Real Name: Annie Laurie Hearin
Nicknames: Annie Herrin (alternate spelling)
Location: Jackson, Mississippi
Date: July 26, 1988
Date of Birth: 1915.
Weight: 120 pounds
Marital Status: Married
Characteristics: Caucasian female, brown hair, pierced ears, stooped gait from scoliosis and arthritis
Details: Seventy-two-year-old Annie Laurie Hearin was the wife of wealthy businessman Robert Hearin Sr.; the two had been married for forty-eight years. She was abducted on the afternoon of July 26, 1988. Robert came home in the afternoon to find Annie not home. After calling several friends and family, he called the police to report her missing. Investigators discovered drops of blood on the carpet and blood smears on the front door of the residence. Neighbors also reported seeing a suspicious pickup truck and a white van with Florida plates driving by her home. Analysts determined that the blood matched Annie Laurie's type. Authorities believe that she may have been struck on the head by an intruder, as indicated by blood smears on the door. A ransom note was also found near the door, which was typewritten and contained numerous grammatical and spelling errors. The note stated in part:
Mr. Robert Herrin, Put these people back in the shape they was in before they got mixed up with School Pictures. Pay them whatever damages they want and tell them all this so then can no what you are doing but dont tell them why you are doing it. Do this before ten days pass. Don't call police.
The ransom note referred to School Pictures, a company that handled photographs of school children for yearbooks, which had been taken over by Robert in the 1980s. In order to collect debts, between 1981 and 1983, School Pictures sued twelve franchise owners in eight states, including Florida. The letter listed these twelve franchises of the nationwide business, all of whom Robert was supposed to pay ransom for the return of his wife. The kidnapper claimed that Robert "owed" these businesses money because he allegedly "harmed" these companies through his business dealings and lawsuits. Since the lawsuits against these companies were in public records, authorities determined that the kidnapper could have been someone that did not belong to these franchises. Robert made a public appeal for his wife's return in September 1988 and received a letter eight days later that was determined to feature Annie Laurie's signature. Postmarked from Atlanta, Georgia, the note stated:
Bob, If you don't do what these people want you to do, they are going to seal me up in the cellar of this house with only a few jugs of water. Please save me, Annie Laurie
Robert mailed nearly one million dollars in ransom money to the 12 franchisees listed in the first note. However, Annie Laurie was never released and the kidnapper never contacted him again.
Suspects: Authorities suspect that one of the people from the twelve franchises listed in the note may have been involved in the abduction.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the November 9, 1988 episode. It was also featured on Cold Case Files and The FBI Files.
Results: Unresolved. Newton Alfred Winn, a civil attorney in St. Petersburg, Florida, was apprehended in March 1989. He was the owner of a Florida-based School Pictures franchise and was one of the twelve names listed on the ransom note and among the ones that sent their money back to Robert. About four years before Annie's abduction, he had been sued by the company for over $153,000. A month before the kidnapping, Winn had purchased a van that matched the description of the one Annie's neighbors saw around her house the day she was kidnapped. The descriptions of the van's driver also matched his appearance.
A woman contacted the FBI and told them that Winn had promised her $500 to travel from Florida to Atlanta, Georgia, and mail a letter for him; this occurred sixteen days after the kidnapping. He handed her a manilla envelope; inside was the second letter, wrapped in a gray linen napkin. Winn instructed her not to look at or touch the letter, but when she deposited the letter she had to ease the napkin off. That is when she observed the writing on the letter. Later, she identified the letter as the one that Robert had received from his wife.
Though he maintained his innocence throughout, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, extortion, and perjury in 1990. He was sentenced to nineteen years and seven months and was released from prison in April 2006. No one has ever been formally charged with the actual kidnapping of Annie nor has she ever been found. In 1990, Robert died of a heart attack, and a year after, Annie was declared legally dead.
- Anne Hearin on Unsolved.com
- Anne Herrin on The Charley Project
- Husband Mails $1 Million as Ransom for Wife
- Lawyer Convicted in Abduction Plot
- Death Ends Millionaire's Search for Kidnaped Wife
- TV show examines unsolved murder of Annie Hearin
- Article on the 25th anniversary of Annie's abduction