The Tragic Unsolved 1995 Murder Of Teen Barbara Barnes

Barbara Ann Barnes was just 13 years old when she went missing while walking to school in her hometown of Steubenville, Ohio, on December 7, 1995. According to Jack Swint's "Who Killed...? Pittsburgh, PA," her worried mother, Kathy, called the police after the schoolgirl failed to return home in the afternoon. The news prompted a major search for the missing girl, with investigators hoping to bring her back home alive. Two months later, Barnes' body was discovered in a shallow grave in a dry creek near Clinton, Pennsylvania. She had been raped and strangled. As the missing person investigation became a murder case, local police became inundated with leads, while the FBI — which set up an office in Steubenville to spearhead its own investigation — posted a $90,000 reward for information.

Barnes' abduction and murder have haunted Steubenville for almost three decades. In the aftermath of discovering her body, investigators tied the death to various suspects. Still, no one was ever charged, and to this day the identity of her killer is unknown. The crime is now considered a cold case, one of America's estimated 250,000-plus long-term unsolved murders (per the U.S. Department of Justice).

A family member suspected

Barbara Barnes and her family reportedly lived in poverty in Steubenville, a poor former steel mill city of 20,000. And her murder was not the first tragedy to affect the Barneses. Her father, Gary, had been shot to death in 1989. As the investigation into Barnes' killing widened, suspicion began to fall on other members of her family, most notably her uncle, Louis Boyce. Boyce had a relative who owned property only a few miles away from Pennsylvania Airport, near where Barnes' body was discovered by surveyors assessing the land, according to "Who Killed...?"

Boyce was initially active in making appeals to the public for information regarding Barnes' murder (per Latrobe Bulletin). Nevertheless, he was later taken into custody by investigators due to the proximity of his relative's property to the location where Barnes' body was found. They also searched his property and confiscated shovels that they speculated may have been used in the schoolgirl's burial. He was even made to sit a polygraph test, which Jack Swint reports he failed to pass. However, the soil samples taken from Boyce's shovels did not match the burial site, and with no solid evidence linking him to the murder he was never charged.

Recent speculation

More recently, investigators and online sleuths have linked the murder of Barbara Barnes to other offenders who were known to have been operating in the area where the schoolgirl was abducted and killed. The true crime podcast "Already Gone," for example, speculates that a man named Richard Kolling, who died in 2009, may have been involved. Kolling was accused of sexually assaulting Barnes' sister and was ultimately charged for the crime. There have also been rumblings that a known sexual offender from Florida had been identified as being in the Steubenville area at the time of Barnes' murder, and that detectives involved in the Barnes case were looking to establish forensic links in the hope of finding a match (per "Who Killed...?"). 

Others known to Barnes, including her mother's alleged lover James Montgomery — who was also suspected of being involved in the death of Barnes' father but was never charged — have been identified as possible suspects. Indeed, it has been speculated that Barnes, who had grown quiet and insular after her father's murder, would have been unlikely to get into a stranger's car, suggesting that she may have been abducted by someone she knew. However, nothing conclusive has come to light in the years since her death, and her hometown continues to wait for answers.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).