Barbara Joe Kelley

Barbara, circa 1950; Henry Lawrence Baird

  • Missing Since 06/18/1950
  • Missing From Humboldt County, California
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Age 17 years old
  • Height and Weight Unknown
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female.

Details of Disappearance

Barbara was last seen in Humboldt County, California on June 17, 1950. She lived in Fortuna, California and her 28-year-old boyfriend, Henry Lawrence "Red" Baird, lived in Eureka, California. A photo of him is posted with this case summary. That evening they went out together and never returned.

The next morning, Baird's body was found lying facedown on the beach at Table Bluff. He had been shot in the back of the head. He was naked except for his shoes and socks. Nearby were the rest of his his clothes, and Barbara's own clothing was neatly folded and hidden underneath them; only her stockings and shoes were missing. There was no sign of Barbara herself. She has never been heard from again and may have been abducted by whoever shot him.

In 1963, a possible suspect, Gayle Patrick Irish, confessed to killing Barbara, Baird and another man, Billy Wells Hale. Irish had a long record for sex offenses and, at the time of his confessions, he was committed to the state mental hospital. He initially made his statements to the hospital chaplain. At the time of the arrest which led to his committal to the mental hospital, he was armed with a large-caliber hunting rifle.

Hale had been killed in 1957, in circumstances similar to Baird's murder: he and a woman were parked on a lane six miles north of Marysville, California when a strange man walked up to the car and shot him in the head. The man then bound the woman's hands and drove her for sixteen miles until he pulled off the road into someone else's private driveway. He threatened the woman with a razor, but she was able to flee when the homeowners returned.

According to Irish, he had found Barbara and Baird parked in a car on a remote road outside Eureka. He ordered them out at gunpoint, forced Baird to strip off his clothes, marched him down to the beach and shot him. He then drove Barbara to a logging camp near Crannell, California, shot her in the back, wrapped her nude body in a blanket and buried it off a logging road there.

Irish was unable to lead authorities to the alleged gravesite, but the specific logging road he named did exist and the area had become heavily overgrown in the years since 1950. The police apparently misplaced the hunting rifle they confiscated from him, so they weren't able to compare it to the bullet taken from the scene of Baird's murder. Irish was never charged with any of the murders he confessed to, due to lack of evidence.

At the time of her presumed abduction, Barbara was a waitress at the Sweet Shop, a Fortuna restaurant. She's described as deeply religious. Her case, and Baird's murder, remain unsolved.

Investigating Agency

  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office 707-268-2539

Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004. Last updated August 28, 2021; casefile added.