Ruth Eisemann-Schier, 26, and her boyfriend, Gary Krist, 23, waited for their opportunity. At 4am on December 17, 1968, the pair kidnapped Barbara at gunpoint from her hotel room.
Barbara’s father, Robert, was a millionaire and they knew he had the means to buy his daughter’s freedom.
After taking her to a remote location in Atlanta, US, the couple forced Barbara into a box 60cm below the ground. Stocked with food, water laced with sedatives and a battery-powered lamp, it was ventilated by tubes and an air pump.
‘No! No! No! You can’t do this!’ cried Barbara as they trapped her inside. They were burying her alive.
Under FBI guidance, Barbara’s parents paid the $500,000 ransom demanded.
Three days after the kidnapping they were given her location. Special Deputy Milton Buffington said the FBI agents used their bare hands to uncover Barbara’s grave. ‘The agents cried as they lifted her out,’ he recalled. Miraculously, she was alive.
Gary Krist was soon arrested off the coast of Florida, trying to flee on a speedboat. Still on the run, Ruth Eisemann-Schier became the first woman to be placed on the FBI’s most wanted list, before being found 79 days later.
Krist was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping, but was released on parole after 10 years. Eisemann-Schier was sentenced to seven years, but released after four and deported to her native Honduras.
In her book, 83 Hours Till Dawn, Barbara described the moment they shut the lid on her prison. ‘I screamed and screamed. The sound of dirt got farther and farther away. Finally, I couldn’t hear anything above.’
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