"Leesa Jo Shaner's children know her only through photographs and their family's memories.
They don't remember her smile or her sparkling blue eyes. Krista Shaner was 2 and Brady Shaner was a newborn when their mother went to the airport one May night 25 years ago. She never made it back. Her body was found nearly four months later, buried in a shallow grave in a Fort Huachuca wash. Autopsy results proved inconclusive, but authorities believe the 22-year old was strangled and raped. The case remains an open FBI file, but without any new leads in the case it is likely to stay unsolved.
For James Miller, 73, time hasn't erased the pain of his daughter's death or eased the unrest that comes with knowing that her killer remains unpunished.
'It's an everyday thing with me,' said Miller, a retired FBI agent. 'I haven't put it away. I will never put it away until I know for sure.' Miller vividly remembers May 29,1973 - the last night he saw his daughter alive.
She left his home about 9:30.pm. to pick up her husband,Gary Shaner, who was returning from an Air Force base in Okinawa, Japan. She had been living abroad with him, but had returned to the states to give birth to Brady. She was excited to see her husband and insisted she meet him alone, Miller said.
But Leesa wasn't there when Gary Shaner stepped off the plane. He called Miller's home, where a welcome home and birthday party was under way. The two men found Miller's cream and bronze 1972 American Motors Javelin, which Leesa Shaner had borrowed for the trip, in the airport parking lot. Her purse, with money inside, was open on the back seat, leading investigators to rule out robbery as a motive. Miller went on television to make pleas to anyone who may have seen his daughter's abductors.
A woman came forward and said she had seen a young woman try to escape from a car near Hughes
Road and Old Nogales Highway, Miller said. The witness said two men dragged the woman back into the car, he said. In September, 1973, two soldiers looking for American Indian artifacts in a remote area of Fort Huachuca came across Shaner's body. FBI officials say the Shaner murder is still an active case and that there is a suspect in her killing.
They would not elaborate, but Miller said that suspect is Richard Gregory Barker, 51.
Another murder investigation placed Barker at Fort Huachuca working as a civilian near the area where Shaner's body was found, at the time of her death.
Barker was a suspect in the 1982 murder of a 42-year-old woman in Prince William County, Va. said Prince William County police First Sgt. Don Cahill.
Hilda Roche, an acquaintance of Barker's, was found dead in the woods in a desolate area. She had been shot once in the head and raped. 'The only reason anyone had ever looked at him (in the Shaner slaying) is because there were some similarities in the two cases and the fact he was in Tucson at the time,' Cahill said.
Cahill's investigation also linked Barker to three 10-year old Las Vegas bank robberies.
He is serving time for those robberies at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colo. His projected release date is Feb. 18, 2003, said Chris Eichenlaub, a prison spokesman.
After that he will be transferred to a Virginia prison to serve time for killing Roche. He accepted a 50-year sentence for the murder in a plea bargain to avoid the possibility of a death sentence, Miller said. Barker had said he was at Fort Huachuca at the time of Shaner's slaying and had heard about it, but denied any part in the murder, Miller said. In January, 1997, Barker agreed to submit to an FBI-conducted lie detector test regarding Shaner's murder, Miller said. The results showed deception, but investigators have found no physical evidence tying him to the murder, he said.
Barker did not respond to written interview requests. The Pima County Attorney's 88-CRIME line is offering a cash reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible for Shaner's death. 'We're hoping anyone will call us and tell us something, no matter how insignificant it seems,' said Carolyn Emerine, the program's director. 'It may be just the piece that FBI is looking for.' Cahill said he believes there may come a time in Barker's life when he may be ready to clear his conscience in prison, where the 51-year-old will most likely spend the rest of his life. 'My only wish is that if he's not the person who did it, the person who did would come forward so the family could put closure to this thing,' Cahill said."
As an observation, NBC Program "Extra" reported on June 24,1998, the FBI was offering a $20,000 reward in a California abduction case. Such a reward offer was never extended to the victim of an active FBI family. Miller had offered a personal $10,000 reward in a Tucson paper in September, 1996.Unsolved Mystery