CA - Barbara Stroud, 18, Willits, 7 January 1973

Discussion in 'Mendocino County' started by burblestein, Aug 4, 2016.

  1. burblestein

    burblestein Member

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    Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Case# 73-38347
    (Automated Case # 08-2354)
    DOB: 17 May 1954, in Wyoming
    White female, 5 feet tall, 100 pounds, blue eyes.

    FAMILY BACKGROUND:

    Barbara Jean Stroud was the only child of older parents. In 1971, the family moved from San Jose CA to Willits CA because they thought a small town was a safer place to live.

    Barbara Jean had been an honor student in San Jose, and was an honor student at Willits high school. Her proud father bought her a 1965 blue Ford Mustang convertible. After graduation, she took a gap year off before going off to college. She did this to help her parents run the Ridgewood restaurant and motel complex south of town. She also worked at Little Lake Industries, a Willits manufactory.

    THE HOMICIDE:

    On 7 January 1973, Barbara Jean and her boyfriend went to the movies in Willits. Afterwards, she drove him to his home with his family in the unincorporated suburb of Brooktrails. According to various accounts, she dropped him off at 11 or 11:30 PM. She had to retrace her path on Sherwood Road to return to Willits; once there, she would have to transit town on 2 miles of Main Street as part of her return to Ridgewood Summit on Hwy 101. (Note: Hwy 101 doubles as Main Street in Willits, although that will change in about two months when the new freeway bypass opens.)

    However, about midnight, a deputy who had been dispatched to the next town north of Willits noticed Barbara Jean's empty car on the roadside about 2 miles north of Willits on Hwy 101. After his Laytonville call, the deputy retraced his route.He checked out the abandoned Mustang. He found some of Barbara Jean's belongings in the car. A routine check showed the car was not wanted or reported stolen.

    At about 2 AM, Barbara Jean's parents called Mendocino County Sheriff's Office dispatch to report her missing. Sheriff's personnel returned to the car. Green paint and a dent on the Mustang's driver's door showed it had been sideswiped, as though it had been forced off the road. Its doors were locked, and the key in the ignition. Barbara Jean's coat, shoes, and purse were inside. However, the convertible top had been slashed open.

    An unsuccessful search was conducted for the missing girl. However, she would be accidentally found by a road repair crew on 10 January 1973. The petite girl's naked body had been discarded over a fence along Schow Road, not too far north of where her car had been found. About 100 yards away was a small green cottage, with a green pickup truck parked in the driveway.

    Meanwhile, the small town grapevine was buzzing with news. Despite attempts by the miscreants to silence the chatter, informants began giving names to police. Six men, ranging in age from early 20s to late 30s, were taken into custody: Philip Wood, Dennis Weeks, Harold Harrington, Randy Rowan, and brothers Milton and Larry Philips. Two of them knew Barbara Jean from being co-workers with her at Little Lake Industries; other suspects may also have known her.

    Philip Wood turned state's witness in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He told a tale that largely precluded him from blame. According to Wood, Barbara Jean had locked herself in her car after being forced off the road. The other five suspects had hauled her from her car after cutting the top and unlocking the vehicle. They had abducted her in a pickup truck. He followed the green truck out of town. Wood said he could hear BarbaraJean screaming as her clothing was flung out of the speeding truck,but he did not see her raped or murdered. The cottage near her body? The green truck? They belonged to one of the suspects. Investigators had found Barbara Jean's discarded clothing in several locations, buttressing Wood's tale.

    This testimony seemed likely to seal the fate of Wood's five co-defendants. They were charged with murder, accessories to murder, conspiracy to kidnap, kidnapping, conspiracy to rape, and rape. However, the Mendocino County investigators had injected Wood with sodium amytal—so-called “truth serum”--in an attempt to aid his memory. The judge hearing the case ruled this illegal, and barred Wood's testimony.

    The case collapsed. The defendants walked free.

    Subsequently, Philip Wood and Harold Harrington died of alcohol and drug abuse. In 1989, in Montana, Milton Philips shot his brother Larry to death. Milton Philips later died of liver cancer.

