Barbara Jane Mackle had grown up in a very well to-do home. Her father, Robert, was a successful land developer on Marco Island, Florida. As any local Floridian will tell you, Marco is big, big money; the area is often the home of celebrities and the uber wealthy. While Barbara had never wanted for anything, she’d always been a good girl, and definitely the apple of her her father’s eye.
Daddy’s business had made the news earlier that same year, in 1968, for a big development which he had just contracted, and this likely what brought the family to the attention of Gary Krist and Ruth Eisemann-Schier. Gary was an intelligent man living in Florida who’d been employed at The University of Miami, and for some time now he’d been searching high and low for his Golden goose. He figured that a very wealthy yet tough young woman with a strong will to survive would be a perfect target, and Barbara definitely fit that bill; Gary had been stalking her for several weeks, just biding his time.
20 year old Barbara had been away at Emory University in Georgia when she became ill with the Hong Kong flu. Her mother, Jane, had taken Barbara to a nearby hotel called The Rodeway Inn so that she could recover quickly, since it seemed everyone at the college was sick as well. At approximately 4 a.m. on December 17th, Gary and Ruth dressed up as male police officers and knocked on the hotel room door; they claimed that Barbara’s serious boyfriend, Stewart, had been in a terrible automobile accident. As soon as the mother allowed the pair entrance, they immediately attacked the women. Both victims were tied up, a rag soaked with chloroform was shoved in Jane’s face, and Barbara was forced outside to her captor’s car by gunpoint.
The couple drove their young victim to a large pre-dug shallow hole in the middle of the Gwinnett county woods, and they placed Barbara in a fiberglass coffin-like box. Gary had put a lot of time, effort, and thought into this box; it was well constructed, rigged with a lamp, an air pump, water, and food which had been laced with medications to help Barbara calm down and asleep. After Barbara was forced into the box, she was given a sign to hold which read, “KIDNAPPED”, then the dastardly duo buried their victim.
The criminals demanded a ransom of $500K (which would be approximately 3.5 million by today’s standards) in unmarked $20.00 bills from Daddy dearest, and they arranged a meeting. During this meeting police happened to drive by, and the panicked kidnappers ran off without their vehicle. Inside the car police discovered the aforementioned photo of the kidnapped Barbara; they also found that the vehicle was registered to a man by the name of, you guessed it, Gary Krist. During the police investigation it was discovered that Gary was an escaped California convict who’d escaped prison back in 1966.
Barbara’s father placed an ad on the front page of the Miami Herald in which he begged to set up another drop. Thankfully this time it worked out; the exchange was made, and the kidnappers made good with their promise. Ruth called and informed the police as to where they could find Barbara. Investigators sped to the area and, using their hands, they dug until they found the victim. Though the young woman had been buried beneath the ground for more than three days, miraculously she was still alive.
Police went to the University Of Miami to speak with those who’d known Gary. They discovered that he’d been employed to build ventilated boxes. The suspect’s supervisor also mentioned that Gary had a close relationship with a female coworker by the name of Ruth Eisemann-Schier.
Police knew that these two were the criminals they’d been searching for. Ruth and Gary were quickly placed on the America’s Most Wanted list, and people in the area were on the lookout for a man with a beard who paid with $20 bills. Gary had already purchased a boat and he was headed out of the country when police caught up with him.
For all the torture they put Barbara and her family through, Ruth only served 4 years in prison then deported back to her home country of Honduras. Gary served 10 years; after his release the man attended college to become a doctor! He practiced medicine until 2003 when he retired; a couple years later he was arrested for smuggling drugs and sentenced to five years probation.
As far as Barbara, she went on to wed Stewart, her college sweetheart; the pair settled here in South Florida, and had a couple of kids. She did write a book in which she recalls the terror of her ordeal, but also distinctly remembers knowing that she was not going to die in that box. The young woman had known that she’d be home with her family for Christmas, and she was right.
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