"Einstein of Crime," Gary Krist

At age 23, Gary Steven Krist kidnapped a young heiress in Atlanta, Georgia for a $500,000 ransom and buried her alive. The self proclaimed “Einstein of crime,” pulled off what he thought would be the perfect crime, in one of the most daring schemes of the 1960s. Fortunately, Barbara Jane Mackle, daughter of wealthy Florida real estate magnate, Robert Mackle, survived. She endured over 80 hours in a vented underground tomb.

Krist was born in April of 1945, in Pelican, Alaska, about 80 miles north of Sitka. His parents were commercial fishermen and were gone for long periods of time. So, he and his brother spent much of their childhood staying with relatives and friends.

Gary’s life of crime began around age nine. He would steal anything not nailed down, whether he needed it or not. By age 14 he was stealing automobiles. He was arrested in Seward, Alaska for auto theft, but since the state’s delinquent rehabilitation programs had failed he was sent to a juvenile facility in Ogden, Utah.

During high school he was said to be a bright student and after graduating he attended the University of Utah to earn a medical degree. But, he didn’t have the patience. He wanted to be rich and wanted it quickly. A few weeks before college classes were to begin in August 1963 he stole a vehicle and fled to Oakland, California, abandoning his pregnant girlfriend.

Barbara Mackle

After only a few days Krist wrecked a stolen automobile in Ventura and was sent to a state juvenile jail. During his 14 months there, Krist began planning his “perfect crime.” Since Krist had grand delusions he was intellectually superior to everyone else, he believed it would be a walk in the park. But he wasn’t as smart as he thought he was.

Krist, still just 18 years old and having done hard time in three states, was patient and waited for the right moment to pull off the crime. He decided his target would be a young woman. A child would be too much trouble and a male could present a physical challenge. He methodically worked out all the details. How to contact the victim's family, when and where the ransom would be dropped, get away plans and contingencies.

He figured holding the victim could also be risky as there was always the possibility of escape. The best option was to bury the victim in a container large enough to hold water and food for the length of time needed to get the ransom and then tell authorities where to find her.

After being released in December of 1964, he moved to Palo Alto and a year later married Carmen Simon, a young woman he met in Redwood City. However within a few weeks he was once again apprehended for stealing a car and sentenced to four months. Auto theft was an obsession with Krist. He spent his first wedding anniversary in prison for it. He escaped from the Tracy, California Prison after only eight months of a five year sentence by jumping two fences.


Ruth Eisemann Schier

Krist fled with his wife and an infant son to Boston, where he grew a beard and changed his name to George Deacon. When circumstances arose at work in 1968 which might reveal he was an escaped felon he took his family to Miami still using his Deacon Alias.

In Miami he signed on as a boat hand for a two-week research trip to Bermuda by a group of graduate students. During the trip, he began an affair with 26 year old Ruth Eisemann Schier, A graduate student from Honduras.

When the trip was finished Krist told his wife about the affair. She took the children and moved back to Redwood City. He soon let Eisemann in on his kidnapping plan. They would get the ransom and live happily ever after in Europe. Gary began searching for a target to compliment his “perfect crime.”

After weeks of wading through social registers and newspapers he narrowed a list down to 100 possible victims. He finally decided on 20 year old Barbara Jane Mackle whose father was estimated to be worth about $65 million.

At the time of Krist’s planned abduction the Hong Kong flu was sweeping across the country and Mackle had caught it. That ruined her plans to fly home to spend Christmas break with her family. Mackle had phoned her mother, Jane, to tell her of the change in plans. Jane flew to Atlanta to be with her daughter instead. In mid December they checked into an Inn in Decatur, Georgia, close to the Emory campus.

Young Krist

Older Krist

In the meantime the two future kidnappers had been busy down in Florida constructing the container in which Mackle would be entombed. It was pure coincidence they arrived in Atlanta about the same time as Jane Mackle.

They located a remote spot outside the city and spent a laborious day digging a hole and installing the container, complete with venting tubes for breathing. The next step was to locate Mackle. That proved to be much easier than he had anticipated. He learned the name of her dormitory by asking at the admissions office and a roommate told Krist she and her mother were at a nearby inn. Krist and Eisemann staked out the inn and soon identified their room.

The two rudely awoke the Mackle’s at 4 a.m. December 17th with a knock at the door. Claiming to be police officers they said Barbara's fiancé had been hurt in a car accident. When Jane Mackle opened the door, the two barged in brandishing an assault rifle and wearing ski masks. They then rendered the couple unconscious with chloroform.

They tied up the mother and then took Barbara, clad only in a flannel nightgown, to the prearranged spot near Duluth, Ga. By the time they arrived Barbara was conscious and was told what was going on. Krist pointed out the features of his tomb. It was about 3 feet wide, 3 /2 feet deep and 7 feet long and made of plywood. The interior was lined with fiberglass and the corners were reinforced with steel brackets. The terrified girl was informed the tomb had everything she would need to keep her safe until the ransom was paid. She was then chloroformed again and buried.

When she came to, she found a note from her kidnapper. It said “Do not be alarmed. You are safe. You will be home for Christmas one way or another." It also said the battery supplying power for her light and fan would last for 11 days. It failed after only three hours.

Mackle later wrote, "I started screaming and pounding to try to get out. With my fists I hit the walls as hard as I could. With all my strength I braced and pushed ... I was screaming, 'God, no, you can't leave me!'"

Krist phoned the Mackle home and gave directions to a set of pre-hidden instructions under a rock in their yard. If they agreed to pay the ransom, they were to place a classified ad in the next day's Miami Herald.

Meanwhile, Krist and Eisemann spent the day preparing to pick up the ransom and planning their escape. They bought plane tickets to Chicago and a small boat. The next morning, the ad appeared.

