NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Seven years after the disappearance and murder of 30-year-old Loretta Jo Gates, law enforcement in Niagara Falls continue to pursue leads to find her killer.
On August 25th, 2012, Gates, a mother of three, walked to the Bridgeway Market near where she lived with her mother in Niagara Falls.
"Her mother said when are you coming back? Sent her a text message and her last text message in return to her mother was I’ll see ya in 15" said Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek. "We know she went in the market, we believe she left but she was never seen again."
Gates was missing for four days. On August 29th, her family was given the news that they had been dreading.
"It's just awful, but a torso was found or seen in the water by people on the Maid of the Mist and the police retrieved that torso from the river," she said.
Forensic evidence determined the remains were Loretta Gates.
"It had multiple stab wounds," she said, "I know it was more than 30 stab wounds."
Wojtaszek said a few days later more of Gates remains were discovered in the Niagara River.
"September 9th, of that year, two people were walking in Hyde Park and there is a little pond there, water there and there was a floating bag and they retrieved the bag and there was other body parts found in that bag" she continued.
However, despite law enforcement's best efforts, no one was ever arrested for her murder.
In June of 2015, someone walking down Willow Avenue in Niagara Falls passed a vacant house and knew something was suspicious.
"Somebody had been going past the door and it was a horrendous smell and looked in and saw obviously a deceased body, her body was also dismembered," said Wojtaszek.
The body of 46-year-old Terry Lynn Bills was found inside the vacant home. Investigators began connecting the dots between the two cases and determined Gates and Bills were related through marriage.
However, Wojastek said law enforcement is still working to determine if the murders are connected. If they are, the FBI and Niagara Falls Police Department are searching for a serial killer.
Even in 2019, Wojastek says detectives and prosecutors are still investigating.
"There are active leads that are followed up on all the time in this case, so I wouldn't say it's cold," she said.
If you have any information on this case you are asked to contact the Niagara Falls Police Department at (716) 286-4547 or the Niagara County District Attorneys Office at (716) 439-7085.
"Because someone knows something"..."The smallest pieces of information could change the whole course of an investigation" said Wojastek.