On the night of January 15, 1984, Sherry Hart, a 24-year-old single mother, was stood up for a date. It would be the last time she would be stood up because she never made it home. Thirty-six years later, her killer still walks free.
A witness came forward, claiming to have seen Hart joyriding with two former schoolmates on the night of her disappearance, Richard Bare and Jeffrey Burgess. Both men had several brushes with the law and were known as local troublemakers.
Police questioned Bare and Burgess separately about the events of the evening. Bare was evasive and provided little information, but not Burgess. He spilled the story, and it didn’t match Bare’s account.
Based on eyewitness accounts, as well as what Burgess told police, the death of Sherry Hart was ruled a homicide. Police now believed they knew how the young mother died on that chilly evening in January 1984.
Burgess told police he and Bare encountered Sherry at the restaurant. Because she was upset over being stood up, they offered to take her for a night of drinking to forget about it. It seemed like a nice thing to do.
While the three were riding through the rural countryside, Sherry needed to stop and go to the bathroom. They pulled to the side of the road, approximately a quarter of a mile from the “Jumping Off Place,” where she went into the woods to relieve herself.
According to Burgess, he remained in the car as Bare followed Sherry into the woods, where he attempted to have sex with her. Bare became irate as Sherry rejected his repeated attempts. When he became violent, Sherry fought him off and, screaming and crying, ran back to the car. Burgess said Bare followed Sherry and struck her on her head with the back of a handgun, leaving her bleeding and semi-conscious. Burgess said Bare then shoved Sherry into the car and ordered him into the car. Bare drove to the “Jumping Off Place,” where he forced Sherry from the vehicle, and ordered Burgess to drive away but to return in five minutes.
Burgess contended he was afraid for Sherry and at first refused to leave. However, he claimed Bare threatened to kill his family if Burgess didn’t comply. Burgess said he drove away because he feared Bare would make good on his threats.
Police believe Bare dragged Sherry to the edge of the “Jumping Off Place” and pushed her over the cliff. When Burgess returned, he asked Bare where Sherry was. Bare said she was gone and again warned Burgess to say nothing.
On March 29, 1985, Richard Bare and Jeffrey Burgess were both arrested and charged with the murder of Sherry Hart. Both were denied bail and were held in the Wilkes County Jail awaiting trial.
On July 18, deputies found the cell bare of one of the prisoners. Police subsequently discovered Richard Bare’s sister Linda was in a relationship with one of the department’s deputies. It is believed she convinced the deputy, who had gone to high school with Bare, to help her brother escape.
Over thirty-four-years later, Richard Bare remains at large.
After several months passed without Bare’s being captured and thus delaying the trial, an arrangement was made in which Jeffrey Burgess was released on bail, pending Bare’s re-capture. That day never came.
Jeffrey Burgess died at age 47 in 2012, without ever standing trial for the murder of Sherry Hart. It may be challenging to make a case against Bare if he is captured because what Burgess told police might now be considered hearsay.
Some people believe Burgess understated his involvement in the crime and could have been the one who pushed Sherry off the cliff. Unfortunately, it is likely impossible to tell which man did the actual act.
Richard Bare was nearly captured in Delaware in 1993, but good fortune, unfortunately, was on his side. He left only hours before FBI agents converged on the home of a relative where he had been hiding.
In June of 2002, Bare was believed to be living under the name Richard Presnell. The real Richard Presnell was located and determined not to be Bare. Bare may have stolen his identity and lived under the name for several years before changing identities again.
Over approximately the last 15 years, Bare has been rumored to have returned, incognito, several times to North Carolina to attend the funerals of friends and relatives. Police have also received reports that Bare is living similarly to another notorious North Carolina fugitive, Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph. He eluded capture for six-and-a-half years by living in the area’s vast mountainous terrain.
Some sources say Bare is disguising himself by dressing as a woman. The computer-aged image of Bare below was done in 1996 when he would have been 32-years-old. I have not been able to find any more aged-enhanced images.
Richard Lynn Bare is wanted on a charge of murder. He is 5’8″ tall. When he escaped from jail in 1985, he weighed 175 pounds and had shoulder-length brown hair. He may have a tattoo of a panther on his right forearm. Bare hated the smell of smoke and refused to be in the company of people who lit up.
Richard Bare would today be 56-years-old. If you have any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Ashe County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Department at 336-846-5633 or the FBI’s Charlotte, North Carolina, Field Office at 704-672-6100.
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More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:
Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)
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