On the evening of August 25, 2012 Loretta Joe Gates stepped out for a quick run to the convenience story. That was the last time she would ever be seen alive. Prior to her disappearance, Loretta had struggled with drug addiction and had resorted to prostitution in order to make ends meet. She had been determined to turn over a new leaf and start a new life. After just 6 days in her Niagara Falls apartment, those dreams were tragically cut short.
Four days after Loretta failed to return home from her trip to the convenience store pieces of her body began to turn up. Her headless torso was found floating under the Rainbow Bridge. Days later a fisherman spotted an arm and a leg floating down river near the Devil’s Hole. Her head and hand were found by hikers later that week, wrapped in plastic and left on Duck Island, located in the middle of Hyde Park Lake.
There have been several theories on who may have killed Loretta Jo Gates. The father of Gates’ three children has been considered a person of interest, and some have speculated her death may be connected to the Long Island Serial Killer, who left dozens of bodies along Gilgo Beach. Neal Falls has also been named as a possible suspect, but thus far reports are conflicting.
Three years after the murder of Loretta Jo Gates, Loretta’s Aunt, Terri Lynn Bills, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Like Loretta, Terri had previously been involved in heavy drug use and prostitution, but was hoping to leave that life behind her. Terri’s body was found in an abandoned home on June 16, 2015 after neighbors noticed a foul odor coming from inside. Like Loretta, Terri had been decapitated and dismembered. After the discovery of Bills’ body, rumors of a serial killer in the Niagara Falls area began to circulate. No suspects have been officially implicated in either Gates or Bills’ murders. Niagara Falls police have been in touch with WV police and had looked into any possible connection between the two women and Neal Falls.
The general consensus among those who knew the women is that whomever killed them had known both Loretta and Terri and the culprits are more than likely someone local. Police later reported to the Niagara Gazette that they did not believe there was a link between Neal Falls and either of these women.