Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

September 9, 2012

Searching for answers after missing mom's remains found

By Rick Pfeiffer
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NIAGARA FALLS — Police made a gruesome discovery Sunday in their investigation in the death of Loretta Gates.

Just before noon, patrol officers responded to Duck Island in Hyde Park where a passerby had noticed a bag floating in the lake and pulled it to shore. Inside the bag were human remains.

In a statement released to the news media on Sunday evening, Cataract City cops said, "The remains have been positively identified as belonging to homicide victim Loretta Jo Gates."  

Sources close to the case have indicated that Gates' head and an arm were inside the bag. Investigators did not comment on what the "human remains" in the bag were.

Authorities in Niagara Falls, Ont., are also attempting to confirm that an arm and leg that were recovered in the whirlpool rapids on Friday afternoon also came from Gates' body. Those remains were spotted by a fisherman and retrieved by Niagara Regional Police.

A source with knowledge of the case tells Greater Niagara Newspapers that the discovery of body parts in the Falls may be a break in the case. The source said it would likely mean that Gates was murdered in the Falls and that the dismembered parts of her body were then disposed of at locations around the city.

Authorities confirmed on Friday that DNA testing showed that the torso of a woman, found floating in the lower Niagara River on Aug. 29, was the missing Falls mother of three. Just after noon Friday, investigators were notified that a DNA sample from Gates matched DNA recovered by Canadian law enforcement agencies from the torso. 

At that time, investigators said they were trying to determine where Gates may have been killed. They said that locating a "crime scene" might yield key forensic evidence that would assist in the investigation.

"We don't know where she died, we're looking for a crime scene because hopefully there will be some evidence there,' the source said.

Gates, 30, was last seen on Aug. 25. when she left her home to go to a convenience store across the street.

Investigators were drawn to Gates as their possible victim because she appeared to fit the profile that Niagara Regional Police, in the Falls, Ontario, had released at the time the torso was discovered. Canadian law enforcement officials said the torso appeared to be that of a "white female, between the ages of 31 and 56."

They also said the woman "had a pierced naval that was closed off" and appeared to have one or two caesarian section scars.

According to social media sites, Gates attended Niagara Falls High School and was employed by a Cheektowaga company. She has three children, ages 11, 5 and 4.

On her Facebook page, she recently wrote, "I am getting my life together for my 3 children I love them soso much." Her last post on her Facebook page was on Aug. 21 and was a link to her MySpace profile.

A day earlier, her page announced that she was "engaged", but did not indicate to who.

Because her torso was recovered in Canadian waters, law enforcement agencies in that country have also be involved in the case.

Canadian authorities have classified the discovery of the headless, limbless torso as a homicide. They have said the body was "dismembered" and the loss of the head and limbs was not linked to having been in the rough waters of the lower Niagara River.

Police have estimated that the torso was in the water for between four and 10 days before it was recovered.

In the statement from Falls police on Sunday, investigators asked for help from the public. Anyone with information is asked to call Criminal Investigation Division detectives at 716-286-4553 or 716-286-4711.