Barbara Jane Mackle

Barbara Jane Mackle (born 1948) is an American heiress who was the victim of a notorious crime. Her book about the ordeal was the basis of two television movies.

The crime

On December 17, 1968, Mackle – then a 20-year-old Emory University student – was staying at the Rodeway Inn in Decatur, Georgia with her mother. Mackle was sick with the Hong Kong flu, which had severely struck the student body of Emory; 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 Steven Krist, knocked on the door, claimed to be with the police, and told Mackle that Stewart Hunt Woodward had been in a traffic accident. [Woodward 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 (who was disguised as a man), chloroformed, bound and gagged Mackle’s mother, then 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 forest off of South Berkeley Lake Road in Gwinnett County near Duluth and buried Mackle in 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, and received, a $500,000 ransom 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 authorities found, not only documents giving Krist's and Eisemann-Schier's names and former addresses, they also found a photograph of Barbara Jane Mackle in the box holding a sign that read "Kidnapped." The second ransom drop was successful. On December 20, Krist called and gave an FBI switchboard operator 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 rescued alive and unharmed, though she was dehydrated. She had spent over three days underground.

The punishment

Krist was soon arrested off the coast of Florida in a speedboat bought with part of the ransom money. Eisemann-Schier was arrested 79 days later. (She has the distinction of being the first woman on the FBI's ten most wanted list.) She was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison, paroled after serving four years and deported to her native Honduras. She currently lives in Honduras, where she is married to Salvatore Randazzo and has 4 children. Krist was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1969, but was released on parole after ten years. Krist received a pardon to allow him to attend medical school. He practiced medicine in Indiana before his license was revoked in 2003 as a result of lying about disciplinary action received during his residency.

In March 2006 Krist was arrested (along with his stepson) on a sailboat off the coast of Alabama with over 38 pounds of cocaine, reportedly worth about $1 million, in his possession. After his arrest, Barrow County, Georgia police found an underground drug lab for processing cocaine buried beneath a shed on his property. (Barrow is adjacent to the county where Krist buried Mackle.) On May 16, 2006 he pled guilty to drug smuggling and on January 19, 2007 he was sentenced to more than five years in prison.

The books and movies

Mackle wrote a book (with Miami Herald reporter Gene Miller) about her experience: 83 Hours ‘Til 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, the movie was never aired again, even though the court decision was later overturned. 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).

Mackle's current life

Mackle went on to marry Woodward and have two children. At last report she was living in Florida. She declines all requests for interviews.

Television movies

  • The Longest Night (1972)
  • 83 Hours 'Til Dawn (1990)


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