30 years later and Blackstone case remains unsolved

by Eva Marie Woywod

An anniversary is about to occur, a significant one - 30 years. Yes, three decades of memories but there will be no celebration, rather, some will wonder if questions will ever be answered and a mystery solved. That mystery is the murder of Barbara Blackstone.

Timeline
It was the summer of 1987 when terror hit our rural region. In a short stretch of time, three women had their lives ended at the hands of a killer.

The nightmare started with 18-year-old Angela Hackl of Lone Rock. On June 12 she disappeared from her hometown. Search parties over a two county area took to foot after her car was discovered near Sauk City, twenty miles from her home. It was three days later that her body was discovered in some woods six miles from Sauk City. They found her chained to a tree and she had been repeatedly shot from close range.

Earlier in the evening before Angela became missing, she was seen with Terry Vollbrecht. Vollbrecht would be convicted of her murder; however, since his arrest and while serving out his sentence and beyond, he has proclaimed his innocence.

Just one month after Angela was killed, 30-year-old New Lisbon teacher, Barbara Blackstone disappeared from her home in rural Lyndon Station. That home is on Delmore Road, a secluded stretch of road. Left behind in her car were her purse and her keys still in the ignition. It was nearly a month later on August 4 that her body would be discovered in Lafayette County, over seventy miles from home but within ten miles from the farm where she grew up in Argyle, WI.

The same month in which Blackstone disappeared a burglary and arson happened in the small town of Oxford in Adams County. On July 24 no one was home when the culprit entered the home; no one, that is, other than the family dog whose life ended that day after being stabbed to death. Reportedly stolen from the residence was a 357 magnum revolver, a black holster, and a distinctive two- piece folding butterfly knife.

It was just days after that arson and burglary that, on July 28, Linda Nachreiner from Dell Prairie came up missing. People became aware she was missing when her two small children were discovered unattended, and a basket of wet laundry was sitting nearby.

Nachreiner was found the day after she became missing. It was four miles from her home where her body was discovered. She was naked from the waist down. She had been raped, and reports say she was tortured. What ended her life was a bullet to her head.

Tips to police led to the arrest of Kim Brown in the Nachreiner murder as well as the arson and burglary in Oxford. He would end up being convicted of the crimes. Over the years a few inmates who had shared a cell with Brown claimed that he also confessed to killing Angela, claims which Brown has denied.

In 2011 a new trial was granted to Vollbrecht. In 2013 and while awaiting trial, he accepted a plea deal in the murder of Angela Hackl. He pled no contest to an amended charge of second-degree murder with a danger- ous weapon and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Having already served 22 years of his original sentence for 1st-degree murder, he was released based on time served and the remainder of the time was spent on parole.

As for Barbara, the woman who once called Juneau County home, her untimely and tragic death, remains unsolved.

Reports state that on the afternoon of July 9, 1987, Barbara stopped at the gas station near the Interstate 90 in Lyndon Station. While there she filled up her car and a five gallon gas can for her lawn tractor. She and her husband, Tom, were planning a picnic and she was mowing an area of their property in preparation for the event. Tom had reportedly been at work that afternoon and when he arrived home in the early evening, he found the car with the keys still in the ignition. The car was parked by a shed. Barbara was nowhere to be found. Later that evening he phoned the Juneau County Sheriff's Office and filed a report.

Over the course of the two days following Barbara's disappearance, volunteers searched the area. Helping the effort were bloodhounds. While volunteers and police searched the ground, a helicopter from the National Guard took to the air to assist in the search. No clues were found. Barbara was missing.

It was nearly a month later Barbara was finally found. On August 4, her body was found southwest of Blanchardville, about two miles out, in some woods. She was found by a hunter on a scouting trek. Her body was in a state of decomposition. Dental records were relied on for a positive identification. According to report at the time, an autopsy report stated that she had been dead for about 25 to 30 days before her body was discovered. A confusing twist to her death was her body was found within 10 miles from the farm where she grew up, more than an hour's drive from her residence in Juneau County.

Barbara's father offered some reasoning as to why her body was found so close to her childhood home. He suggested that perhaps it was because she had an account at a bank in Argyle and she offered that information to the person responsible for her death in hopes that she would somehow survive.

Authorities have always believed Barbara was murdered but the trail in the case went cold. In 2009 there was renewed interest in the case. Investigators from Juneau and Lafayette counties, and the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI) - took a fresh look at the case. In 2011 The Wisconsin Association of Homicide Investigators created the cold case playing card deck and distributed in prisons and jails throughout Wisconsin. The deck included Barbara's case being highlighted on the 2 of hearts card. According to reports, the thought process behind the approach was that inmates often share information with one another, and some of that information just may lead to a case being solved. Unfortunately, Barbara's case remains unsolved

According to Juneau County Sheriff Brent Oleson, a change in personnel along with budget cuts has impeded any progress in the solving the case. Oleson stated that his office is still working with DCI in solving Barbara's case.

Reward
In the spring of 2009 a former student of Barbara Black- stone, Marc Andreessen, offered an award of $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of her murder. At the time, Andreessen said his reason for offering the reward was because Blackstone had been his first computer teacher and helped to inspire him. Andreessen is a co-founder of Netscape.

When news of Andreessen's generosity got around, another former student added $5,000 to the reward. Anyone with information can contact the Juneau County Sheriff's Department directly at 608-847-5649. If you knew Barbara and would like to share your memories of her with our readers, please contact me at eva@juneaumessenger.com or give our office a call at 608- 462-4902.