Unsolved Mysteries Wiki
Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Larry and Debbie Race

Real Name: Larry Gene Race
Case: Appeal
Location: Lake Superior, Minnesota
Date: May 12, 1982


Details: Larry and Debbie Race, along with their two daughters and son, lived in Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota, 75 miles from Lake Superior. Their marriage was troubled by Larry's extramarital affairs, but by 1982, he vowed to try again with their relationship. On May 11, 1982, their 14th wedding anniversary, they went out to celebrate. They had dinner at a lake view restaurant and took their boat, the Jenny Lee, out onto Lake Superior. After it became dark, they drifted it offshore, looking at the city lights.
According to Larry, at around 9pm, Debbie noticed that the boat was taking on water and began to panic because it had nearly sunk the previous summer. When Larry took off the engine cover, he noticed water spraying from it, and they shut it off. The leaking eventually stopped, and everything seemed to be working fine again.
When Debbie tried to start the engine again, it would not do so. Larry also tried to start it, but with no success. They also noticed that the boat was starting to sink again, and Debbie told Larry that she wanted to get off. They then tried to blow up the first life raft, but Debbie noticed that there were holes in it so they tossed it off to the side. They filled the second one, and it was successful. Debbie put her purse and other valuables in a bag, which she placed in the raft along with a scuba tank. Larry had his scuba gear on board, and he told Debbie that he would drag her and the boat to shore with him because he was a strong swimmer, and he had done that before with their daughters.
However, Larry said that he was cold and needed to get on the raft; Debbie would not let him do so because she thought he would sink it. He then noticed lights from a nearby boat and went towards it to try and get help. However, it actually was his own. This time, the engine started, and he went to search for Debbie, but was unsuccessful. He returned to shore and notified the Coast Guard, who also searched for her unsuccessfully. The next afternoon, a teenager discovered her body on the shore. She had died from hypothermia. Larry was then charged with her murder.
John DeSanto prosecuted Larry in Debbie's murder. He produced circumstantial evidence at the trial that showed that Larry had the opportunity, means, and motive to kill her. He claimed that Larry had apparently wanted out of his unhappy marriage. He also claimed that Larry didn't like Debbie's weight, housekeeping and spending habits. He also noted that Larry had a $108,000 life insurance policy on her that was purchased just months prior to her death. His attorneys, however, claim that she had insisted on the insurance policy.
The prosecution claimed that Larry had concocted the engine trouble on the boat as a way to get her off it. After the trial, it was sold and an independent mechanic examined the starter in 1984, stating that it was worn and that the problem would have caused an intermittent starting failure. However, the prosecution noted that he could not prove that it had this problem back in 1982.
Larry claimed that there were two rafts on board the boat that night. However, DeSanto states that there was, in reality, only one. Larry's diving companions and friends testified at the trial that they had never seen him with more than one on it. The search and rescue also stated that they would have found the other one during their search. However, a deputy sheriff testified that Larry specifically told him that there were two. The prosecution pointed out that the deputy sheriff's testimony was inconsistent. At first, he had stated that he had known nothing about two, but for unknown reasons had changed his story.
The prosecution insists that on that night, Larry purposely pushed her and her raft away from the boat. He then put on his scuba gear, swam under the raft, and slashed it with a knife, in order for her to freeze to death. DeSanto states that there were five punctures or cuts in the bottom of it, and that they occurred while it was inflated because there were none on the top and they were strategically placed so that they cut both air chambers. The prosecution failed to produce the knife that allegedly created them. The only one on the boat did not match them.
The prosecution claims that Larry dragged the raft back to the boat. Jean Aubineau, an underwater expert, however, reported that he would have been unable to complete all of the tasks that the prosecution claims he did that night. Aubineau also states that Debbie's body would not have been able to float as far as it did without a raft. DeSanto, however, also states that it is impossible to say where she got off the boat, so Aubineau's theory can't be corroborated.
According to Larry's attorneys, Debbie's skin lividity also proves that she came to shore in a life raft. However, DeSanto states that its levels show that she was actually floating on her back, which would support the prosecution theory. After hearing all of the evidence, the jury found Larry guilty of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Larry's daughters could not believe that he was responsible. Surprisingly, Debbie's parents support him as well. His attorneys are currently trying to put together a search for the valuables that Debbie allegedly took on the raft. Larry continues to maintain his innocence in the case.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the December 18, 1991 episode.
Results: Unresolved. After the broadcast, two witnesses came forward, claiming to have found a life raft on Lake Superior a year after Debbie's death. They believed that it was the same type Larry had used that night. However, their testimony was inconsistent. In some instances, they claimed it was found in 1983. In others, they could not be certain when it was done so. Certain details in their story suggest that they actually did not find it until 1992. Furthermore, they sometimes changed the location of where it was done so, from Lake Superior to a nearby river. As a result, during one of Larry's appeals, their testimony was dismissed.
After all possible appeals were exhausted unsuccessfully, Larry was eventually released on parole after serving twenty-two years of his life sentence, pursuant to statute allowing him to be considered for parole after seventeen years. He continues to maintain his innocence. No one has yet come out to prove his claims.
In fact, some evidence brought up at trial (but not in the segment) seems to point towards Larry's guilt. First of all, five hours passed between the time that he lost Debbie and the time he reached shore. He claimed that he was passed out from exhaustion during this time. Several friends were with him on the boat a few days before the incident; they noticed no problems with it. Also, no one reported ever seeing two life rafts on board.
Several gallons of water were found in the life raft found on the boat, despite the fact that Larry initially claimed that it had never been in the water. When told of this, he then changed his story, claiming that he had thrown it in the water. Also, both caps to its air chambers were securely closed, even though he claimed that he had thrown it aside after it couldn’t inflate. His diving knives (which prosecutors believed he used to slash it) were not found on the boat. Finally, he had been in an extramarital relationship up until the weekend prior to Debbie's death.
Although this evidence seems to point towards Larry's guilt, many are still certain that he was wrongfully convicted.