March 13, 1994
How Barbara Mackle Was Kidnapped And Buried Alive
First Of Two Parts
"No! No! No! You
can't do this! You've got to let me out.
Wait! I'll be good."
Barbara Mackle pleaded with her kidnappers
not to bury her alive.
Gary Krist, alias George Deacon, an escaped
convict from a California prison, said, "Don't
be such a baby." Methodically he began
screwing down the lid of a coffin-like
box --- ignoring the screams of his 20-year-old
victim as she pounded frantically in her
Barbara was a student at Emory University,
an exclusive girl's school at Decatur,
Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. When she
became ill with influenza during the epidemic
of 1968, she had to take a room at a nearby
motel. The college infirmary was full with
other sick girls.
Mrs. Jane Mackle drove from Coral Gables,
a posh suburb of Miami, to take care of
her daughter. Christmas was just eight
Robert Mackle and his two brothers, Frank
and Elliot, were wealthy land developers
who had launched Port Charlotte and North
Port --- among other planned communities.
By a quirk of fate, Krist was captured
--- and nearly all of a half-million-dollar
ransom recovered. Conclusion of the most
bizarre kidnapping in U.S. history took
place on Hog Island near El Jobean.
The principal participants were Special
Deputy Milton Buffington and Major Richard
McLeod of the Charlotte County sheriff's
Milton, now is retired at Punta Gorda.
He treasures a scrapbook of news stories
about the sensational kidnapping and recalls
"Barbara and her mother stayed in
a $32-per-night motel room," says
Milton. "They were hoping Barbara's
fever would abate enough to allow them
to go home for a family Christmas celebration.
"Barbara's boy friend, Stewart Woodward,
came by in the evening to keep the two
women company. He left about midnight.
As he drove away in his white Ford, Stewart
noted two people sitting in a blue Volvo
station wagon. He thought nothing of it
at the time because many people were registered
at the motel. "At 4 a.m. there was
a knock on the door. 'Who is it?' Mrs.
Mackle called out. 'The police,' replied
a male voice. 'We are investigating an
accident in which a young man driving a
white Ford has been seriously injured.'
"Mrs. Mackle went to open the door.
Barbara said 'Don't," but it was too
late. Outside the door was a big man holding
a shotgun. With him was a smaller person
in a ski mask and holding a pistol. The
latter was thought to be a boy but was
discovered later to be a young Honduran
woman named Ruth Eisemann-Schier.
in and put their weapons to the heads
of Mrs. Mackle and Barbara. 'Do as we
say, and nobody will be hurt.'
was more annoyed than frightened. She
thought they were being robbed. 'Just
take our money and get out of here!'
"The big man,
Krist, pressed a cloth saturated with
chloroform over her nose and mouth. In
moments Mrs. Mackle was unconscious.
The slightly built, masked intruder started
to do the same to Barbara, but held back
when Barbara said she would 'be good' and
not scream or look at her captors.
his accomplice placed Barbara face down
on the back seat of a blue Buick and
drove for about 20 minutes into a wild,
uninhabited area. Krist pulled up Barbara's
night gown and jabbed her with a hypodermic
needle which he said contained a harmless
sedative. Then Schier placed a chloroform
cloth over Barbara's face briefly.
woozy but remained conscious. Krist ordered
her to hold a crude sign KIDNAPPED while
he photographed her with a Polaroid camera.
He didn't like the picture because she
was grim faced. He ordered her to smile
so her parents would know she was alive.
Then he photographed her again.
"He also took
an opal ring from her finger. Then he
slid her, feet first, into an open hole
which already contained the plywood box.
"There were two ventilating pipes
into the box which Krist referred to as
a "capsule." Speaking into the
tubes, Krist told hysterical Barbara that
she had food, water, a blanket, a small
light and ventilating fan operated by batteries,
and a pump to get rid of water should it
rain. A bed-pan was provided for bodily
"The supplies and batteries would
last a week if used sparely --- two and
a half days if "wasted," said
Krist. In a box of sanitary napkins there
was a note assuring her she would be released
in a week even if her father did not pay
bound hand and foot with Venetian blind
cords --- mouth taped --- regained consciousness
an hour or so later. She banged on the
wall with her feet but got no response.
