Robert Hearin paid almost a million dollars hoping to ransom his wife of 50 years. But her kidnappers were unyielding, and the 73-year-old multimillionaire died without ever seeing her again.
Hearin's heart gave out Wednesday, two years after Annie Laurie Hearin was kidnapped from their Mississippi home.Hearin, one of the state's most powerful and wealthy men, paid $931,000 in ransom, but his wife was never freed. Authorities believe she is dead.
"My one regret is I couldn't give him back his wife," said FBI agent Wayne R. Taylor. "We continue to do everything we can that might lead to her."
The Hearins met while they were students at the University of Alabama and married in 1940. They had two children, Robert Hearin Jr., a lawyer in New Orleans, and Laurie McRee of Jackson.
"We've had a terrible loss. I think all along there has been a real mix of sadness and anger," said the son.
Hearin was worth an estimated $200 million. He controlled Mississippi's largest gas distribution company, Mississippi Valley Gas Co.; its second-largest bank, Trustmark National Bank, and its second-largest insurance company, Lamar Life Corp.
Hearin avoided the news media after his wife was kidnapped but did appear on the TV show "Unsolved Mysteries." He never gave up hope of finding his wife, although authorities believe she died long ago. Last year, he moved out of the brick Georgian house they shared.
"I'm pretty sure she was dead within the first month. I am absolutely sure she is dead," said Dr. Rodrigo Galvez, a Jackson psychiatrist and pathologist who analyzed the ransom note.