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Indiana Cold Case: The LaSalle Street Murders

Three men were found with their throats cut in 1971, and some people thought there was a conspiracy that went as high as the Nixon administration.

INDIANAPOLIS--In 1971 two men from Gibson County decided to leave their jobs. They moved to Indianapolis and lived it up, until they, and another man they lived with, were murdered. Their story involved murder, mayhem, and microfilm.

A senational case

"It was a very sensational case and it was also very gruesome because of the way they were killed," said Tom Cochrun, then a reporter for WIBC, of the murders of Robert Hinson; James C. Barker; and Robert Gierse, known as the LaSalle St. murders.

When the men were killed, Dec. 1, 1971, Gierse and Hinson had just started their own microfilm business. They had worked for a man named Ted Uland in Jasper, but quit. When they moved, they were accused of taking money, equipment and clients. And Uland had taken out a $150,000 life insurance policy on each of them.  

"Which immediately raised the idea that this could have been a vendetta, revenge, or a professional hit," said Cochrun.

Why move to Indianapolis?

The men didn't just move to Indianapolis to start a new business and a new life. They became men about town. And it gave police something else to look into.

"Indianapolis Police learned that these men were flamboyant," said Cochrun. "They had a contest amongst themselves to see who could bed the most women." Cochrun said the men went to bars to find women.

The scorecard and a game about bedding

Police discovered that the men kept a scorecard in the LaSalle St. house, with names of women they had bedded. And the frequent visits to the bars weren't just to pick up women, they also like to brawl.

"They left a lot of speculation as to who might want to see these guys gone."

But, police kept coming back around to the theory that Ted Uland, their former boss, didn't care for their theft of equipment, trade secrets and possibly even money from his business in Jasper. They believed he might have had the men whacked.

The former boss and his alibi

Uland had an alibi. He was in southern Indiana when the murders happened, and could prove it. Police say he had a key to the house. He knew the guys had been stealing him blind. So, he had motive and access. But, they couldn't prove he did it or had it done. When Uland was cleared, he collected the money from the life insurance policy.

The case had a lot of twists and turns, which ultimately took police nowhere...

And it has gone unsolved for over 45 years. 

The LaSalle Street Murders: The Later Years

In the 1990s, the case was reopened when a freelance journalist came up with another theory. The Indy Star said Carol Schultz made friends with the ex-husband of one of the women Gierse may have slept with. She helped police build a case against Carroll Horton, and a friend, Floyd Chastain, who was already in prison for murder in Florida. Horton was indicted, spent about a month in jail, and was let loose when the prosecutor dropped the case for lack of evidence.

Another theory that some people thought it was plausible, was that because the men were in the microfilm business they might have crossed the wrong person in a high level of government. Some people who looked into that theory thought it might have gone as high as the Nixon administration.

The "new" tech

"It was sort of a young technology business in those days. So, the organization of data and trade secrets and that sort of thing, microfilm was probably a mystery to a lot of folks," said Cochrun.

But, the mystery was brought closer to being solved in 1999 when a man named Fred Harbison died and left a note in a safe deposit box in Gibson County. In that note, according former Indianapolis police detective Robert Snow, Harbison admitted that he was a hired goon for Ted Uland, and drove to the house that night to kill Gierse and Hinson. Barker just happened to be there, and Harbison said he was forced to do him in, too. 

Snow, who wrote the book Slaughter on North LaSalle, said Harbison never got paid for the crime, and he, of course, couldn't go to the police to complain about not getting paid for a hit.

Even though several people close to the case agree the letter is authentic, neither Uland, nor Harbison can ever be tried. They're both dead.

And, the LaSalle Street Murders are still unsolved.

GRAPHIC: Maddie Koss

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