A suspect who claims the legendary apeman Bigfoot abudcted a teen age girl was freed from jail three days before the scheduled start of his trial on child-stealing charges.
Fresno County authorities said they were forced into letting Russel Welch, 44, back on the streets to "avoid double jeopardy if they later choose to charge the man with murder."
Welch is accused of abducting Theresa Ann Bier, 16, last June. The two went camping in the Central Sierra and the girl did not return.
Welch told authorities that the legendary apeman, also known as Sasquatch, had taken the girl. Detectives say Welch apparently sincerely believes in Bigfoot creatures and claims to have had continued contact with a tribe of them.
Deputy District Attorney Elvoyce Hooper Friday offered Welch a one-year term on child-stealing charges if he would sign a waiver allowing for a murder trial in the event the girl's body is found.
But Welch's public defender, Mel Rube, refused to sign a waiver and Hooper said he was forced to drop the charge in case authorities later want to charge Welch with murder.
If the body is not found, Hooper said, he will probably refile the child-stealing charges, with a maximum penalty of four years in prison.
Welch had been scheduled to stand trial Monday. Rube denies his client had anything to do with the girl's disappearance but would not say if Welch is still contending that Bigfoot took the girl.
The double jeopardy statute prevents a suspect from being charged twice for the same crime.
Note: This article was originally written on September 30, 1987. You can find a scan of the article here.
Sadly, Theresa Ann Bier has never been found. Below is some information I was able to get off a missing person's database.
Missing since: June 1, 1987 from Fresno, California.
Date of Birth: April 16, 1971
Age at time of disapperance: 16
Height and Weight: 5'5", 110 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, hazel eyes. Bier's upper front teeth protrude. She has a surgical scar on her lower leg due to a childhood fracture. Bier's nickname is Sam.
Clothing/Jewelry Description: White t-shirt, jeans and laced sandals.
Bier resided with her family in Fresno, California in 1987. She was last seen during a cammping trip with Russel Welch on June 1, 1987 in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Bier and Welch, whose nickname is Skip, camped in the area of Shuteye Peak, approximately 25 miles northeast of Bass Lake. He was 43 years old at the time. They were reportedly searching for the legendary creature known as Sasquatch or Bigfoot. Welch considered himself a "student" of the legend. Bier disappeared during the trip and has never been heard from again.
Authorities questioned Welch when he returned to Fresno several days later. He initially claimed that Bier ran away from him on June 1, then he changed his story. Welch eventually stated that Bier had been forcibly taken by Bigfoot. Welch was charged with her abduction, but the case against him was dismissed due to lack of evidence in October 1987, more than four months after Bier disappeared. Searches of the Shuteye Peak area produced no clues to her whereabouts. Foul play is suspected in Bier's case.
If anyone has any information regarding the disappearance of Theresa Ann Bier pleace call the Fresno Police Department at (559) 621-7000.