Her March 25 death was marked with an obituary in The Daily Progress, but the only hint of the anguish Robin Worsky endured—and her family’s place in Charlottesville history—are the final words of the last sentence, a request that donations be made in her honor to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Nearly 32 years ago, Worsky lived every parent’s nightmare when her 12-year-old daughter, Katie Worsky, went to a sleepover and was never seen again. For weeks in that summer of 1982, investigators combed rivers, lakes, and fields searching in vain for the missing girl. A year later, a 24-year-old convenience store clerk named Glenn Haslam Barker was convicted of second degree murder for her death despite the fact that Katie’s body was never found. The evidence against him included his admission that he’d been at the house the night Katie disappeared and investigators’ discovery of a pair of girl’s underwear with a spot of blood hidden in Barker’s dresser drawer. Barker served nine years in prison and was released in 1992.
In a 2007 feature story in The Hook newspaper marking the 25th anniversary of Katie’s disappearance, Robin Worsky shared the pain she’d lived with for so long.
“I can’t have a memorial for her. I think about it, but I can’t do it,” she said. “I know I need to close it, but I don’t know how.”
Katie’s younger brother, John Worsky, who was just five when his older sister disappeared, said his mother’s death followed a lengthy battle with cancer. She didn’t talk much about Katie in recent years, he said, and she poured love into her own children, including her surviving daughter, Jaime, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as the hundreds of young children she worked with at daycare centers including ABC Preschool, Mighty Minds, and Little Hands International Preschool.
“I’ll remember her for what she did, working with children, giving back to the community, being able to continue after that tragedy,” he said.
Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding, who worked the case as a young detective, also remembered Robin Worsky for her determination to find justice for her daughter, and to seek answers even after the conviction. She twice visited Glenn Barker in prison, Harding recalled, but Barker has always maintained his innocence in the case.
Harding said he hopes the family finds some comfort in the knowledge that a mother’s pain has ended.
“I’m so sorry to hear that for the family,” he said of Worsky’s death, “but at least we know Katie would be happy to see her mom again.”
A memorial service for Robin Worsky will be held at 2pm on Saturday, April 12 at Harmony Presbyterian Church in Tyro, Virginia. The family requests donations be made in Worsky’s honor to The HOPE Center at Martha Jefferson Hospital or The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.