Struggling to her feet, she hopped to
the door. She managed to open it from
behind her back. She did the same with
her parked Pontiac Firebird and pressed
the horn with her head.
horn brought the motel night-clerk in
a hurry. 'Cut that out, lady! You're
waking all our guests.' Mrs. Mackle stood
up, enabling the manager to see her fetters
and gag. 'Oh, my God! What's wrong?'
minutes the police arrived. Road blocks
were thrown up. All Atlanta-area patrol
cars were ordered on alert. Robert Mackle
was called. He rushed to the scene in
his private plane commanded by two pilots.
"At 9:30 a.m.
that morning, the Mackle's unlisted telephone
A friend summoned to the house for the
purpose, answered. 'Listen carefully, I
will say this only one time. I am the kidnapper
of your daughter. Look under the rock at
the base of a palm tree near your front
gate. Follow instructions there faithfully
if you want to see your daughter again.'
"Under the rock was a bottle with
three sheets of typewritten paper. They
explained that Barbara was buried in a
box and would be allowed to "suffocate" if
a ransom of $500,000 was not paid, or the
was to consist of used $20 bills, not
in serial order, and bound in $1,000
packets. The ransom was to be put in
a single suit case and readied for further
"If the terms
were accepted, Mackle was to place a
classified ad in the Miami
Herald under the personal section.
The ad was hurriedly placed at a cost of
$3: 'LOVED ONE. Please come home. We will
pay all expenses and meet you anywhere
at anytime. Your family.'
spent all that day and night preparing
the ransom and listing the serial numbers.
There was difficulty finding a suitcase
large enough to contain the money. Finally,
the wife of the bank vice-president found
one in her closet at home.
the postman delivered a letter containing
Barbara's opal ring and the Polaroid
"At 4 a.m.
Thursday --- exactly two days since the
kidnapping --- Robert Mackle received
another telephone call. He was directed
to leave immediately and drive to the
foot of Fair Isle Drive at Biscayne Bay.
The road and bridge was blocked off every
evening at 8 o'clock.
told to leave the ransom on a sandy strip
near the bridge and depart.
as instructed. However, shortly afterward
a neighbor heard a motor boat coming
up the shallow channel between Fair Isle
and the mainland. Fearing burglars who
often hit waterside homes via boats,
he called police. Two officers were sent
"They saw two
persons coming out of a small woods near
the bridge and ordered them to halt.
Instead, the suspects dropped a large,
heavy suitcase and bolted safely into
was discovered to contain more money
than they had ever seen. Not knowing
of the ransom payoff, the officers assumed
they had interrupted a big burglary.
They took the money to the police station.
It soon was discovered the money was the
devastated when told of the accidentally
botched payoff. He feared his daughter
would be killed. 'I don't care about
the money. We just want our daughter
"A white boat
and a blue Volvo were found abandoned
at the scene. The boat's registration
number indicated the craft belonged to
the University of Miami Institute of
"In the Volvo,
police found a passport for Ruth Eisemann-Schier,
two one-way airline tickets to Las Vegas
and six Polaroid snapshots. Some of the
photographs were of a man, others of
a woman. Both were nude or scantily dressed.
One photo was of a grim Barbara Mackle.
plate was traced to a George Deacon who
worked for the Marine Institute. Dozens
of fingerprints were lifted from various
surfaces of the automobile and quickly
identified as Gary Krist, fugitive felon.
"The University identified the woman
in the Polaroid prints as a biologist at
the Marine Institute," recounts Buffington.
Struggle For Sanity
During these developments, Barbara was
struggling to keep her sanity. Her light
and fan had ceased to function. Water was
dripping into her box --- soaking her nightgown
After her ordeal, Barbara wrote a book
of her experience. It was suggested by
President Elect Richard Nixon, a close
friend of the family. The book was titled 83
Hours Till Dawn.
"After a couple
of days I thought about dying. I said
'This is where I am going to die.' Three
or four times I thought this is going to
be my casket. When I got morbid I would
think of who would find me. Who and when
and how. Maybe it would be a farmer. Or
someone building something. In ten years?
to count sheep. I pretended to see a
little wooden rail fence. I had white
sheep jumping, and I counted eight or
nine hundred. I thought about decorating
our Christmas tree.
