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Crime Stoppers: Cold case murder of Barbara Lucas, 32 years later

3:29 AM, Nov 20, 2010   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida - Barbara Lucas was not the type of woman anyone would mess with or challenge.

"She could handle herself," says Detective Michael Bailey from the Pinellas Sheriff's Cold Case Unit.  "Not too personable."

By all accounts, Lucas lived a hard life. In and out of trouble in both New York and Florida, the fair-haired 29-year-old was living with her boyfriend in St. Pete.

She had a criminal record and a dark side.

Lucas worked the streets as a prostitute, detectives say.  She knew the men and continued her trade. 

She was also working as a bartender at a place on Haines Road in St. Petersburg called Cherry's Tap Room.  It burned to the ground back in 1978.

Detectives believe Lucas may have known who did it and was killed for the information she was about to provide in a police interview.

Detective Bailey says, "She was speculated for being a witness, probably no one wanted to come forward. They saw the fate of Mrs. Lucas for being a witness."

She never made it to the police interview. Lucas' body was found floating in Tampa Bay by several fisherman on September 20, 1978.

"She drowned and there was nothing holding her under water, or anything like that," says Detective Bailey.

He adds, "It could have been torture, yes."

Lucas was beaten to death and tossed in the water, and her secrets died with her in the water. There were defensive stab wounds on her arms.

It's speculated that the four men who owned the bar were the ones behind her murder, that they killed her so she wouldn't tell anyone what happened.

The men were eventually arrested and sent to prison for arson, but they never confessed to the murder of Lucas.

They are now out of prison and two are living in Florida, while the others live in other parts of the country.

Detective Bailey says, "I'm hoping that someone who lived here at that time can shed some light on that."

"Maybe they were trying to get information from her, what did she know, what would she testifying to, I don't know she didn't provide any information."

No one will ever know. Her story remains a cold case.

If you know who killed Barbara Lucas, please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS. 

Melanie Michael, 10 News

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