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Shortly after 6 p.m. on March 8, 2008, Manchester police received an anonymous tip that medical records had been dumped in a trash bin behind Lafayette Center, a nondescript strip mall straddling the suburbs of Ballwin and Manchester. When an officer arrived at the scene, he discovered nearly 500 white binders spilling out of three Dumpsters. The files contained the test results, Social Security numbers and other personal information for 466 patients of Dr. Alexander T. Kalk.
Police attempted to phone Kalk at his office on Old Ballas Road in Creve Coeur. When no one answered, officers searched the building and found no sign of trouble — and no trace of Kalk.
Many of the patient records were printed on letterhead from Missouri Baptist Medical Center. A general practitioner with a specialty in internal medicine, Kalk began an affiliation with the hospital in 2004, and many of his 2,000 patients had been referred to him through the facility.
When police contacted the hospital, Dr. John Krettek, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer, told them Kalk hadn't been on staff there for several months after being "forced to leave due to numerous complaints of misconduct." The hospital, according to police reports, agreed to store the records temporarily "to protect the interests of the patients" and await the arrival of federal investigators from the Department of Health and Human Services, which had been notified of a potential violation of patient privacy law.
In the meantime, Manchester authorities continued their search for the missing doctor. They spoke to his wife, who told them that they were in the midst of a bitter divorce. She said she and her children had been "hiding from her husband for several months because she fears for their safety," according to police reports.
She also stated that Kalk was suffering from a variety of mental disorders and "in the process of closing his medical practice due to his own personal and medical problems." The doctor, she further explained, had been staying with friends recently but "might be homeless."
Kalk's employees were equally baffled by their boss' mysterious disappearance. Yoshiko Lesinski, an office clerk, reported to work as usual, only to find that she and a half dozen coworkers had been locked out. She waited outside for a couple hours before giving up and returning home. "He didn't tell anyone he was leaving," Lesinski recalls in a recent interview. "I didn't know what happened. I just figured he didn't make it to office, but he just never returned."
Inexplicably, Kalk, in April 2008, a month after trashing his patients' charts, somehow managed to open a new practice less than half a mile away from his old one. It lasted only a few months.
Kalk was more than $1 million in debt, with his medical license in jeopardy, when he abruptly left the state in March of this year. He did not surface again until June 21, when he was arrested by Clayton police on suspicion of forging checks belonging to his estranged business partner.
Today, the 39-year-old Kalk lives with his older sister in Austin, Texas, where, he says, he's undergoing treatment for an undisclosed mental ailment. "It's a story of sadness and psychiatric problems," Kalk said of his struggles in a telephone interview last month. "I can only say I'm sorry for the things that happened when I was sick."
The first time authorities sensed something seriously amiss with Dr. Kalk came on December 12, 2006, when two of his employees notified Creve Coeur detective Paul Hornung that their paychecks bounced.
Recalling the case last month, the detective said he smelled trouble when he phoned Kalk about the charges. "He called back and left a voice mail that was just incomprehensible," Hornung says. "It was way out there. That was the first clue that I was dealing with somebody who wasn't all there. The more I learned about it, the worse it got."
Hornung then followed up with the disgruntled workers, who, along with complaining about the bad checks — totaling around $1,500 — proceeded to hurl dozens of other accusations at Kalk. In his police report, Hornung wrote that the two employees had recently quit their jobs because they "felt the doctor had either 'lost his mind' or 'was using drugs, which made him weirder than usual.'"
They also claimed Kalk was living in his medical office, "no longer showering or using personal hygiene," and that a "sub-contractor" made daily visits to the office to apply "make-up to Dr. Kalk's face, to hide bags due to lack of sleep."
Because of the peculiar behavior, Kalk's entire eighteen-person office staff — save for one person — had quit over the previous two weeks. Hornung questioned the lone remaining worker, who admitted Kalk "had been acting a little weird lately," but did not "feel that [Kalk] was a threat to himself or others."
When Hornung finally spoke to Kalk about the allegations, the doctor was furious. "Dr. Kalk was extremely offended that I would call a doctor as important as him, or that I would worry for his safety," he stated in his report. "Dr. Kalk showed no levels of comprehension [about] his entire office staff quitting on him. He believed all of them should work for free to show their dedication to the best doctor in the country and to care more about him than other materialistic things."
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