SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT: Blackstone Case Given Fresh Look

By: Dana Brueck with Chief Photojournalist Curt Lenz Email
By: Dana Brueck with Chief Photojournalist Curt Lenz Email

UPDATED: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 5:15 pm

New details in an unsolved murder case. We first told you in March about the Barbara Blackstone case being given a fresh look.

"A former student of Barb's is offering a $25,000 reward in the case. Marc Andreessen..."

Marc Andreessen... known for co-founding Netscape... put up $25,000... saying his first computer teacher, Barbara Blackstone, was young... fired-up and committed to teaching.

"He hopes the reward will bring justice."

Detective Randy Georgeson says NBC 15's story in March generated dozens of tips --- some in Juneau County, where Blackstone disappeared from her property in July of 1987 and others in Lafayette County where Blackstone's body was found 80 miles away.

"Some of the calls are still related to past information that was given. Some of them are new. They will all generate recent follow-ups," he says.

But the piece and Marc Andreessen's generosity also inspired another person to come forward to up the reward fund, in hopes of solving the more than 20-year-old mystery.

"An individual... local resident.. who was a prior student of Barbara Blackstone came forward... "

The donor is offering $5,000... saying it seemed like the right thing to do for the case...

"There's been a lot of new insight put into the case."

...the family...

"Somebody's out there that shouldn't be walking around."

... and the community.

"It's latent, but it's there."

The anonymous donor echoes the feelings of a former colleague of Blackstone's featured in the special assignment.

"Kids were always in her room....when they didn't have to be, after school... before school, lunch, between classes....and they were really happy to be there," teacher Kelly McCann said back in March.

Georgeson says the donations say a lot about Blackstone's lasting impact -- and the commitment to finding her killer.

"I believe the case has much potential."

Wisconsin's Department of Justice is assisting Juneau and Lafayette Counties in giving this case a fresh look. If you have any information, investigators want to hear from you.

Anyone with information can contact Detective Randy Georgeson of the Juneau County Sheriff's Office at (608) 847-5649, Detective Joe Thompson of the Lafayette County Sheriff's Office at (608) 776-4870, Lafayette County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-606-8477, or Juneau County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-826-8477.

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Posted Monday, March 23, 2009 --- 2:40 p.m.

The case touched communities across South Central Wisconsin -- the disappearance and murder of a beloved teacher more than 20 years ago. What happened remains a mystery today, but investigators say the case is solvable -- with your help.

"Kids were always in her room," teacher Kelly McCann says, "After school, before school, lunch ... between classes."

Teachers who knew Barb Blackstone say kids were drawn to her.

"Exuberance always radiated from that room."

Kelly McCann taught English across the hall from Blackstone.

"She just shared that enthusiasm for life and her joy of other people. She truly liked kids," he says.

The memory of Barb survives at the rural school. Her name's etched in a memorial. But the impact of her death more than 20 years ago reaches deeper.

"Even to this day, it's just a black moment in the history of what's gone on here," McCann says.

"This is a new, fresh start for this case," Det. Randy Georgeson says.

Georgeson's cold case takes him back to one hot summer day in July 1987.

"The scene is a rural area in Juneau County, off of County H and Delmore Road."

Barb Blackstone was mowing her yard to prepare for a family picnic the following weekend when she ran out of gas. She went to a nearby station... then back home.

"Barb's car was found there, undisturbed," he says, "The mower was where she apparently ran out of gas ... And the garden tractor also was located by the shed."

Tom Blackstone returned to the house the two built from the ground up to find his wife missing.

"Years ago, it wasn't actually considered anything other than a missing person."

The day Barb disappeared, there were no signs of a struggle down the road or here at the house she shared with her husband. Initially family members held out hope she'd make it home.

"It looks the same... It looks like she should just walk out of the house."

Barb's sisters, Gail and Judy, remember happier times here.

"My daughter was playing with her in the yard in the sprinkler and that's what I want to remember."

But the two also want answers.

"I often think how different everybody's life would be if she were still here today."

About a month after Barb vanished, a hunter found her body 80 miles away in a wooded area of Lafayette County, near Paulson Road.

"The body was located ... as the crow flies, about 7-8 miles away from the residence she grew up at," Georgeson says.

Barb's remains were too badly decomposed to determine how she died. The discovery rattled people in surrounding areas. Barb was one of several women, either found murdered or reported missing, at the time.

"Many people were very scared and weary that they were purchasing firearms at that point in time... People who had never had firearms. They were contacting locksmiths."

Now, decades later, the case still haunts the community.

"It's there... latent, but it's there," McCann says.

And it's still open. Det. Georgeson says there is potential in the evidence.

"We are going to submit and work with the crime lab as much as possible to see if we can come up with any DNA."

"I just want it to be solved... I'd like to know who did it... What they did, why, why... why Barb," her sisters say.

...a beloved teacher...

"To gain respect and confidence of high school students in three short years, you have to be quite a person. Barb was that."

and a trusted sister...

"I used to joke that I couldn't do anything without asking her first..."

One of four girls...

"She was the one everybody got along with... She'd be a peacemaker, yeah..."

and a best friend.

"She used to say to me who's better to you than I am. Nobody."

Back in New Lisbon... times have changed. But Barb's lessons - and her legacy - stay the same.

"She'd explain stuff, do things for me... If she was doing that for me, I know she was doing so much more for the kids."

A former student of Barb's is offering a $25,000 reward in the case. Marc Andreessen, who's perhaps best known for co-founding the web browser Netscape, says Blackstone was the best teacher. He hopes the reward will bring justice.

The state Department of Justice is assisting with this case. If you have any information, investigators in Juneau and Lafayette counties want to hear from you.

Below is contact information:
A $25,000.00 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Blackstone's death.

Anyone with information can contact Special Agent James C. Holmes of DCI at (608) 266-1671, Detective Randy Georgeson of the Juneau County Sheriff's Office at (608) 847-5649, Detective Joe Thompson of the Lafayette County Sheriff's Office at (608) 776-4870, Lafayette County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-606-8477, or Juneau County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-826-8477.

Barb's husband still lives in Wisconsin. Through Juneau County investigators, he declined to talk to NBC 15 for this report.


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