Every Monday night at her church, Judy MacFarlane went to a bible study group. January 13, 1992, was no different. After the bible study at United Pentecostal Church in Gainesville, Florida, the 30-year-old seemed to be in a good mood. There was a light rain that night, but Judy stopped to look at the flowers that had been planted in front of the church. Two other people from church asked her if she wanted a ride home because it looked like it was raining harder, but Judy turned them down. Two church members went on their way after she told them she lived nearby and liked to walk. Judy was never seen alive again after she failed to return home.
That winter, Judy was going through a lot of big changes in her life. She had just divorced her husband and was getting used to being a single mum with four young kids. That same day that they broke up, she and her kids moved in with her mother, but her mother’s house had just burned down. After that, Judy and her kids moved into a small mobile home that was only a mile from her church. Even though things were tough, Judy never gave up when faced with a challenge.
Judy had served in the US Army and then the National Guard for a total of eight years, even though she could act sweet and quiet when she wanted to. She could be very tough when she had to be. When she was younger, she wouldn’t think twice about getting into a fistfight if she thought it was necessary. A few years before she went missing, she got her private pilot’s licence. She had strong nerves.
Judy went to Santa Fe Community College after she got out of the military. She graduated from that school with honours in industrial maintenance the previous spring. Although she was hoping that getting her degree would help her give her kids a better life, the divorce and the fire in the house had made her feel a lot more stressed. One of her cousins offered to take care of Judy’s kids for a few weeks so she could get back on her feet faster. Judy was happy to take her up on her offer, but she was looking forward to seeing her kids again. They were the most important thing in her life.
Judy was temporarily living alone, so no one was waiting for her when she got home from bible study. It’s not clear if she ever got back to her house that night. She wasn’t reported missing until Wednesday, after her younger sister tried to call her but couldn’t reach her and became worried.
When Judy’s family found out she wasn’t there, they were sure right away that something bad had happened to her. They were sure she wouldn’t have left without telling anyone because she had been in touch with her cousin and kids almost every day before she left. She had wanted to be a mum since she was a little girl, and she loved her kids very much.
When the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office looked into Judy’s disappearance, they didn’t find anything strange. She was an adult, she had payed someone to watch her kids, and she cashed a $300 cheque right before she disappeared. Detectives told her family that she probably thought she needed a break and would get in touch with someone when she was ready.
As time went on, it became clear that Judy had not gone on a short trip. After weeks and months of not hearing from her, her family thought the worst. Even the police seemed to agree that this was a strange case, and they searched several wooded areas near the church where Judy was last seen. They didn’t find anything connected to the case, and it seemed to go cold right away.
Another student from Santa Fe Community College went missing two months after Judy. Beth Foster told her flatmate she was going to read a book in a nearby park, but she never came back. A few days later, her car was found behind a Gainesville restaurant. The police then began a huge search for the 21-year-old. Eleven days later, Beth’s body was found after a lot of volunteers searched the Gainesville area really hard. She had been k*illed very badly.
Because of the differences in how the two cases were handled, Judy’s family was understandably angry. They pointed out that Judy had never been the subject of a large-scale search. They were openly curious about why the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office had mostly ignored Judy’s disappearance but responded fully when Beth went missing. Police continued to say they had good reason to believe Judy had left on her own.
Even though Judy’s family was still sure that she had been harmed, the investigation into her disappearance stopped. After six months, Judy’s body was found in a retention pond by people who were cutting the grass. There was a locked gate and a chain-link fence with barbed wire on top around the pond, which was less than a mile from the church where she was last seen. The only people who had the keys to open the gate were from the Florida Department of Transportation.
The police couldn’t figure out how Judy’s body got into the pond. Since Judy had gone missing, this wasn’t the first time that area had been mowed by a lawn care crew, and none of them had seen anything strange before. It wasn’t like the retention pond was in the middle of nowhere; the body couldn’t have been there for more than six months without being found.
Police thought Judy’s body might have been dumped into the sewer system through a manhole and then washed into the retention pond. Even though detectives looked at different sewer maps, they were never able to say for sure how Judy’s body got to where it was found.
There were a lot of broken bones in Judy’s body when it was found, but it looked like she was fully dressed when she died. Unfortunately, the medical examiner could not figure out what caused her death because of the state of her body. It looked like the family would never get answers because the medical examiner couldn’t say for sure that Judy’s death was a mur*der. This meant that there would be no mur*der investigation.
Judy died, and it was very sad for her family. She had just finished college and had been serving her country for many years. No matter what the medical examiner said, they were sure Judy had been k*illed and that the person who did it was free to go.
Before 2015, it looked like Judy would never get justice. But that year, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit reopened her case as a mur*der case. Detective Kevin Allen was interested in the case and set out to solve it. Like the first investigators, he didn’t understand how Judy’s body ended up in the locked retention pond. But he was more interested in finding anyone who might have ki*lled her.
Detective Allen said that there were a few possible suspects who knew Judy and had been involved with her at the time of her death. He first looked at her ex-husband, Jim MacFarlane, who he found out was a Canadian drug smuggler with a criminal record. There had been some bad blood between Judy and Jim, but before Judy was k*illed, Jim was arrested on drug charges and sent back to Canada.
Detective Allen also found out that Judy and a convicted criminal named Robert Morris had a history of fighting. Bobby was what Robert liked to be called, and he dated Judy’s younger sister. Their relationship was unstable, and they fought all the time. Often, their fights got physical. In 1990, Judy stepped in during a very violent fight and called the Gainesville Police Department on Bobby. She let the police into the house where Bobby was hiding and told them exactly where to look for him. Bobby was so angry that it took three police officers to finally calm him down enough to arrest him.
After being found guilty, Bobby spent more than a year in prison for assaulting Judy’s younger sister and attacking the police officers. He was charged with several felonies. On January 13, 1992, the day Judy was last seen alive, he was set free. Bobby Morris passed away in 2010, so Detective Allen couldn’t talk to him about the case. Aside from the coincidence of the time, there is no physical proof that he committed the crime.
Bobby might have been bitter that Judy had put him in jail, and he might have been ready to ki*ll her. It’s also possible that she met a random kil*ler on the road. In the early 1990s, Gainesville was not a very safe place for young women. More than six went missing or were ki*lled in that area.
In 1992, Judy MacFarlane was k*illed in Gainesville, Florida. She was 30 years old. Detectives still think the case can be solved, even though it hasn’t been solved in years. But they need help from the public. Please call the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office at 352–955–1818 if you know anything about what Judy was doing in the days before she went missing or about her mu*rder.