"You know how
you try to make a bad situation seem
better than it is? Well, I kept thinking
to myself. It's nice and cozy and warm
here. If I were outside, it would be
place could there be than right here?
If were out, why, maybe something would
go wrong and the kidnappers would want
to shoot me. But here they can't. I'm
safe here. I'm glad I'm here.
"I talked to
myself this way, but it didn't work for
long. I was cold and I was wet, and I
ached. I couldn't stretch out. Once I
scrunched up and got stuck. I got real
panicky thinking I was going to die this
"My tiny light
ceased to work very soon. Then I was
in total darkness. I thought about being
blind. When I was a child I used to close
my eyes and pretend I was blind. It was
"I used to
work for the blind, and I wondered what
it would be like to be blind. Now I know.
You want to see. You are so frustrated.
You can't see your hand in front of your
face. And I thought, if they can spend
their whole life like this, well, I can
"I would turn
off the ventilating fan from time to
time just to stop the noise. It was getting
to me. And then I would deliberately
sing happy songs. I have such a bad voice
that when I hear myself sing, I laugh.
I felt silly singing, but it felt good.
"My mind was
just wandering. I was thinking of walking
on the Emory campus with Stewart. Ice
skating, and I remember he was falling
down, and I was laughing, and one time
it was cold and we were just running...
just running and playing leap frog. Childish
things, but it was fun. I thought of
all the happy and fun things I could."
"The time came
when I started to talk to God. For awhile
in my life, I was kind of agnostic, I
suppose. I believed in God most of the
time. When I was down there in the ground
I thought that maybe I should believe
"I just started
talking, as if God were there beside
me. I said, 'God, 'I know you are not
going to let me die here. Even if no
one knows where I am, You know where
I am.' I found this very comforting."
NEXT WEEK: The Chase And Capture
cutline l --- news clip
Photos courtesy Mr./Mrs. Milton and Beverly
Mackle forces a "sorry smile" in
this photograph taken by her kidnappers
to convince her parents she was alive and
in the power of her abductors.
2 --- news clip
Krist, kidnapper and escaped felon.
3 --- magazine clip
by "Front Page Detective."
, Ga. , motel from which Barbara Mackle
by "Front Page Detective."
station wagon and boat which cracked
open the case.
March 20, 1994
Local Butcher A Key Deputy In Capturing
Last Of Two Parts
Robert Mackle was distraught when he learned
the delivery of a half-million-dollar ransom
for his daughter, Barbara, was aborted
accidentally by an alert police officer
"My God, they're going to kill my
daughter," Mackle declared.
By a twist of fate, a Punta Gorda butcher
played a key role in bringing the kidnapper
Milton "Butch" Buffington,
at that time in 1968, was the popular meat
department manager for U Save. He also
was a special deputy for Charlotte County
Sheriff Jack Bent. Milton owned two bloodhound "track
dogs," and two German shepherd "attack
dogs." Consequently he was called
on frequently to aid searches for fleeing
It was in this capacity that Milton became
involved in the famous kidnapping of Miss
Mackle who was buried alive near Norcross,
He relates the thrilling conclusion:
"Mr. Mackle pleaded with the FBI
to do something to save his daughter. It
was decided to issue a press release addressed
to the kidnappers," said Milton as
he opened a scrapbook containing the statement
"I had nothing
to do with the action Thursday morning
of the Miami police who tried to arrest
you and recovered the money which I had
left for you. I regret that you did not
get the money because my only interest
is the safety of my daughter. I pray
that you have not harmed my daughter.
I did everything you told me to do. I had
nothing to do with the accidental appearance
of the Miami police on the scene. Please
contact me again through any channel. I
will do anything you ask so my daughter
will be freed."
Milton Buffington continued:
was featured in all the afternoon newspapers.
