Notorious SC doctor-turned-cat burglar dead at 79

Updated: Oct. 3, 2017 at 10:17 PM EDT
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SWANSEA, SC (WIS) - Dr. Ian Gale, the Midlands psychiatrist, lawyer, teacher, and author who gained national attention for his criminal career, has died after apparently committing suicide.

Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher says Gale's body was found Oct. 1after a fire in the Swansea area home where he'd been living. Fisher says an autopsy revealed the 79-year-old died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Gale rose to prominence in the late 1970's after he was arrested in connection with a string of home burglaries, many in the Forest Acres area. He was sentenced in December 1979 to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to break-ins that netted hundreds of thousands of dollars in property.

Prosecutors said Gale, who pronounced his first name EYE-un, was a "cat burglar" who stashed loot including rare coin collections, jewelry, gold and guns in a room in his home that family members were not allowed to enter.

Authorities said Gale had broken into more than 100 homes, mostly at night, while leading what appeared to be a normal life by day. Former Richland County Sheriff Frank Powell once called Gale "a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde."

After he was released from prison in 1987, Gale taught classes at a Columbia technical college, served as a home security consultant, became a born-again Christian, wrote a book on his criminal exploits and in 1988 announced he would run against longtime Lexington County Sheriff James Metts.

Gale also sympathized with white supremacists and according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, wrote articles for a propaganda magazine published by the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi organization.

The SLPC says Gale was a registered lobbyist for the National Alliance in South Carolina.

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