Mysterious America

Innocence Lost: The Tragic Unsolved Murder of Barbara Sue Beasley

The following is an excerpt from my book Tales of Coles County, a collection of history, folklore, and true crime from one of the most interesting counties in Illinois. Order it in paperback or Kindle today.

As the summer of ‘73 dragged on, Coles County suffered the loss of another daughter at the hands of an unknown assailant. At around 10:00 a.m. on Friday, August 3, 1973, 11-year-old Barbara Sue Beasley of Mattoon disappeared while riding her white Stingray bicycle near the Cross County Mall.

She was approximately 5 feet tall, 95 pounds, with blonde hair and green eyes, wearing slacks and a blue blouse. She lived on E. DeWitt Street, and her father, Warren Beasley, worked at the nearby General Steel and Metals plant. Her parents reported her missing on Saturday.

On the evening of Tuesday, August 7th, exactly one month after Shirley Ann Rardin’s body was found, two teenage boys left the Cross County Mall and headed to hunt turtles in a drainage ditch one-quarter mile north of the railroad tracks.

At around 6:00 p.m., they stumbled upon the badly swollen nude body of a girl lying on her back in two inches of water under a pipe that ran across the ditch west of Columbia Machine Company. The girl’s blouse was beneath her body, pants wrapped around her left arm, and her other clothes, alongside her bicycle, were strewn along the drainage ditch approximately 35 feet south. The boys ran back to the mall and called the police.

Click here to order the book Tales of Coles County!

Though Barbara had no dental records, there was enough other evidence to identify her body. Investigators, however, found no obvious marks or wounds to indicate a cause of death.

Barbara’s 14-year-old brother, Tommy, later testified he last saw Barbara with a 6-foot tall, 38-year-old man named Clarence L. Foster near the railroad tracks. He left to get something to eat at a nearby root beer stand, but when he returned, his sister was gone.

Foster, who also lived on DeWitt Street, worked at the same General Steel and Metals plant as their father. He had been charged with a residential burglary earlier that spring. Another witness, Randall Trader, claimed Foster confessed to him while drunk.  Cross-examination, however, found holes in their testimony. Tommy Beasley was developmentally disabled, and Trader, a convicted felon, changed his story several times.


Coles County State’s Attorney Bobby Sanders dismissed all charges against Clarence Foster on April 11, 1974 due to lack of evidence. Foster later briefly escaped from jail but was recaptured and incarcerated on the burglary charge. The murder of Barbara Sue Beasley remains unsolved.


  • “Young girl’s body found near city.” Journal Gazette (Mattoon) 18 July 1973.
  • “Grisly Slayings Shock, Baffle Area Lawmen.” The Terre Haute Tribune (Terre Haute) 22 July 1973.
  • “Coles authorities continue investigations into deaths.” Journal Gazette (Mattoon) 13 August 1973.
  • “Cause of girl’s death not found.” Journal Gazette (Mattoon) 17 August 1973.
  • “Foster bound over on slaying charge.” Journal Gazette (Mattoon) 10 October 1973.

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