At 10 p.m. that evening, Mr. Mackle received
a telephone call from Krist.
given only once, were simple. 'Go now
to the end of a dirt road off Tamiami
Trail nine miles west of Miami. Leave
the suitcase of money. If there was no
interference, you will receive another
call before noon Friday telling you where
to find your daughter.'
did as directed. A checkup at 3 a.m.,
disclosed that the money had been picked
"Mr. and Mrs.
Mackle and the FBI waited tensely at
the Coral Gable mansion. By noon, no
call had come. The group feared the worst.
"At 3 p.m.,
the switchboard operator at the Atlanta
office of the FBI received a call from
a man who said, 'Listen carefully. I'll
only give this once so you can't trace
Krist gave directions in tenths of a
mile to Barbara's location. Eight cars
of FBI agents raced to the spot. It was
an abandoned homesite overgrown with
thorny bushes. However, there was so
sign of the living grave.
"Agents were about to give up when
one man heard a faint knock, knock, knock.
He fell to his hands and knees and crawled
into the bushes. There he found freshly
turned earth with two, protruding pipes. "The
agent called, 'Barbara, is that you? This
is the FBI. If you can hear me, knock again.
The knocking sound was repeated.
is!' shouted the agent. Frantically the
men began clawing into the earth with
their bare hands and sticks. Twelve minutes
later, their hands bleeding, the agents
reached the coffin lid. 'Hang on, Barbara!
It's the FBI. We'll have you out in a
off the lid with a tire iron. There was
Barbara, still dressed in her nightgown,
weeping with relief and shock. 'How are
my parents?' The agents cried as they
lifted her out of the box. She was unable
to stand so they carried her to the cars
and radioed the dispatcher that Barbara
had been rescued.
J. Edgar Hoover personally telephoned
the Mackles to tell them Barbara was
alive and in remarkable good shape considering
the ordeal she had suffered through three
nights and four days.
the police at Miami were closing in on
Krist. A car he had rented was discovered
in West Palm Beach at a parking lot near
the waterfront. A canvas of stores and
homes in the area located a marine dealer
who had sold a small boat Friday afternoon
to a man who gave his name as Arthur
Horowitz and paid for it with $20 bills.
worth of additional equipment the man
bought was a chart for the intracoastal
waterway through Lake Okeechobee to the
west coast. Fifteen minutes after the purchase,
the man who called himself Horowitz sped
up the intracoastal toward St. Lucie and
turned into the Okeechobee canal.
learned he had passed through the Okeechobee
locks and sped down the Caloosahatchee
just an hour earlier. The Coast Guard
at St. Petersburg was lofted to patrol
the Gulf Coast. The pilots spotted the
suspect off Cayo Costa. As the copter
dropped low for a close inspection, the
boat driver looked up and was positively
"The fleeing boat suddenly swerved
through Boca Grande Pass in an apparent
effort to elude the chase craft, but the
copter never lost contact. Ahead was a
desolate, wooded shore. "Krist headed
for it and rammed his boat into a sandy
strip surrounded by dense mangroves. He
leaped from the boat with a small suitcase
and struggled into the mud and mangroves.
"The time was
1:30 p.m. The place was Hog Island just
below El Jobean. Sheriff deputies, state
police and FBI agents --- in all, 200
armed men --- swooped to the area by
car, boat and air sleds. We tied yellow
ribbons around our hats to identify ourselves.
I still have mine.
post under the supervision of Captain
John P. Shannon, later a county judge
for Charlotte County, was set up at the
Lazy R fishing camp south of El Jobean.
"In the abandoned boat, whose registration
number matched that sold at West Palm Beach,
they found a duffel bag with $480,000 in
$20 bills. "I was ordered to join
the hunt as soon as I could leave the market
and change into my uniform while my two
sons loaded the dogs.
"When I got
to the Lazy R an hour later, I found
the FBI agents with their three-piece
suits and city shoes floundering in the
mud. Many had lost their shoes --- sucked
off by the mud. It was obvious that none
of them had ever before tangled up with
a mangrove thicket.
me and my dogs over to Hog Island, and
we worked the sandy strips. We couldn't
do any good because everything was wet
and muddy. Scents don't hold in the wet.
we gave up trying to track the fugitive.
