November 2, 2020| By Caterina Calabretta
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
Judy MacFarlane was the “brave one,” according to her older sister, Nancy Brewer.
Nancy recalls the simple days when she and her sister would camp out in the backyard, tents protecting them from the mosquitos in the Gainesville, Florida summers.
“When we’d hear noises, I’d always make her go outside first,” she said with a laugh.
Judy will always be remembered for her strong and loving nature. She served her country for eight years between the United States Army and National Reserve while being a mother of four children. She graduated from Santa Fe Community College on a military grant with the hope of giving her children a better life.
She wanted to make a difference in the world.
Judy MacFarlane’s dreams never came to fruition. On June 26, 1992, her body was found in a retention pond on the north side of Gainesville. She was last seen months earlier on January 13, walking home from a church service. She declined an offer of a ride home, preferring to walk home.
Her body was discovered behind a barbed-wire chain-link fence. A lawn maintenance crew discovered Judy’s body as they were cutting grass around the fence. Reports indicate that the grass was cut shortly after Judy’s disappearance as well.
Judy and her children had been living with her mother for stability and support until her mother’s house caught fire and burned down. She and her children then moved into a mobile home, which was just three-quarters of a mile from where her body was found.
According to Nancy, Judy always wanted to be a mother and was very loving when she became one. At the time Judy went missing, her children had been staying with her cousin, Mary Swain. Judy and her husband were separated at this time and motherhood was overwhelming. Swain wanted to help her cousin out after the house fire, so she had taken the kids for a while so Judy could have a break.
After her cousin went missing, Mary remembers thinking, “Oh my gosh, these kids have no mother.”
Mary went on to adopt Judy’s youngest child and only daughter, Melissa. She was just 11 months old. The three older boys, who were around ages 4, 5, and 7, were adopted by a family in Canada.
Mary best remembers Judy as pretty, but tough.
“If you messed with her, she’d roll up her sleeves. She could fistfight just like the rest,” she said.
Throughout the years, the one thing Mary Swain wanted was for Melissa to get answers regarding her birthmother’s death.
It hasn’t happened.
The cause of Judy’s death was never determined because of the effects weather and nature had on her body.
“It was just sad that four little kids lost their mother,” said Swain.
Judy’s sister Nancy Brewer said they were very close growing up but drifted apart throughout the years. The last time she saw Judy was at her own baby shower. Nancy’s daughter was born six days after her sister’s disappearance.
Nancy said she had dreams that her sister would show up at her doorstep and in return, she would punch Judy in the face because she was so angry with her for disappearing.
“I think she would be happy with how we’re all doing,” Nancy said.
“She is my angel. She has saved me more than once. I’ve felt her before. I know she’s there.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Judy MacFarlane, please call the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office at (352) 367-4050.
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