Who Killed Pearl Bartley? New Details On The 1969 Unsolved Murder Of Florida Woman

Photo: firstcoastnews.com
Who Killed Pearl Bartley? New Details On The 1969 Unsolved Murder Of Florida Woman

There are more cold case homicides out there in the U.S. than any single one of us even wants to contemplate. While we'd like to think the heinous crime of taking another person's life never goes unpunished, that simply isn't the case. In the time period from 1980 and 2008, the FBI's Uniform Crime Report stated that there were 185,000 cases of homicide and non-negligent manslaughter that were unsolved. In Florida alone there were 31,715 homicides in that time period and 12,658 of them are unsolved. Pearle Bartley is one of those Florida cases. Pearle Bartley was born on April 19, 1897. She was strangled to death on October 27, 1969 at 72 years old. Her killer is still at large. Who killed Pearle Bartley? Let's look at the details of this very cold case and unsolved murder.

1. Pearle's place

Pearle Bartley lived in the small rural town of Micanopy, Florida in Alachua County about 12 miles from Gainesville. Her granddaughter, Marci Buchanan, remembers her as a gentle person who loved to play the piano, especially the "Missouri Waltz." She lived in a home attached to a general store called Pearle's Corner. 

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2. The discovery of the body

On October 27, 1969 a couple walked into Pearle's Corner and found 72-year-old Pearle Bartley had been brutally strangled to death. Police set up roadblocks and canvassed the area. Witnesses recall seeing a blue or black motorcycle ridden by a stocky, Caucasian male about 5'10" tall. No one in the small town recognized the motorcycle or the man, who was wearing a helmet that obscured his face.

3. The first lead

The case of Pearle Bartley's murder quickly went cold. Then, in the 1980s, serial killer Carlton Gary was arrested in Gainesville in October 1969, just 12 miles from Micanopy, Florida and Pearle's Corner. He was known for strangling elderly women. He was on death row at the time and admitted to nearly every crime that he could recall, but couldn't remember ever being in Pearle's town. He was executed in 2018 by lethal injection.

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4. The second lead

Investigators reached out to the FBI to use their next generation fingerprint ID technology, which could take old photographs of fingerprints and blow up and enhance them for identification. Carlton Gary's fingerprints were not found. But Austin Felker's were. Austin Felker was new to Florida in 1969. He was Caucasian and of the approximate height and build reported at the time of Pearle's murder. He was also the owner of a brand new motorcycle back then matching the description given by people in the area. His fingerprints were found on the Coca-Cola cooler across from Pearle's body. However, there were no violent crimes in Felker's past. He was a hustler and a conman, but not a killer. He is also dead. The question remains: Was Austin Felker a customer or a killer? Pearle's family is still searching for answers.

Amy Lamare is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering entertainment, pop culture, beauty, fashion, fitness, technology, and the intersection of technology, business, and philanthropy. She is deeply devoted to her chocolate Labrador and an avid long distance runner. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.