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Barbara was last seen leaving a restaurant on Main Street in her hometown of Williston, North Dakota during the evening hours of April 11, 1981. She had dinner there with a friend and her boyfriend and her boyfriend offered to accompany her home afterwards, but she declined and left the restaurant alone. Her boyfriend watched her walk to Reclamation Park, which is five blocks from home. Barbara never arrived at her destination and has never been heard from again. She did not take her clothes, eyeglasses, cigarettes, money, or any other personal belongings with her when she disappeared. She also left behind a paycheck from work. Her younger brother stated he was very close to Barbara and she never told him of any plans to leave home.
Barbara's case was originally investigated as a runaway case and a missing persons report was not filed for several days as a result. Authorities now believe that Barbara may have been abducted, but the prime suspect in her disappearance, a former boyfriend of Barbara's, is now deceased. Her case is considered open and unsolved.