It’s not often that I come across an old case of a missing child from the US that I’ve literally never heard of in my life, but when it happened the other day with 17-year-old Barbara Joe Kelley, missing since 1950, and I immediately added it to Charley.
Before the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office put up a listing of unsolved cold case homicides and missing persons (in chronological order with Barbara at the very bottom), she wasn’t listed anywhere. I’m hoping now that she’s on Charley, other databases will follow suit and add her. I found a better quality copy of the second photo I originally posted and replaced the image today.
I don’t think it’s possible to arrest anyone at this point; whoever did this is almost certainly dead. But it might still be possible to find Barbara and lay her to rest. And in any case, Barbara, Henry “Red” Baird, and this tragic mystery should be remembered and honored.
Gayle Patrick Irish seems like a good suspect to me. The fact that he is said to have been in a mental hospital at the time of his confession is not necessarily an indication he was mentally ill; back in those days a lot of state mental hospitals had dedicated units for “sexually disordered offenders” whose “disorder” was merely that they couldn’t seem to stop raping people or molesting kids.
At the time he was arrested for the sex crime for which he was incarcerated at the time of his confession to killing Barbara, Red, and the Marysville man, he had a hunting rifle in his possession. The police confiscated it, but they don’t seem to have paid any particular mind to it at the time. And why should they have? Irish wasn’t, at the time, suspected of having committed any crimes with a gun; all of his known offenses had been committed with his penis.
By the time Irish made his statements about the murders, the rifle had been lost and it was apparently never found. What a great shame that it was, cause it would have been nice to see if they could have made a ballistics comparison with the Kelley/Baird and Marysville crime scenes.
Unfortunately Irish disappears from the headlines after they were unable to locate Barbara’s body. I don’t know what happened to him or if he ever recanted his statements. If he was alive today he’d be over a hundred by now.