December 17, 1968
20-year-old Barbara Mackle is abducted and buried alive in a ransom attempt
Barbara was chosen because her father, Robert Mackle, was a wealthy land developer. A little before 4 a.m., Gary Stephen Krist and Ruth Eisemann-Schier knocked on the motel door belonging to Barbara and her mother Jane Braznell Mackle. Krist was disguised as a police officer and informed Jane of an accident involving Barbara’s friend Stewart Hunt Woodward (whom Barbara eventually married). Krist then shoulder-bashed the motel door and covered Jane’s face with a cloth which smelled of chloroform. Before she fell unconscious, Jane noticed Krist was accompanied by Eisemann-Schier whom Jane originally mistook as a 12-year-old boy.
Detroit Free Press. January 5, 1969
Jane regained consciousness a short time after the pair had taken Barbara at gunpoint. Though she had her hands tied behind her back, her legs bound, and a piece of tape covering her mouth, Jane managed to hop to her daughter’s car. She half-leaned backwards into the driver’s side to honk the horn until the motel clerk angrily investigated the disturbance and police were alerted.
Krist and Eisemann-Schier sedated Barbara with a tranquilizer. They then took two Polaroid photographs of Barbara with a sign reading “kidnapped” before placing her in a reinforced box, screwing on the lid, and burying her. They provided some supplies for their victim: a battery-powered light, some water that “tasted funny” (it was later revealed to have been laced with sedatives), some food, a ventilation fan which Barbara could control, a sweater, and a blanket. Barbara reported the sweater and blanket provided little warmth in her makeshift coffin, which leaked water onto her.
Barbara remained in the box for 83 hours.
Detroit Free Press. January 5, 1969
Robert attempted to pay the $500,000 ransom, but the kidnappers were scared from the initial drop location when a police car drove by. In their haste, they abandoned their car and with it the Polaroid camera they had used to take the pictures of Barbara as well as photographs of themselves. The car was found to be registered to a man named George Deacon who built ventilated boxes for a living and was known to associate with Eisemann-Schier. Upon further investigation it was revealed Deacon was Krist‘s alias. Both Krist and Eisemann-Schier were placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, and Eisemann-Schier became the first woman to be placed on it.
A second drop was successful, but the kidnappers did not respond immediately. On December 20, Krist gave an FBI switchboard operator vague directions to Barbara’s location. One of the search team members found a ventilation tube and began digging through the loose soil with his hands until they bled while another agent used a tree branch as a spade. When they unscrewed the top of the box, Barbara’s first words were: “How are my parents?”
The “grave” where Barbara was buried
A manhunt was launched for Krist and Eisemann-Schier; both were apprehended within three months. Eisemann-Schier was sentenced to seven years for her part in the kidnapping. Krist was originally given a life sentence but was released on parole in 1979. He mostly kept out of legal troubles until 2009 when he was sentenced to five years and five months for “conspiracy to bring cocaine and illegal aliens into the United States.”
- “Man gets prison time.” The Montgomery Adviser [Montgomery, Alabama]. January 20, 2007
- “Bury-alive abductor paroled by Georgia.” Muncie Evening Press [Muncie, Indiana]. May 15, 1979
- Hatch, Katherine. “Kidnap Hunt Ends in Norman.” The Daily Oklahoman [Oklahoma City, Oklahoma]. March 6, 1969
- Miller, Gene. “Barbara Mackle’s 83 Hour’s in a Tomb.” Detroit Free Press. January 5, 1969