I took my dogs home, changed into dry
clothes and returned to El Jobean. There
I and Deputy Major Richard McLeod were
ferried over to Hog Island about 10 p.m.
where the search party had gathered around
a campfire to wait for daylight. Air
boats circled the island continually
to keep Krist from wading across to the
"Mac and I
tried to put ourselves in the fugitive's
shoes. We figured Krist didn't realize
he was on an island and would try to
make his way to the lights at El Jobean
on the mainland. We decided we would
wade around in the dark to the landward
side of the island and wait for sounds.
about midnight we heard soft splashing
like some one walking along the edge
of the mangroves. We eased out into water
up to our chests so we wouldn't splash.
I held my pistol over my head to keep
it dry, and held a flashlight in my left
hand at arm's length --- ready to flick
it on, but at a distance so any shots
at it wouldn't hit me. Mack held a carbine
over his head.
would stop for a minute or two, then
resume. An air boat came by in the dark,
and the splashing stopped. We waited
a half-hour or more in silence for the
splashing to resume. Finally we heard
a rustle in the bushes. Mac whispered
to me to move away from him a bit and get
ready for his signal to turn on the flash
light toward the spot where we had heard
Mac. I flicked on the light and there
on a log sat Krist with a small suitcase.
'Put up your hands,' Mac shouted. 'You're
his hands; and we waded up to him, our
guns cocked. He didn't move. 'I'm tired,'
he said. 'Can I have a drink?' I walked
around behind him and put my hand cuffs
on him. Mac fired three shots into the
air to call for help.
an air boat around, but it was too difficult
in waist-deep water to get the handcuffed
prisoner aboard. We waded him to camp.
When we dragged him ashore he collapsed
on the ground from fatigue. In his suitcase
we found $18,000 of the ransom money.
That was the last of the $500,000 he
had hoped to get away with.
"When we got
to El Jobean, the FBI agents grabbed
our prisoner and rushed him to one of
their cars. Mac protested that Krist
was our prisoner and should be taken
to the nearest federalized prison, ours,
at the Punta Gorda court house.
paid no attention to us. They pushed
Krist into one of their cars and raced
away to Fort Myers. However, they forgot
to take the suitcase of money I was carrying
--- crucial evidence the FBI needed for
a trial. The next day, a couple of FBI
agents came back and very nicely asked
us to relinquish the evidence.
of the massive search occurred when two
state wildlife officers --- rushing in
their car to get an airboat --- slammed
into another car on Tamiami Trail. The
officers suffered broken bones; but Harry
Taylor, a 63-year-old car salesman, was
"Mac and I
received citations from Sheriff Bent
for our capture and letters of commendation
from FBI Director Hoover.
$3,400 boat and outboard motor with which
Krist fled was given to Mr. Mackle because
it had been purchased with his money.
Mr. Mackle then gave it to Sheriff Bent's
office. Then it was discovered the boat
belonged to the West Palm Beach dealer
because the purchase money had been confiscated
by the FBI.
re-purchased the boat for Charlotte County.
It was the first marine craft for the
was tried and given 20 years. The death-penalty
for kidnapping --- instituted after the
kidnapping and murder of Charles A. Lindberg's
baby --- had been repealed. Krist served
10 years, and upon release went to Alaska
where he now lives.
"His girl friend,
Ruth Eisemann-Schier, gave up the kidnapping
plot after they were nearly caught in
Miami trying the first time to pick up
the ransom money. She was apprehended
in Texas where she worked as a waitress.
She served two or three years in prison
as an accomplice. Her whereabouts today
By Lindsey Williams, columnist for Sun Coast Media Group newspapers
by "Front Page Detective"
armed manhunters used shallow-draft airboats
to search for the Barbara Mackle kidnapper
on Hog Island near El Jobean.
by "Punta Gorda Herald
County sheriff deputies Richard McLeod
(left) and Milton Buffington related
their adventure to reporters.
by " Miami Herald"
Robert Mackle, developer of Port Charlotte
and North Port, presents his daughter
Barbara to news photographers shortly
after her rescue.
by "Front Page Detective
Gary Krist was chained and shackled for
court appearances. He served 10 years
of a 20-year prison sentence.