms by physically going out and turning valves. He’d been working 13-hour days with no days off for weeks, but in mid-July completed the job and got the “hot” ferm through to production.
The time he’d spent inhaling ethanol fumes had caused his face to badly swell and sent his asthma out of control.
He’d worked all day Saturday, July 12, 2008, and arrived home just after 10:30 p.m., just in time to see the Chevy Impala parked in the driveway while another individual ran from the house toward the vehicle and jumped in on the Impala’s passenger side.
Dave Letterman had just begun his late night monologue when Veronica Lack heard the sound of her son’s truck. Looking out the window, she also witnessed the man running back to the Impala and getting in on the passenger side. She saw Adam’s pickup out beneath the yard light before it disappeared to follow the Chevy Impala.
The Impala led Adam up to an unfamiliar area north of Highway 9 on a blacktop road with no shoulders and a sharp curve. When Adam rounded the curve, the Impala sat parked across both traffic lanes, and he took the right ditch rather than broadsiding the vehicle. Though his pickup rolled, he’d worn his seatbelt and the airbag deployed. He survived the accident intact, but part of his legs and feet were pinned beneath the dashboard. He removed the keys from the ignition and waited for help.
The first 911 call to report the accident came in just minutes before midnight, but no medical staff arrived. Instead, the farmers and firefighters against whom Lack had testified the previous year — testimony that included how Brad Johnson knifed anhydrous ammonia in through waterways and drained it down a line of sinkholes on his farm — began circling their prey.
Judge Bryan McKinley presided over the 2007 trial and is visibly present in some of the 26 photos County Attorney Mark Walk would later use to threaten Veronica Lack.
Those present at the scene of Adam’s eventual death and captured in photos included not only McKinley, but Deputy Hintz and Mitchell County Coroner Dr. Mark Haganman.
Sometime after 7 a.m. July 13, 2008, St. Ansgar Fire and Rescue personnel strung chains across the ditch to Adam’s truck, and, according to the 26 time-stamped photos taken at the crime scene, began to repeatedly lift Adam’s truck and then drop it back down on him.
One eyewitness, who was visiting a friend and told to “come along” to the crime scene, said he had never witnessed anything like it in his life.
“Adam was crying out, ‘Help me. Get me out of here,'” the individual said, and one of the men present laughed and said “We’ll get you out of there, all right.” The outsider then watched as one of the men wrapped a chain around Adam Lack’s neck.
One of the first drops crushed Adam’s right arm. Another broke his femur. Palas Graham continued to snap photos as the ongoing lifting and dropping mashed Adam’s trapped legs and ankles and then smashed his already dislocated left arm. Photos show Adam’s right arm, his hand balled into a fist, pressing hard into the ground in one last attempt to raise his body from the impending ground.
Another photo shows Adam left lying alone, his fist still pressed into the ground, as officials in front of the pickup gather together and two other individuals are seen walking away from pickup near the tailgate. Some photos show Adam still trapped and alone while other laugh or smile several feet away.
Nearly 10 hours after Adam took the ditch instead of hitting the Impala, and with blood now splattered inside the pickup’s cab and across the windshield, the chain lifted and dropped Adam’s truck once again. This time, the drop snapped Adam’s neck at the C-2 and C-3 vertebra, bringing his nearly day-long torture to an abrupt end.
Mitchell County authorities gave conflicting reports about Adam’s death, at times stating he’d died “instantly” in a “single-vehicle accident,” and other times stating they’d given him a breathalyzer and going so far as to spread local rumors saying Adam was intoxicated.
He was not.
This time, however, officials weren’t able to bypass an autopsy.
The Mason City coroner confirmed what Veronica Lack already knew: Adam Lack had no alcohol or any other drugs in his system. The only unusual thing the coroner found was evidence of job-related “ethanol fume exposure” attributed to Adam’s work at the POET Biorefining ethanol plant.
On July 20, 2008, the week after Adam’s funeral, Veronica Lack said Brad Johnson turned out in front of her at the level B section of Echo Avenue. He stopped in the middle of the road three times, Veronica said, his arm out the window and preventing her from passing through.
