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View Full Version : MI MI - Barbara Gaca, 7, abducted and murdered in Detroit, 24 March 1955


kathryann
02-06-2010, 09:37 AM
When I was approximately 5 or 6 years old, maybe older, a little girl went missing in Detroit, 6-7 Mile and Gratiot area, her body was found in the parking lot of a church, as far as I know this case was never solved, and no one was ever arrested. I would say that she was First Communion age. I guess because I was the same age, and we lived close to the area, it's always been on my mind and had an impact on my life. Most people around this area remember it if you bring it up and no one really knows what happened. I know there there was an extensive search which ended up with them finding this little girl deceased. Does anyone recall this case? Has anyone ever been arrested? Her name if I remember correctly was Barbara.

wfgodot
02-06-2010, 09:43 AM
Her name was Barbara Gaca; she was seven years old. The murder remains unsolved.

Excellent, lengthy article on the case:

http://www.hourdetroit.com/Hour-Detroit/April-2005/Who-Killed-Barbara-Gaca/


ADDED: Kathryann, you might want to change the name of the thread to something like, "Barbara Gaca, 7 years old, Detroit unsolved 1955" or something.

Boyz_Mum
02-06-2010, 10:28 AM
Thanks for the article, wfgodot.

A lot of info there and a curious comment. I'm kind of surprised the comment wasn't removed.

wfgodot
02-06-2010, 10:45 AM
You're welcome, Boyz_Mum. Yes, that comment certainly named a name. Interesting case. I believe there were several unsolved child murders in Michigan in the 1950s, if memory serves.

Boyz_Mum
02-06-2010, 11:13 AM
I remember reading about the Oakland County child killings in the 70's.

When I think about the 50's, it seems difficult to think such things could happen. IMO.

In Barbara's case, one person confessed and then killed himself and the other man decided not to cooperate in the more recent 'investigation' (the store owner). I don't know which man seems more guilty, IMO. If the one man's confession was an important consideration, wouldn't they have closed the case? The store owner's behavior doesn't make him sound like a very rational man (maybe he had more to hide?)

Back then, did they take DNA samples from crime scenes?

wfgodot
02-06-2010, 11:21 AM
The author L.P. Hartley, in his novel "The Go-Between," writes, "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

And, even though I was born in the '50s, that's how those times now seem: foreign and different. America had won the war and those times are now perceived as having been peaceful and law-abiding; but one must also recall that, with the returning World War II heroes, another element of veteran also returned - a violent element schooled in killing and desensitized by having seen the atrocities of battle. After all wars, the crime rate increases.

It was well before the time of DNA, though blood samples taken at the time, if they had been carefully stored, might well yield answers through today's technologies.

kathryann
02-06-2010, 02:58 PM
Oh my gosh, this is incredible, I've thought about this little girl forever because she was close to my age, and always wondered what happened and if anyone was ever arrested. Thanks so much. This story always haunted me. I appreciate the interesting articles and I will change the post title.

wfgodot
02-06-2010, 03:28 PM
Article here from Chicago Tribune news service on Barbara, which appeared in the Spokane WA Spokesman-Review on 01 April 1955:

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19550401&id=u6IpAAAAIBAJ&sjid=CvIDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2740,3522328

Boyz_Mum
02-06-2010, 06:08 PM
Article here from Chicago Tribune news service on Barbara, which appeared in the Spokane WA Spokesman-Review on 01 April 1955:

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19550401&id=u6IpAAAAIBAJ&sjid=CvIDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2740,3522328

Wow! That article was interesting. I wonder what became of JGBurns? The reward(s) offered in Barbara's case were quite 'high' for the times? $5000.00 in that era could have helped someone buy a house (or pay for half a house?)! The amount offered makes me wonder why someone didn't identify the abductor. It really makes me think about this:

*snip from article posted by wfgodot in post number 2 from "Hour Detroit" (page 3)*

"In 1955, however, he was a 13-year-old runaway from a troubled family. Two days before Barbara’s body was discovered, he was arrested in a stolen car at Faircrest and Chalmers, just one block from the Gacas’ house. Detectives from the Youth Bureau interviewed him at the juvenile home, and he directed them to an abandoned car where he had been sleeping. Inside police found blankets and 14 “skin” magazines, which the boy admitted he had stolen from a drugstore.
Despite the medical examiner’s determination that it was possible “a boy as young as 12” committed the rape and murder, and the suspect’s inability to account for his whereabouts the day Barbara was killed, he was never reinterviewed. Then Sheridan showed up one day in 2000 at the man’s place of business, hoping to have some questions answered.
“He made a big production in front of his employees, yelling, ‘Hey, these guys think I killed a little girl!’” Sheridan says. The suspect offered to take a polygraph — then backed out."

I don't mean to sound presumptious of this person's background or anything, it just struck me that 'he' may have stolen a car and it sounds as though he may not have had anyone really keeping tabs on him.

So sad, all the way around. RIP Barbara and prayers that your case is solved someday. :prayer:

Richard
02-06-2010, 06:13 PM
I too lived in the Detroit area as a child when this murder occurred. Although I do not recall hearing about it, I do recall much about the timeframe and areas mentioned in the articles.

I could not read the small photos of a previous link to newspapers. Is there a way to view the text of those articles?

An excellent source of more information on this case could be found in microfilm copies of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. Often cases as old as this one do not make it to the internet because stories about them predated computers.

