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Couple turns personal tragedy into mission to help others

Cathy and Trent Barcroft with correspondent Mark Hyman (Photo: Larry Deal)
Cathy and Trent Barcroft with correspondent Mark Hyman (Photo: Larry Deal)
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Trent Barcroft had a very successful 34-year career with Chrysler in the U.S. and abroad. He and his wife, Cathy, spent nearly two decades living in the Middle East and Africa. Their globe-trotting experience was not what they had anticipated.

It changed our lives," Trent told Inside Your World. "We went in a completely different direction than I would've expected.”

Then in 2009, Trent became CEO of Chrysler of South Africa, with responsibility for nine countries including Botswana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Under his leadership, the unit shattered sales records.

We were flying," he said. "It was really going well."

But just weeks after a record-setting year, tragedy struck.

In early 2013, Trent and Cathy were driving in Johannesburg when a car hit them from behind. Trent pulled over to exchange information with the other driver.

(The) guy just sticks a gun in my belly and shoots me straight away," Trent said. "Doesn't say a word. Doesn't demand anything. Just shoots me.”

It was no innocent fender bender. Instead, it was a staged event to steal from the couple.

The brazen daytime robbery left Trent on life support. Doctors worked feverishly to save his life. After weeks in hospital intensive care, he finally recovered and resumed his daily routine.

But life didn’t return to normal. Despite identifying the shooter and accomplices in mug shots and surveillance video, the investigation went nowhere.

“We didn't receive any kind of justice when it was at hand. We knew the people. It was just that close. That hurt worse than the physical wounds,” said Trent.

The South African police closed the case as unsolved. They have not responded to requests from Inside Your World for comments on the case.

Trent retired and the couple moved to his native Georgia. The fact that their case in South Africa was mishandled continued to gnaw at them. He and Cathy decided to turn their sense of injustice into a new mission. They became crime fighters. For Cathy, it became part of her healing process.

To be a victim of crime and to be able to have a chance to do something for someone else for other victims of crime, is huge to me," Cathy told Inside Your World.

Cathy began working as a digital forensics investigator in suburban Atlanta. She quickly got the attention of her boss, DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston.

She immediately kind of jumped in and impressed my investigative leadership team as somebody that was just absolutely passionate, committed, dedicated, and more importantly, as well, just really, really competent in working with digital evidence," Boston said.

Boston said Cathy analyzed more than 100 cell phones and digital devices in just the previous six months. According to Boston, it’s critical evidence in some of the most violent crimes, including murder.

Trent thought he, too, could make a difference.

As someone who loves dogs, Trent took a different path. He purchased an elite canine trained in detecting electronic storage devices (ESD) as small as a dime. He was outraged to learn these devices can hold thousands of images and hours of video of children being sexually abused.

“I bought the dog!” said Trent.

“I went and got myself trained. We're now a certified canine and handler team,” he said.

It took specialized training to learn how to handle a detection canine. Trent became one of the nation’s first ESD canine handlers. His dog, Lizzie, was just the 14th canine trained to detect the small devices.

For more than four years, Trent and Lizzie have made themselves available to Georgia law enforcement agencies to help hunt down predators abusing children. And here’s the kicker: Trent doesn’t charge a law enforcement agency a penny for his services.

He told Inside Your World, “It doesn't cost them anything but pick up the phone and say, ‘Be here at five o'clock in the morning, we're going to execute a search warrant. Bring your dog.’”

The Barcrofts have found a new purpose in life. They chose to go back into the work force to make a difference in their community. According to employment data, just three percent of retirees voluntarily return to work.

Craig Smith works alongside Cathy as a DeKalb County investigator. He has nothing but profound respect for Cathy.

“It's highly admirable. You could spend your golden years retiring, but you're in a major metropolitan DA's office where we have a lot of violent crime and a lot of digital devices, and you throw yourself right into the mix and you're being part of the solution," Smith said.

The Barcrofts have indefinitely postponed relaxing days at home, or going on ocean cruises. National correspondent Mark Hyman, asked them, “This may sound odd, but was February 9th, 2013 a blessing in disguise?”

Cathy, without hesitation, answered, “It was a horrible day, obviously. But for me, it gave me, it enlightened me with a passion of something that I just love doing. So, I'd have to say it was really actually a good experience now for sure, a really good thing that happened.”

The Barcrofts, who describe themselves as comfortable financially, earned the right to a quiet retirement. But all the law enforcement officials who spoke with Inside Your World had nothing but high praise for Trent and Cathy’s commitment and dedication to their work.

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