Niagara Gazette — It was early September and fear in the city had risen to a level where Cataract City cops had to reassure residents that there wasn’t a serial killer on the loose.
The reality was that a series of discoveries of body parts in Hyde Park Lake and the Niagara River gorge were all linked to one horrific crime, the murder of Loretta Jo Gates.
The Falls’ second homicide of 2012, came on the heels of the murder of 5-year-old Isabella Tennant two weeks earlier and left residents deeply shaken. After an immediate arrest in the Tennant case, detectives tried to calm the fears created by rampant rumors and wild speculation on social media websites.
“It has been brought to our attention, from several sources, that there are a number of rumors regarding the Loretta Gates death and investigation,” a police statement read. “There is no evidence to suggest a serial killer. This investigation is not similar to any other deaths we are aware of at this time.”
After the release of that statement on Sept. 10, investigators also said, “We are not scheduling another press conference ... until an arrest is made or we have significant new developments that we would like to make public.”
In the intervening three-plus months, there has been no arrest nor any apparently “significant new developments.” Sources close to the case have told the Gazette that Falls police detectives have doggedly tracked numerous leads, without success.
“Every time we think we have a prime suspect, something falls through and we’re back at square one,” the source said.
Asked about the status of the investigation at year’s end, investigators said there was nothing new to report.
“Unfortunately, no, there’s no new developments,” Detective Lt. Mike Trane said. “But we’re still actively working the case, we’re checking out leads and we’re getting assistance from the state police.”
The Gates murder mystery began on Aug. 29 when Canadian law enforcement agencies recovered a torso that was found floating in the lower Niagara River. DNA testing on the torso lead to an identification of the body as the missing Falls mother of three.
A week later, Canadian authorities in Niagara Falls, Ontario, recovered an arm and leg that were spotted by a fisherman in the Whirlpool Rapids. Those remains were also linked to Gates.
Two days after that discovery, on Sept. 8, a passer-by noticed a bag floating in Hyde Park Lake, just off Duck Island and pulled the bag to shore. Inside the plastic garbage bag, made the grisly discovery of Gates’ head and her other arm.
Investigators have told the Gazette they believe Gates was murdered in the city and that the dismembered parts of her body were then disposed of at the various locations where they were recovered. Detectives have tried to determine exactly where Gates was killed, saying that locating a “crime scene” might yield key forensic evidence that would assist in the investigation.
Gates, 30, was last seen on Aug. 25. when she left her home to go to a convenience store across the street. She hasn’t been heard from since and left behind three children, ages 11, 5 and 4.
“We’re working hard on this,” Trane said. “Maybe (one of) next year’s Top 10 stories can be the arrest of the person who did this.”
Anyone with information about this case is still asked to call Criminal Investigation Division detectives at 716-286-4553
or 716-286-4711.The Gazette is counting down its top 10 stories of the year through New Year's Day. The list: 10: Tumultuous year for Falls air base • 9: Airport takes hit with Direct Air shutdown • 8: Lewiston Road's rough ride to repair • 7: Culinary institute opens in downtown Niagara Falls • 6: Gruesome mystery stuns Falls • COMING TOMORROW: Unthinkable murder shocks the community