The link to the article Who Killed Barbara Gaca? - Hour Detroit - April 2005 - Detroit, MI is an excellent one with a lot of information. I found the article to be well written and researched. It's conclusion was particularly moving:

--------------------------

When Barbara Gaca left home that final morning, she had with her items familiar to generations of Catholic schoolchildren: a white rosary, a pencil case, a composition book. Detectives found them strewn about the crime scene.

A page torn from the notebook included three neatly penciled lines written on her last day in school:

I love the angel
I see an angel
I have an angel

The words suggest more than a rote classroom exercise. The Gacas’ faith tells them her tiny life goes on — in some special harbor in the hereafter, where all God’s children are safe from predators.“

When we think of Barbara today,” says her brother, Robert, “we think of her as our guardian angel. I know there have been many times over the years when I could feel her hand on my shoulder.”

---------------------
LINK:


http://www.hourdetroit.com/Hour-Detroit/April-2005/Who-Killed-Barbara-Gaca/

Richard
02-09-2010, 10:55 PM
Here are two more child murders from this time frame which also occurred in Michigan.

---------------------

June 1, 1955: Five farm children, playing in a pine copse 15 miles north of Kalamazoo, found the mutilated body of 8-year- old Jeannie Singleton of Kalamazoo. Jeannie, who walked with a pronounced limp, had disappeared nine days earlier during her four-block walk home from school.

The search for her, which involved more than 750 people, included a motorcade that attempted to search every road in Kalamazoo County. Arrests and questioning of suspects continued for more than a year afterward. The killer was never found.


-------------------------

June 24, 1957: A 50-year-old convicted rapist who lived four doors from six-year-old Mary de Caussin confessed to her murder. The body of the Ecorse Township girl had been found eight days earlier in a wooded area about two miles from her home. Her hands had been tied behind her back and she had been raped, stabbed, and hit in the head.

More than 1,000 people, including 400 Boy Scouts from the downriver area, had taken part in a 12-day search that began after she apparently walked away from a neighbor's yard where she had been playing.

Julessleuther
02-11-2010, 11:39 PM
Thanks for the info Richard. Mary de Caussin's murder is very similar to Barbara's in that they were both raped and stabbed. Perhaps he committed more than Mary's? Here is some more info I found on Mary's case: http://newspapers.rawson.lib.mi.us/chronicle/CCC_1957%20(E)/issues/07-05-1957_8.pdf

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=348&dat=19570621&id=Cto0AAAAIBAJ&sjid=8kMDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2796,5760933

Lawrence Richard Turner was convicted of Mary's death.

Here is more info on Jeannie's murder (and other Michigan murders):
http://missing87975.yuku.com/topic/2411/t/Re-UNSOLVED-CHILD-MURDER-JEANNIE-SINGLETON.html?page=-1

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=110&dat=19550602&id=CRIJAAAAIBAJ&sjid=mzwDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6677,1559664

There was another case just a few monthes before Jeannie's according the above article: Kathleen McLaughlin. She was stabbed as well.




Here are two more child murders from this time frame which also occurred in Michigan.

---------------------

June 1, 1955: Five farm children, playing in a pine copse 15 miles north of Kalamazoo, found the mutilated body of 8-year- old Jeannie Singleton of Kalamazoo. Jeannie, who walked with a pronounced limp, had disappeared nine days earlier during her four-block walk home from school.

The search for her, which involved more than 750 people, included a motorcade that attempted to search every road in Kalamazoo County. Arrests and questioning of suspects continued for more than a year afterward. The killer was never found.


-------------------------

June 24, 1957: A 50-year-old convicted rapist who lived four doors from six-year-old Mary de Caussin confessed to her murder. The body of the Ecorse Township girl had been found eight days earlier in a wooded area about two miles from her home. Her hands had been tied behind her back and she had been raped, stabbed, and hit in the head.

More than 1,000 people, including 400 Boy Scouts from the downriver area, had taken part in a 12-day search that began after she apparently walked away from a neighbor's yard where she had been playing.

Richard
10-18-2011, 08:46 AM
bumping

Richard
10-19-2011, 01:04 AM
Here is an interesting site with links to many news articles on Barbara's case from 1955:


http://coldcaseshardcopy.blogspot.com/2011/08/blog-post.html

trubwortwurst
11-11-2011, 06:20 PM
Hi, thanks for posting the link to the blog. I've both updated the Barbara Gaca post with a few more stories and pictures of her, including one of her funeral, and also made a post with stories and pictures concerning the Jeannie Singleton murder.

http://coldcaseshardcopy.blogspot.com/2011/11/jeanie-singletons-tragic-murder.html

One particularly disturbing piece of information I came across was that during Barbara's funeral an elderly man approached the casket and apparently attempted to expose himself or something of that sort because there is mention that he was taken into custody and might be charged with indecent exposure. How terrible must that have been for the family.

http://i39.tinypic.com/34eu92c.jpg

Rainstorm
10-16-2013, 05:46 PM
It is my understanding they have or had. dna. but it got lost. I think it was towards the end of the hour Detroit article. That being said, I am thinking they has another dna source because they wanted that one guy to submit his dna in 2000, Unless they lost the dna after

It is a shame to have collected all of the clues and dna and stuff. Then years go by to have it all lost. It is sad to know yep they know who it was that did it but due to lost evidence.......

Richard
11-21-2013, 02:56 PM
Here is an interesting website which features Barbara's murder in 1955. It has a very extensive bibliography listing of newspaper articles about the case.


Cold Cases Hard Copy: Who Killed Barbara Gaca?

LINK:

http://coldcaseshardcopy.blogspot.com/2011/08/blog-post.html