    THE REINVESTIGATION

    In 2008, Mendocino County DetectiveAndy Whiteaker reinvestigated the case. He found that Dennis Weeks,one of the men who had been Barbara Jean's coworker, was still alive in South Dakota. Randy Rowan was also still alive, living in Oklahoma. The detective reinterviewed people who knew the six suspects. Several of the interviewees said suspects had told them of the homicide. However, Whiteaker was unable to determine which of the suspects had actually raped and/or murdered Barbara Jean.

    Whiteaker also submitted old evidence in the case for DNA testing and other forensic analysis. This included fingerprints lifted from the Mustang, Barbara Jean's clothing, and the rope believed to have been the murder weapon.

    Barbara Jean Stroud's murder is still an open investigation. If you have any tips, call Detective Andrew Whiteaker on the MCSO Tipline, 707-234-2100. He may also be contacted via email to MCSO Investigative Services at barneys@co.mendocino.ca.us, or at 951 Low Gap Road, Ukiah CA 95482.

    SOURCES:

    Mendocino County Sheriff's Office website http://www.mendocinosheriff.com/missing/coldcases.html

    Find-a-grave.com listing http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=93332817

    Willits News, 19 September 2008 http://www.willitsnews.com/article/zz/20080919/NEWS/809199697

    Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 2 October 2008 http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/2175813-181/using-dna-other-modern-tools

    Anderson Valley Advertiser, 15 October 2008 http://theava.com/archives/250
     
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  3. burblestein

    burblestein Member

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  4. scriptgirl

    scriptgirl Active Member

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  5. burblestein

    burblestein Member

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    Let's hope this new approach works. Justice in this case is way way overdue.
     
  6. Dark Sleuth

    Dark Sleuth New Member

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    Just read this thread and the articles but they all date from 2008. Don't see any updates on the case when I did a news search.

    Such a terrible case of injustice. Absolutely infuriating that the suspects were able to get away.

    http://theava.com/archives/250

    I hope that LE is able to bring Barbara's family some justice. They've been robbed of so much.
     
  7. burblestein

    burblestein Member

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    The frustration of this case is, it's not a who-done-it. It was an "everybody knows who did it". LE was inundated with accusatory phone calls, all naming the same individuals. After all, they were bragging all over town about abusing and murdering Barbara. Oh yeah. They were proud of it. Proud of their damnable behavior. It's enough to make a body vomit.
     
  8. scriptgirl

    scriptgirl Active Member

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    My question is, this probably wasn't the first time these louts did this. Who were their other victims? And why was Barbara targeted?
     
  9. Dark Sleuth

    Dark Sleuth New Member

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    You're absolutely right Scriptgirl!

    Also wonder about domestic violence & whether or not their domestic partners filed charges.
     
  10. burblestein

    burblestein Member

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    Scriptgirl, as mentioned above, some of the defendants knew her from having worked in the same woodworking plant. As to how they got hold of her, let me share some local knowledge.

    Barbara dropped her boyfriend off in the Brooktrails development, which is northwest of Willits. To get home to her parents, she had to drive southward to Highway 101/Main Street, down Main Street past some bars, and south out of town to her parents' business. She was apparently intercepted on/along Main Street. She must have made a U-turn because they chased her down and kidnapped her north of town.

    The map below illustrates the routes involved. The Calfire station is/was directly across the highway from the Stroud's home. I guesstimated Reynolds Highway and Hwy 101 as the kidnap location, although it may have taken place north of there.

    Google map:
    https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Bro...3928d5ccb!2m2!1d-123.3507099!2d39.4641873!3e0
     
  11. scriptgirl

    scriptgirl Active Member

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    And no one saw this? She was on a main street, right? Why did no one call the cops?
     
  12. Dark Sleuth

    Dark Sleuth New Member

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    Agree w/ everything you said Scriptgirl.

    Also, Burblestein, do you know what Willits was like in 1973?
     
  13. burblestein

    burblestein Member

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    I live there now, and lived in Willits previously from 1988 to 1992. From what longterm residents say, tourist traffic through town wasn't very heavy back in the 70s. I imagine Main Street traffic then was about the same as now. I say that because a recently opened bypass now takes the tourists around town. Later at night, it's possible to stand in the middle of Main Street and not see a car in either direction, nor see another person on the street.

    As a point of interest, Jackie Ray Hovarter kidnapped a teen girl emerging from the convenience store here in the 1980s. The convenience store is on Main Street, right across from the post office.
     
