‘She was a hero multiple times over’: Woman remembers aunt who was found dead in Jacksonville 44 years ago

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office announced that convicted serial killer, Billy Mansfield, Jr. admitted to killing Carol Barrett in 1980. Barrett’s niece said she was grateful to have answers.

RELATED: 44 years after an 18-year-old was abducted in Daytona Beach and found dead in Jacksonville, JSO says it found her killer

Mansfield, Jr. is locked up in California, serving a life sentence for murder. He also has life sentences for murders in Florida. For those reasons, the state attorney’s office in Jacksonville decided not to prosecute him for Carol Barrett’s murder.

Claire Gilligan, Barrett’s niece said she was 3 years old when her aunt died, but does remember her. She wants others to remember her as well.

Gilligan has no memory of the day she nearly drowned as a small child. But she does know she’s here today, because of her Aunt Carol.

“[She] jumped in and pulled me out and gave me CPR until the ambulance came,” Gilligan said. “She was a hero multiple times over.”

Even though Carol was young herself, Gilligan said she was like a second mom to her.

“I can remember her giving me baths and [do you] remember those little oil bath beads? She’d always use those. I can remember her making me corn with mozzarella cheese in it. No Bake cookies were her absolute favorite cookie and they’re mine,” Gilligan said.

Carol was a senior in high school and had a spirit of adventure. That led her and friends to head south for Spring Break.

In March 1980, Carol and her friends were staying at a Daytona Beach hotel. One early morning, investigators said a man forced his way into their room. After robbing them, he took Carol. He then drove more than a hundred miles to Jacksonville, killed her, and left her body on the side of I-95 near Pecan Park Road.

That man is now identified as Billy Mansfield, Jr. He’s serving a life sentence in California.

He was also handed life sentences for killing four women in Hernando County, Florida. Prison records show the first murder was in 1973. The last was in April 1980, one month after Barrett’s murder.

“The thought that he did it to that many other women does change the fact that it makes him a little more of a monster in my mind,” Gilligan said.

Now that she has answers, Gilligan’s hope is for people to remember Carol as she was in life. The hero she credits with saving hers.

“A loving daughter, sister, friend, you know, anyone that you think about someone that you could trust, and go to, and feel comfortable. That was Carol,” Gilligan said.

Putting decades of questions to rest and remembering a young woman who meant so much to so many.

Gilligan said she’s at peace with the state attorney’s decision not to prosecute. With the suspect serving multiple life sentences, she said she believes she has justice for her aunt.

Barrett’s family worked extensively with investigators and worked to keep her story in the public eye. They also worked with Jacksonville-based nonprofit, Project: Cold Case, to get more eyes on the investigation. You can read Carol Ann Barrett’s case here.

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