Above: Chester circa, 1986
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: May 26, 1986
Missing From: Bradenton, Manatee County, Florida
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: August 25, 1971
Age: 14 years old
Height and Weight: 5’8″ and 130 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: White Male, Blonde hair, Blue eyes
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A blue checkered shirt, a pair of jeans, and boots
NCMEC Number: 601937
Details of Disappearance
Chester Wetmore was last seen in Bradenton, Florida on May 26th 1986. He was last seen leaving his family’s residence in the evening. He has never been seen since.
In 2012, James P. Barnes, who was on death row in Florida at the time, confessed to killing Chester after his disappearance. He confessed to the murder on the first episode of Werner Herzog’s documentary “On Death Row”.
James Barnes was sentenced to death for the murder and rape of Patrica Miller, a Florida woman who was brutally murdered in her condominium on April 20th 1988. He was already serving a life sentence for the murder of his estranged wife, Linda Barnes, in 1997.
Approximately 6 weeks after his interview with Herzog, he received a letter from Barnes where he detailed how he murdered Chester and then buried his body. Barnes stated that he came across Chester in 1988 and helped hide Chester because he was a runaway and was aware that his family was looking for him. He stated he killed Chester because he stole something from him and then buried his body in an already dug hole next to a lake.
He also confessed to the unsolved murder of Brenda Joyce Fletcher who last contacted a family member on October 22nd 1990. Her body was found in a drainage ditch on April 2nd 1991.
Barnes was never charged with the two additional murders and is still awaiting execution. Chester’s body has not been located.
Chester’s disappearance remains unsolved. Some agencies list his disappearance as being on May 27th 1986 or September 17th 1989. Some agencies continue to list him as an endangered runaway.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Manatee County Sheriffs Office 941-747-3011