Barbara Frame finished work around 4:00 pm on the afternoon of Wednesday, January 30, 1985, and headed home to her Zanesville, Ohio apartment. She had several errands she wanted to run that evening, and shortly after she got home, her ex-husband, Jeff Frame, stopped by and added another errand to her list. Jeff told Barbara that she needed to immediately go to her attorney’s office to sign some papers concerning the couple’s divorce, which had been finalized six weeks earlier. Barbara told him she would take care of it.
Barbara left her three children at the apartment, telling them that she was going to see her attorney, after which she planned to stop by a local hospital to visit her mother and then go to the grocery store to pick up a few things. On her way back to the apartment, she also wanted to speak to her landlord about a bedroom window that had been broken by falling ice the previous evening. She left around 5:00 pm, telling her children that she would be back soon to cook dinner for them. Barbara never returned home and was never seen again.
At first, Barbara’s children weren’t sure what to do when their mother failed to come home. By Thursday morning, however, they knew that something had to be wrong. Barbara, who was normally a very reliable employee, didn’t show up for work at United Technologies that morning, prompting one of her children to call the Zanesville Police Department and report her missing.
Barbara’s sister, Evelyn Lasure, found Barbara’s car parked on Linden Avenue, across the street from where she worked. Although Barbara often parked in that lot, she never parked in the back where her car was found. Her purse and coat were still inside the car, indicating to Evelyn that something was wrong. “She wouldn’t have left [her purse and coat] behind. And she never would have left her children.”
From the beginning of the investigation, detectives believed that Barbara’s disappearance was suspicious, though they refused to comment on any possible suspects. Her friends agreed with Evelyn and said Barbara never would have willingly abandoned her children; her kids were the center of her world and she often told her friends and co-workers how proud she was of them.
When detectives spoke with Barbara’s divorce attorney, they learned that the missing woman hadn’t gone to the attorney’s office Wednesday night. Perhaps more telling, there was no meeting scheduled for that night. It was unclear why Jeff Frame told her there was.
On Sunday, just four days after Barbara was last seen, her mother, Anna Gibson, died. She had been suffering from cancer for a while; Barbara had planned to visit her at Bethesda Hospital on the evening she went missing. Her loved ones were adamant that Barbara never would have voluntarily missed spending time with her mother in her final days. Those who knew Barbara saw it as yet another indicator that the missing woman had met with foul play.
Barbara’s father was convinced that she would show up at her mother’s funeral. He remained hopeful as he received visitors at the funeral home. “She will be here! I know she will! If she can…” When it became clear that Barbara wasn’t going to arrive in time for the funeral, it cast a noticeable pall over the ceremony.
As days passed without any word from Barbara, her family became increasingly concerned for her safety. On February 8, 1985, they announced that they were collecting money so they could offer a reward for information leading to Barbara’s whereabouts.
Detectives combed through Barbara’s belongings, looking for anything that might help them locate her. They found a hand-drawn map that led them to a home in Lancaster; when they checked with the home’s owner, they learned it was a woman who worked with Barbara. She had hosted a Tupperware party and provided Barbara with the map so she would know how to get there.
Zanesville Police Detective Charles Conkle admitted that the department had received few tips about Barbara’s case and had no idea what had happened to the missing woman. Since she had no history of disappearing, they believed that she had likely been a victim of foul play but had no evidence to support this theory.
Barbara’s family members told investigators that her divorce from Jeff hadn’t been an amicable one. They said Jeff had been physically abusive to Barbara and had repeatedly threatened to kill her. Barbara’s children — two of whom were teenagers at the time- said that Jeff often came over to the house and tried to talk their mother into getting back together with him. It got so bad that Evelyn, who described Jeff’s behavior as stalking, tried to convince Barbara to move in with her for safety reasons. “She said she didn’t want to put me in danger.”
Jeff would eventually be given two polygraph examinations, both of which were inconclusive. Detectives later learned he had asked one of his friends if there were any drugs he could take that would interfere with the results of a lie detector test. Despite this, investigators found no conclusive evidence that Jeff was involved in his ex-wife’s disappearance.
Jeff filed for custody of the couple’s son, Eric Frame, shortly after Barbara was reported missing. Ernest Huber, Barbara’s first husband and the father of her other two children, Ernest and Kathy, filed for custody of them. Since Barbara couldn’t be found to respond, each motion went unchallenged and the three children were split up.
Barbara’s brother, Dave Gibson, posted pictures of Barbara on his car so other drivers would know she was missing. He spent hours handing out missing person flyers, hoping that someone would recognize his sister and provide detectives with the lead they needed to find her. He also mailed flyers to relatives who lived in the southern United States so they could distribute them there. A few tips trickled in but none led to Barbara.
