May 5, 1971|
|Disappeared||June 1, 1983 (aged 12)
Louisville, Kentucky, United States
|Status||Missing for 31 years, 6 months and 10 days|
|Known for||Missing person|
|Height||5 ft 1 in (1.55 m) (at age 12)|
|Weight||85 lb (39 kg) (at age 12)|
|Parents||Anatoly and Lyudmila Gotlib|
Ann Gotlib (born May 5, 1971) was a Russian immigrant who disappeared at the age of 12 from the premises of a Louisville, Kentucky mall on June 1, 1983. The case to find her abductor and killer was covered heavily by the Louisville news media and stretched for the next twenty-five years until the suspect, deceased, was finally identified.
Gotlib, a Russian Jewish immigrant, came to the United States in 1980 and was fluent in English and Russian.
Ann was last seen on June 1, 1983 between 5:30 and 6:00 PM. She was visiting Bashford Manor Mall, across the street from the apartment complex where she lived with her family. Her bike was later found outside the Bacon's Department Store at the mall.
Gotlib vanished without any trace ever being found. The FBI headed the investigation. Police investigated thousands of leads and between thirty and forty suspects over the years. Three days after her disappearance, a police dog traced a scent to the apartment of Ester Okmyansky, the grandmother of the last person to see Gotlib alive. Okmyansky said Gotlib had never visited the apartment, and after a thorough investigation of her family, police concluded the dog had been in error.
Others investigated included a sex offender who had been at the mall within an hour of Gotlib's disappearance and a serial sex offender who had an alibi.
An often repeated conspiracy theory held that Gotlib had been abducted by the Russian government to force her parents to return to their country of origin. Both FBI and the Gotlib family had dismissed this theory. Another theory was that she had left voluntarily after having trouble adapting to life in the United States. Investigators and her family dismissed this as well, saying she gave no indications of anxiety prior to the disappearance, and if she had run away voluntarily she likely would have taken some money or possessions, and made contact eventually.
In 1990, Texas Death Row inmate Michael Lee Lockhart claimed to have killed Gotlib and buried her body at Fort Knox and eventually provided a map of the burial site, but after a thorough investigation police found no physical evidence to verify the claim.
Up through 2008 the Louisville Metro Police Department still listed the disappearance as an open case. Nevertheless, it was considered a cold case due to the amount of time that had passed. The investigation documents fill four filing cabinets.
On December 4, 2008 Louisville Metro Police announced a major break in the disappearance case of Ann Gotlib. A spokesperson for the LMPD, commenting on new developments in the case, suggested that it was the police's belief that convicted felon and former veterinarian Gregory Oakley Jr. — who had been a suspect since the initial disappearance in 1983 — had possibly been responsible for the young girl's disappearance. Oakley died in Alabama in 2002 after being released from the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange on a medical pardon, where he was serving time for burglary and rape. That case was similar to the Gotlib case by the fact the victim was a 13-year-old girl having red hair. Police believe that Oakley followed Gotlib to the Bashford Manor Mall parking lot, where he abducted her leaving nothing but her bike.
According to a man who had once served time in a Kentucky prison in the late 1980s and early 1990s with Oakley, Oakley confessed to abducting Gotlib and killing her with an overdose of Talwin, a pain killer. Police had considered Oakley a suspect in the Gotlib case since January 1984, when Oakley was arrested and eventually convicted of raping a 13-year-old Louisville girl. Oakley failed a polygraph test concerning Gotlib, but police never had enough evidence to tie him to her disappearance.
Due to the startling way Gotlib vanished in broad daylight without any trace, it was a key case that lead the United States Congress to create the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 1984 to coordinate departments involved in missing persons cases. The center credits the Gotlib case with increasing national awareness of missing and abducted children and revolutionizing how missing-child cases are handled. One new technique that came out of the investigation was the use of billboards and other tactics to generate widespread awareness of a missing person, which was considered foolish by conventional wisdom at the time.
- "Ann Gotlib Information Page". The Charley Project. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
- Edelin, Sharon (2003-06-02). "Gotlib case - 20 years later". The Courier-Journal. pp. 1A.
- Cunningham, Sarah (2008-05-31). "Ann Gotlib's fate remains mystery". The Courier-Journal. pp. 1B.
- Heron, Mat (2008-06-01). "25 years on, we still haven't found Ann Gotlib". Louisville Eccentric Observer.
- http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/922/922.F2d.841.89-6473.html United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit
- "Police believe convicted felon responsible for disappearance of Ann Gotlib". WHAS-TV. 2008-12-04.
- Halladay, Jessie (2008-12-04). "Police have prime suspect in Ann Gotlib case". The Courier-Journal.