On August 29, 2012, a tourist aboard a Maid of the Mist tour boat spotted a decapitated, armless, legless torso in the water near the base of Niagara Falls. The torso belonged to mother of three Loretta Jo Gates, 30, of Niagara Falls, New York. Loretta was reported missing on August 25 by her family who told police that she had left her mother’s apartment complex, where she was living, to go across the street to the grocery store after midnight. She told her mother that she would be back in 15 minutes, but she disappeared, leaving few clues behind. The Niagara Gazette reported that on her Facebook page Loretta had recently written the she was “engaged,” but did not specify to whom. Also she wrote, “I am getting my life together for my 3 children I love them soso much.”
By September 7 investigators in New York, using DNA samples and personal items submitted by her family, had identified the torso as belonging to Loretta. The same day police fished and arm and a leg believed to belong to Loretta out of the whirlpool rapids of the Niagara River. Those remains are still at a lab for DNA testing. On September 9 police recovered a duffle bag containing Loretta’s head and hand from a pond on Duck Island in Hyde Park.
Investigators at this time have no theories as to where the crime took place, nor do they have any persons of interest, but they do believe that Loretta was killed within a day or two of her disappearance. Because the torso was found in Canadian waters, the case is being investigated jointly by Niagara regional police and New York state police.
Niagara Falls Police are asking anyone with information about the case to contact them at: 716-286-4553 or 716-286-4711.
Her family too is asking for help from the public. In an interview with WKBW Loretta’s father, Arthur Gates, pleaded for anyone with information to come forward, saying “the smallest little detail — someone she hung around, someone she went with, just call.”