Months went by and Barbara’s fate remained a mystery. In August 1985, a self-proclaimed psychic contacted detectives and told them that Barabara was dead and her body was buried somewhere near Ellis Dam in Zanesville. She claimed Barbara had been murd*ered on Linden Avenue, close to where her car was found, then taken to the Ellis Dam area.
With no other leads to follow, deputies with the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Department spent four hours digging in the area surrounding the dam but didn’t find anything to suggest the psychic was correct. Sheriff Bernie Gibson admitted that he knew it was a long shot, but since they hadn’t received any other tips about the case in months, he figured the lead was worth checking out.
In October 1985, Zanesville Police Capt. Billy Fulton admitted that the search for Barbara was at a complete standstill. Detectives continued to follow up on each lead they received, but tips were few and far between and investigators still had no idea what happened to Barbara. Although they hadn’t turned up any evidence of foul play, they found nothing to indicate the missing woman was still alive, either. All of her belongings had been left behind and her bank account hadn’t been accessed since she disappeared.
While detectives lacked solid leads, there was no shortage of psychics claiming to have information about Barbara’s disappearance. Zanesville Detective Robert Allen said he spoke to 35 psychics from Ohio who believed they could help find Barbara. He recognized it was an unconventional approach, telling reporters, “We’re just not going to give up until we’ve exhausted every possibility.”
One psychic provided investigators with a hand-drawn picture of a house she claimed was somehow involved in Barbara’s case. The house, which was supposed to be somewhere in Muskingum County, was dark brown or gray in color with a white carport attached. The drawing of the home was printed in local newspapers and anyone who recognized it was asked to call detectives.
The leads provided by the psychics failed to help detectives find Barbara. Months went by, and the investigation stalled and then went cold. By June 1986, Barbara had been missing for 18 months and her siblings, Karen Nelson and Dave Gibson, told reporters they could only hope she was still alive. Dave noted, “As long as there’s hope, we won’t give up…if it’s possible she’s still alive, it makes more sense to keep looking than to just say she’s dead.”
Karen said that several people told her that Barbara likely got tired of her life and decided to take off and start fresh somewhere else, but Karen knew better. “There’s no way I believe that. There’s no way my sister would just leave her children and everybody.”
Detective Conkle admitted the department had been unable to find any trace of the missing woman. “We’re not a day closer now than we were when it first happened.” He said that they had been unable to find anyone who spoke with Barbara after Jeff Frame stopped by her apartment and told her she needed to go to her attorney’s office. As the last person to talk to Barbara, he was a natural person of interest but insisted he had nothing to do with her disappearance.
When asked what he thought happened to Barbara, Detective Conkle refused to speculate. “There is no evidence of foul play. People can draw their own conclusions…we have our own opinions, but we have to keep them to ourselves until we can prove them.”
Years went by and Barbara’s case faded from the headlines. In October 2014, a few months before the 30th anniversary of Barbara’s disappearance, Barbara’s family hired a private detective to take a look at the case. Private Investigator Lilly Paisley gathered a small team and distributed more than 1,000 flyers about the case in an attempt to raise awareness about the fact that it had never been solved. She hoped that the increased awareness might bring in some new leads from people who hadn’t wanted to speak with detectives earlier.
Ernie Huber was just 13 years old when his mom went missing. The fact that neither he nor his two siblings had heard from their mother in the three decades since she vanished was enough to convince him she was dead. “I definitely don’t expect a positive outcome in all of this, but any outcome would be nice. Justice would be good, too…technology has improved a lot since then. Who knows? I’m always hopeful.”
On January 30, 2015, the Zanesville community marked the 30th anniversary of Barbara’s disappearance. Friends and family members gathered at the courthouse to pray for the missing woman. They released 30 balloons in her honor, one for each year she had been gone.
Kathy Huber, who was 15 years old when her mother vanished, told reporters she was still grieving her loss. “It’s been a long time, and a lot of people think, ‘Forget about it, you’re never going to find anything.’ But you never forget.”
Private Investigator Paisley said she had an idea of what most likely happened the night Barbara went missing, but she needed more evidence. She hoped that the renewed publicity surrounding the case would bring people forward. “We don’t want to let the meaning of Barbara die. We’re still looking for answers.”
In July 2018, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office released an age-progression photograph showing what Barbara might look like at age 70. They hoped that the photograph would raise awareness about Barbara’s unsolved case and bring in some new leads for detectives.
Barbara’s friends and family have continued to do everything they can to keep Barbara’s disappearance in the public eye, but detectives haven’t had any new leads in years. As of August 2023, the case remains unsolved and Barbara’s loved ones can only hope that they will one day learn what happened to her.
Barbara Sue Frame was 38 years old when she went missing in Zanesville, Ohio in January 1985. Her loved ones believe that she was a victim of foul play as it would be completely out of character for her to leave her three children. Barbara has green eyes and brown hair, and at the time of her disappearance, she was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 130 pounds. If you have any information about Barbara, please contact the Zanesville Police Department at 740–455–0700.