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Jan. 14, 1980: St. Louis car bombing is the work of the notorious 'Southside Dentist'

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One day early in 1980, Joan Lang saw a frantic man running toward her dog grooming shop at 4455 Gravois Avenue.

"My dentist has been arrested," the man said.

"Arrested for what?" Lang said. Murder, he said. But that wasn't what caused the man consternation about Dr. Glennon Engleman's arrest.

"He was upset because he was in jail and he did not have his dentures back," Lang said.

The arrest caused consternation among some patients of Engleman, who had his office in the 4600 block of Gravois Avenue. Others who knew him as a good dentist and citizen were shocked.

But when a jury in federal court on Sept. 25, 1980 found Engleman guilty in the Jan. 14, 1980, car bombing that killed Sophie Marie Barrera, police saw it as a step toward wrapping up investigations that began 22 years earlier.

From the start, police suspected Engleman in the shooting death of James S. Bullock. When Bullock was killed near the St. Louis Art Museum in 1958, Engleman's ex-wife, Edna, had been married to Bullock for six months.

When he was behind bars, Engleman bragged it took the Soviet satellite Sputnik and Cuban leader Fidel Castro to take him off page one of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat during the Bullock investigation.

But investigators couldn't find enough evidence to charge Engleman.

Meanwhile, police suspected Engleman in other violent deaths, including the 1963 death of Eric Frey, a business partner who died in what was ruled an accident in Franklin County.

There also was the fatal shooting of Peter J. Halm of Kirkwood in 1976. Halm's wife was a dental assistant for Engleman before she married Halm.

But then Barrera died in an explosion as she started her car outside her dental lab near the South Side National Bank. Barrera had sued Engleman for failing to pay bills he owed her lab.

After the explosion, Ruth Engleman, one of his ex-wives, went to police and started talking. With her help, police were able to arrest and convict Engleman for the killing of Halm for insurance money and then for Barrera's killing.

In 1985, Engleman pleaded guilty to murdering three others. Altogether, he was a suspect in 12 killings.

Engleman received two life sentences for the slayings of Barrera and Halm. He died at 71 in 1999 at the Jefferson City Correctional Center.

Joan Lang's husband, Mike, recalled Engleman as a nice man who always paid the dues for the Granada Gravois Business Association. Mike Lang was a wedding photographer and the association's secretary. He and his wife later owned Dreamland Palace, a German restaurant near Waterloo, Ill.

Mike Lang recalled several neighbors who received free dental work from Engleman.

Engleman was highly intelligent, Lang said. "You could talk to him and you would hear the wheels humming," Lang said.

Longtime South Side dentist Dr. Lester Joern didn't know Engleman personally. But he did have patients who went to him.

"These patients - I have three or four of them that come in here - they said he was a nice dentist. He did great work," Dr. Joern later recalled.

Dr. Joern said he heard plenty of stories about Engleman from collegues.

"Let's face it, I'm a celebrity - Jesse James, the Dalton Gang and Dr. Engleman," he told reporters in jail.

Officially, Bullock's killing remains unsolved. But authorities are confident they got their man.

Remember these notable St. Louis-area serial killers?

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