“He gave me this gloating look, and yelled ‘I got your boy,’ the same as he had done in the court case in 2005 when he had charged Adam with assault after Adam asked Johnson to stop harassing me,” Veronica Lack said.
Veronica sat parked along the road, in shock, until Johnson finally drove off.
“And I then, even though I don’t remember, I drove the last mile home,” she said. (See Adam’s Voice, pages 33-34.)
The polluting Mitchell County farmers became more determined than ever to force Veronica to sell her land for a pittance. She’d since learned about and obtained copies of the 26 photos taken at her son’s murder scene, and when she refused to sign off more than a hundred acres she and her late husband owned, Walk showed her the photos chronicling her son Adam’s gruesome death.
“You know you have five other children,” he said.
Gary and Adam Lack’s murders remain unsolved.
Veronica Lack, despite ongoing health problems, continues to fight for Iowans’ health and has filed a Civil Rights lawsuit in efforts to force the state to protect and warn the half-million Iowans at risk in this Point Source Pollution Plume.
Gary was born August 29, 1945, at Osage, Iowa, the son of Harold and Mildred (Kinney) Lack of rural Orchard, Iowa. He attended grade school in Orchard, and graduated from Osage High School in 1963.
Gary attended the University of Northern Iowa upon completion of high school, and married Veronica M. (Naumann) Lack on January 16, 1979.
Gary worked for a short time after college at the John Deere Foundry in Waterloo, Iowa. He then worked at Lehigh Portland Cement Company in Mason City for nearly 20 years, where he was a representative of Local D-106.
Gary retired from Lehigh in 1985.
The couple resided in Rockford, Iowa until 1986, and then lived in Cedar Falls and Mason City, Iowa, until 1989, when they sold their Mason City home and bought a motel in Buffalo, Wyoming.
After four wonderful years in Wyoming, the family sold the Wyoming motel and in 1993 moved to Nora Springs in Mitchell County, Iowa, where they still lived at the time of Gary’s death.
Gary died Wednesday, January 14, 2004, at his home. He was 58.
Dr. Paul Royer, associated with Mercy Hospice, ordered Gary’s cremation — his wedding ring and all — without the family’s permission in efforts to conceal Lack’s deadly poisoning by a Mercy Hospice nurse.
A memorial Mass was held Saturday, January 17, 2004, at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Osage, with Rev. Mark Reasoner officiating. Inurnment was in the Orchard Cemetery in Orchard, Iowa, in Mitchell County, with the Champion–Bucheit Funeral home in Osage in charge of arrangements.
Gary’s survivors included his wife, Veronica M. Lack of Nora Springs; six children, Dr. Anthony L. Lack of Baytown, Texas, Heidi M. (Dr. Robert) Thunhorst of Iowa City, Tanya R. (Shawn) Hamilton of Kansas City, Missouri, Benjamin J. (Fernanda De Collo) Lack of West Des Moines, Adam M. Lack of Nora Springs, and William D. Lack and his fiancée, Brandi Moon of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts; three grandchildren, Erica N. Lack, Gustav M. Thunhorst, Gabriella D. Lack; his father Harold Lack of Orchard; one brother James (Helen) Lack of Orchard; one sister Margaret Lack and husband Stewart of Hood, Virginia; paternal aunt Marilyn (Philip) Larson of Mission, Texas; and many cousins.
Gary’s mother Mildred Lack, along with his maternal and paternal grandparents, preceded him in death.
On July 13, 2008, Gary and Veronica Lack’s 33-year-old son Adam Lack became another Mitchell County fatality who’d fought against the ongoing point-source pollution plume and the county’s illegally planned drainage system designed to drain Wetlands down sinkholes.
If you have any information about Gary Lack’s 2004 unsolved homicide or his son Adam Lack’s 2008 homicide, please contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at the Washington, DC, office at (202) 278-2000, or fax related documents to (202) 278-2478. You may also email email@example.com or send information via the FBI Tips and Public Leads online form.