Late Krist phoned again with instructions on where to leave the money. The ransom was to be left on a seawall along Fair Isles Causeway at Biscayne Bay, a few miles from the Mackle mansion in Coral Gables. Krist waited in a skiff in the bay. The plan was to race to shore, grab the cash and flee in their car hidden close by with Eisemann at the wheel.

But as the drop was made two police officers appeared, and the pickup was aborted. Krist and Eisemann fled, abandoning the getaway car…so much for the “perfect crime.”

The kidnappers had left a treasure trove of information in the car, including Eisemann's passport, their checkbooks, past addresses and photographs of themselves as well as one of the victim holding a sign with the word "Kidnapped." Krist and Eisemann split up and planned a rendezvous in Austin, Texas.

Eisemann boarded a west bound bus while Krist initiated a second ransom plan. He rented a car and ordered a new drop. This time everything went as planned and Krist had his $500,000.

However, by this time the FBI already knew the identities of both kidnappers and Warrants were issued for their arrest. Krist had planned to escape by boat, crossing to Florida through canals and then across the Gulf of Mexico to Texas. The genius made one mistake.

He paid for the boat with $2,240 in $20 bills. With the Mackle kidnapping making banner headlines across the country, everyone knew the ransom had been paid in $20 bills. The man who sold Krist the boat became suspicious and notified authorities.

Nearly 15 hours after the ransom pickup Krist called the Atlanta FBI office and left directions to Barbara Mackle's burial site. They rushed to Duluth and freed the entombed captive who was dehydrated, stiff and about 10 pounds lighter.

Krist beached his vessel on Hog Island, in the bay off Fort Myers. Authorities, who had been tipped off by vigilant lock keepers on the waterways as to his direction, surrounded the island. After a 12 hour manhunt, Krist was tracked down and arrested. The “smarter than thou” kidnapper was said to have hollered "I have rights!" Seventy-nine days after the kidnapping, Eisemann was arrested after applying for a job as a carhop in Norman, Okla. A jury convicted Krist and he was given a life sentence.

Once in prison Krist began planning ways to get out. His first attempt was expressing feigned remorse for his crime by writing an apologetic letter to the Mackle family. When that failed to illicit any response he published his memoirs in 1972. In the publication he wrote "I'm reconciled to pay my social bill and then maybe ... I can go out and live, if not in perfect amity, then perhaps within a square-shooting truce that will lead to my repudiation of the hostile spirit down to its last vestige." That also failed to play on the public’s empathy. He next tried escaping inside a garbage truck. But he was caught and his privileges were revoked.

His next ploy, playing the part of a model prisoner, worked. Krist began teaching other inmates, to read and write. He took college classes, trained as an EMT and worked in the prison hospital.

Under the slack parole guidelines of the time, Krist became eligible to apply for parole after seven years in prison. A pen pal girlfriend, Joan Jones secured a number of prominent physicians and professors to lobby for his release. The Georgia Parole Board quietly voted for his release on the condition he would return to Pelican, Alaska to work in the family business. He walked out of prison on May 14th, 1979 at the age of 33 announcing plans to become a missionary.

Waiting at the prison gates was Joan Jones. Krist’s wife had since divorced him so he and Jones were free to marry a few months later.

Krist again switched horses in midstream taking college classes to become a doctor. However, he encountered problems since legitimate medical schools bar convicted felons, so Krist contacted his supporters to press for a pardon. Krist got his pardon and enrolled at a second-rate Caribbean medical school.

He graduated in the mid-1990s, but his past kept him from keeping a position for any length of time. Once people learned he was a convicted felon he was always fired.

In 2003, Krist's medical license was yanked. He told a reporter, "I'm not going to be able to fulfill my dream. I tried to be a beneficial part of society. They wouldn't let me."

Krist then turned to another profession, importing and selling cocaine. Krist rented a 27-foot sailboat in Point Clear, Alaska and sailed to Cartagena, Colombia, where he bought a kilo of cocaine. The charter company grew suspicious when a map of the Colombian coast was found on the boat by employees.

The charter firm contacted authorities who installed a tracking device on the vessel. After returning from his next excursion, state and federal lawmen boarded the craft and found four illegal aliens and about $2 million worth of cocaine paste.

On March 10, investigators searched Krist's home and discovered a concealed trap door in the floor of a small shed leading to a drug laboratory. Krist was sentenced to five years and five months in prison for drug smuggling on January 19, 2007 at the Federal Correctional Institution in Marianna, Florida. He was released in November, 2010.

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Comments 7 comments

barryrutherford profile image

barryrutherford 4 years ago from Queensland Australia

Incredible story! The truth is stranger than fiction. thanks for posting this. voted up !


richfsr 4 years ago

Kind of makes you wonder. Once a felon always a felon?


JY3502 profile image

JY3502 4 years ago from Florence, South Carolina Author

barryrutherford, I ran across an article and thought it would make a good hub. So I did some more research and here it is!

richfsr, once a nut, always a nut.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City

I don't believe that all felons are destined to remain so throughout their lives, but this one man seemed hell bent on self-destruction -- and achieved it.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

A great hub and a fascinating story.

I think this guy found a life of crime much too exciting to give up and he also thought it would be a quick way to making huge amounts of money! If he had, had the intelligence of the real Einstein, maybe he would have had more success!

Very interesting + voted up!


JY3502 profile image

JY3502 4 years ago from Florence, South Carolina Author

Einstein was smart enough not to pull that kind of stuff.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

I read about Barbara Mackle's ordeal in a very interesting book titled "80 hours to Dawn". This was interesting, too. Her kidnapper really should have been punished more the first time.

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