Barbara Mackle kidnapping

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Barbara Mackle
Born1948 (age 73–74)
Parent(s)Robert Mackle

The 1968 kidnapping of Barbara Jane Mackle was the subject of an autobiographical book which was the basis of two television movies.


On December 17, 1968, Mackle, then a 20-year-old Emory University student, was staying at the Rodeway Inn in Decatur, Georgia, United States with her mother. Mackle was sick with the Hong Kong flu, which had hit the student body population of Emory hard; her mother had driven to the Atlanta area to take care of her daughter and then drive her daughter back to the family home in Coral Gables, Florida, for the Christmas break. A stranger, Gary Stephen Krist, knocked on the door, claiming to be with the police and wearing a policeman's cap, and told Mackle that Stewart Hunt Woodward had been in a traffic accident. (Woodward, to whom Mackle was later married, is usually described as Mackle's boyfriend or fiancé; but, in Mackle's written account, she calls him "a good friend".)

Once inside, Krist and his accomplice, Ruth Eisemann-Schier, disguised as a man, chloroformed, bound and gagged Mackle's mother and forced Barbara Jane Mackle at gunpoint into the back of their waiting car, informing her that she was being kidnapped. They drove her to a remote pine stand off South Berkeley Lake Road in Gwinnett County near Duluth and buried Mackle in a shallow trench inside a fiberglass-reinforced box. The box was outfitted with an air pump, a battery-powered lamp, water laced with sedatives, and food. Two plastic pipes provided Mackle with outside air.

Krist and Eisemann-Schier demanded a $500,000 ransom, $3.5 million in 2017 dollars, from Mackle's father, Robert Mackle, a wealthy Florida land developer. The first attempt at a ransom drop was disrupted when two policemen drove by. The kidnappers fled on foot, and the FBI found their car abandoned. Inside the car, the FBI found photographs of a man with a policeman's hat and the car registration in the name of George Deacon.

The second ransom drop was successful, but there was no word from the kidnappers. The FBI was able to trace George Deacon to the University of Miami, where they realized he built ventilated boxes for a living. Deacon's boss provided the name of Ruth Eisemann-Schier, who also worked at the university, as someone Deacon spent time with. The FBI was contacted by a local man in Georgia claiming he had just bought a small trailer from a man and found some odd paperwork inside. The FBI discovered letters addressed to George Deacon and Gary Krist, an escapee from California prison since 1966, and when the FBI compared the prints found in the car to the ones found in Krist's file, they realized Deacon was actually Krist. On December 20, Krist called and gave a switchboard operator of the FBI vague directions to Mackle's burial place. The FBI set up their base in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett's county seat, and more than 100 agents spread out through the area in an attempt to find her, digging the ground with their hands and anything they could find to use. Mackle was found and rescued, suffering from dehydration but otherwise unharmed. She had spent more than three days buried underground.

Mackle was asked how she had remained so positive not only during the kidnapping but after, when she showed no ill effects from the ordeal. She claimed she would imagine spending Christmas with her family and never doubted she would be rescued.

Arrests and convictions of the perpetrators[edit]

Krist was soon arrested, hiding in a Florida swamp. Eisemann-Schier was arrested 79 days later in Norman, Oklahoma. (She has the distinction of being the first woman on the FBI's ten most wanted list.) Eisemann-Schier claims she left Miami because she and Krist became separated after the money drop and she was unable to get back to the car and thought Krist had abandoned her. She was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison, paroled after serving four years, and deported to her native Honduras.

Krist was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1969, but was released on parole after 10 years. Krist received a pardon to allow him to attend medical school. He practiced medicine in Indiana before his license was revoked in 2003 for lying about a disciplinary action received during his residency.

In March 2006, Krist was arrested on a sailboat off the coast of Alabama with 14 kilograms (31 lb) of cocaine, reportedly worth about $1 million, and four illegal aliens. He was sentenced to five years and five months in prison and released in November 2010.[1][2]

On August 27, 2012, in Mobile, Alabama, U.S. District Judge Callie Virginia Granade revoked Krist's supervised release for violation of his probation. He had left the country without permission, sailing to Cuba and South America on his sailboat. Judge Granade sentenced Krist to 40 months' imprisonment.[3]

Books and movies[edit]

Mackle wrote a book (with The Miami Herald reporter Gene Miller) about her experience: 83 Hours Till Dawn, published in 1971. ABC aired the story in 1972 as part of its ABC Movie of the Week showcase under the title The Longest Night. However due to litigation surrounding the rights to the story,[citation needed] the movie was never aired again,[citation needed] even though the court decision was later overturned.[citation needed] The book was made into a second television movie, 83 Hours 'Til Dawn, in 1990. Krist also wrote a book, Life: The Man Who Kidnapped Barbara Jane Mackle, published in 1972 (ISBN 0-7004-0100-8). The 1973 exploitation film The Candy Snatchers is loosely based on the Mackle kidnapping.

Television movies[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bureau of Prisons: Inmate Locator
  2. ^ Convicted look to the state for forgiveness By Steve Visser, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 20, 2010. Retrieved August 3, 2011
  3. ^ 06-057 - USA V. KRIST ET AL, U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  4. ^ "The Longest Night (1972)". AllMovie.
  5. ^ "83 Hours 'Til Dawn (1990)". AllMovie.
  6. ^ "Buried Alive". FBI: The Untold Stories. Season 1. Episode 13. February 3, 1992.
  7. ^ "Coffin for Christmas". A Crime to Remember. Season 5. Episode 4. March 3, 2018.