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Ore. Cold Case Squad Solves Another One

ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) -- A volunteer cold-case squad has solved a homicide that began with the disappearance of a 31-year-old Azalea woman in 1988.

But the suspect in the apparent killing of Barbara Joy Gallagher committed suicide in 2001.

It's the second case the squad has solved, after resolving the 1975 murder of 16-year-old Benny King last year. The squad is comprised of retired law enforcement officers who volunteer their time to the Douglas County sheriff's office to work mysteries that have languished for years.

Gallagher, or "Barbie" as she was known to family and friends, was living with Robert Douglas Barr, 59, at the time of her disappearance in October 1988, according to the sheriff's office.

Police focused their investigation on Barr, but they didn't find the evidence to arrest him. Barr had two subsequent relationships with women, one of whom told the cold-case investigators that Barr was controlling and she felt lucky to be rid of him when he went to prison on unrelated charges.

The other woman married Barr. She was found murdered in the South Lake Tahoe, Calif., area in March 2001. Once Barr found out he was the focus of that police investigation, he killed himself with the same gun he allegedly used to shoot his wife.

Investigators said several things point to Barr's guilt in Gallagher's disappearance, including the numerous and conflicting stories he gave to police.

"He could never tell the same story twice. He lied continually; he was a con man," said Syd Boyle, a former detective who volunteers with the cold-case squad.

Barr also was found with several guns in violation of his parole for past crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping, escape and theft, according to a sheriff's report.

After speaking to many people about the case, investigators found over 25 circumstances that point to Barr's guilt. There is no evidence to suggest that anyone else played a role in it, and the case was closed after a review by Bill Marshall, the senior deputy district attorney.

Barbara Gallagher's body was never found.

The squad is now investigating the murder of 26-year-old Oakland resident Dennis Ray Smith, who was found buried in a shallow grave near his Kellogg home.

He was shot to death sometime after his disappearance in October 1995 and was found in January 1997, Boyle said.

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