On The Case With Paula Zahn is investigating the tragic murder of Gayle Barrus from Battle Creek, Michigan, who was brutally abducted, raped, and murdered by Roger Allen Plato.
The shocking murder occurred in 1988 and lay unsolved for over 30 years before the police finally fingered Plato for the crime.
Barrus was a 30-year-old mother of three children, working two bar jobs when she was abducted from in front of a cafe on October 9, 1988. Sadly, her remains were recovered 16 days later by some hunters in the nearby but rural Emmett township. She had been raped and stabbed.
Three days before Barrus’s body was found, Battle Creek detectives had gone to speak to Plato about another rape and a series of sexual assaults. A struggle ensued, which led to Plato being shot dead by the cops.
Decades later, the case remained unsolved. However, the police suspected that Plato and his friend Richard Compton might be involved. Two men, who matched their descriptions, had been seen arguing near the spot where Barrus’s body had been located.
The prime suspect had actually been Compton, but there was not enough evidence to be sure. In 2009, Compton passed away and was buried in Texas. In 2019, his body was exhumed to extract DNA, but investigators were disappointed when they failed to get a match to the DNA found in Barrus’s underwear.
A forgotten vial led to Roger Plato as the killer
Plato’s body had been cremated in 1988, meaning that obtaining a reliable DNA sample from him seemed impossible. However, a routine audit of the Calhoun County sheriff’s department turned up a small vial of Plato’s blood in their storage unit. Incredibly, this vial had been sitting unchecked for over 30 years.
The county cops passed the vial to the Michigan State Police, who ran a DNA test and found it was a match.
In 2021, Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert ruled that the DNA evidence would have been enough to charge Plato with kidnapping, first-degree criminal sexual assault, and first-degree murder of Barrus.
The police suspect that Compton likely watched Plato rape and murder Barrus.
More from On The Case With Paula Zahn
Follow the links to read about more murder cases investigated by Paula Zahn.
Abdus Salaam Laroche stabbed Pamela Crisler about 20 times in her apartment in Athens, Georgia. The 16-year-old high school teacher managed to avoid justice for 15 years until the DNA evidence finally caught up to him.
In Forth Worth, Texas, in 1974, Glen McCurley abducted teenager Carla Walker from her car and raped and murdered her. It took nearly 50 years for the police to catch up to the killer.
On The Case With Paula Zahn airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.