  14. Dark Sleuth

    Dark Sleuth New Member

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    Something's off about how Barbara Stroud's car was found. More should have been done sooner.

    According to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office website:

    http://www.mendocinosheriff.com/missing/coldcases.html

    So an officer on the way to a call sees Stroud's car on the side of the highway, unoccupied. This officer returns after he's done w/ the call to check on the car. Gets close enough to observe that Stroud's personal belongings were inside the vehicle but alarm bells don't go off that the convertible top was cut and that there was a dent on the side of the car?
    from the Anderson Valley Advertiser:

    http://theava.com/archives/250

     
  15. Dark Sleuth

    Dark Sleuth New Member

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    Thnx Burblestein for this info. Sounds like it was a deserted area at night.
     
  16. burblestein

    burblestein Member

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    The assailants chased Barbara north out of town and attacked her out in the country, away from housing (except for the trailer one of them lived in).

    Without knowing the circumstances of the deputy's failure to immediately investigate Barbara's Mustang, let me share some more local knowledge that will give readers some facts to gnaw on.

    Mendocino County is larger than some eastern states. With only four deputies patrolling on any given night, there is one deputy for every thousand square miles of county. A deputy answering an immediate call may spot something suspicious, but if there's any backup, it's an hour or more away. As a responding backup would be another of the deputies on duty, their patrol area would be left unpatrolled.

    Now you know why the deputy had to prioritize his responses.
     
  17. Dark Sleuth

    Dark Sleuth New Member

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    Thank you for clarifying w/ local knowledge. Still feel that there's some missing info. The deputy checked the car's registration to see if it was stolen or wanted. Having done that the deputy left the area.

    What I don't know enough about is how police operated in the early 1970s. If the deputy was checking the registration, presumably he called dispatch to run the tags. Maybe more could have been done. I just keep imagining someone at dispatch making a call to Barbara's home and maybe her parents being alerted sooner that there was a problem.
     
  18. scriptgirl

    scriptgirl Active Member

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    Was she attacked at night?
     
  19. burblestein

    burblestein Member

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    Yes. As related in the links above, she dropped her boyfriend off after a movie date, and was headed home. Name of the theater was not given, but the Noyo Theater in downtown Willits was the probable venue. There was no mention of their driving to Ukiah to the movies.
     
  20. Elainera

    Elainera Active Member

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    Oh my God what a terrible nightmare for poor Barbara! How scared she must have been. I feel so sorry for her and her parents who loved her so much. Are they still alive?

    It reminds me of the gang rape here in India in 2012 of a young woman, 23 year old Jyoti Singh, who rode the bus home with her boyfriend late in the evening. They had also been to the movies. Six guys, including the bus driver, descended on the couple. They beat the boyfriend unconscious. Then they brutally gang raped the young woman, including with a rusty iron rod, before throwing them both out of the bus. She later died of her injuries. Thankfully all these monsters were apprehended and given the death penalty, except one who was a minor at the time of the crime. He was released after 3 years and now lives under a different name.

    Sorry to have become side tracked but these gang rape cases always get to me. It's just so horrific.


    I wonder what became of these forensic tests in 2008. Did they yield results that could be used to put the two remaining monsters, Weeks and Rowan, behind bars? I wonder whether they are still alive now - they must be approaching 70.

    Terribly sad case :(
     
  21. Lilibet

    Lilibet Watching and Waiting

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    As a former Humboldt County resident (a couple of hours north of Willits) who traveled through Willits fairly often from 1969-84 (sometimes at night), your assessment of downtown Willits at night is accurate. The town pretty much shut down at night.

    Again, just backing you up on the situation deputies deal with in these large rural counties. If he was responding to a domestic violence or other call more urgent than an abandoned car, he did what he could under the circumstances. It’s a given when you live in rural areas with skimpy law enforcement that you don’t get an immediate response, even in emergencies. We lived 30 minutes from the sheriff’s substation, staffed with one deputy at night. Backup was at least an hour away.

    It’s very unfortunate that Barbara was driving alone that night, and left the downtown area when she realized she was being followed. The area was relatively safe, so she may not have realized exactly the danger she was in. It’s hard to make the “right” decision and know where to find help when no one is around and you’re scared. Poor thing. :(
     

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