Monday, June 2, 2003

Gotlib case - 20 years later
Girl's disappearance, though unsolved, helped transform such investigations By Sheryl Edelen The Courier-Journal An a andoned icycle !as all police found !hen "#-year-old Ann Gotli !ent missing from the Bashford $anor $all area of Jefferson County #% years ago yesterday& Since then, nothing - and everything - has changed& 'T!enty years ago, !hen !e stood in front of reporters li(e this, ma(ing this plea, !e could never have imagined, after all these years, doing it again,' Ann's mother, )yudmila Gotli , said yesterday from atop the stairs in front of the *all of Justice& 'But here !e are&' '+e reali,e that after #% years, generations change and it !ill e harder to find !itnesses, ut miracles happen and !e are clinging to the hope that a miracle can happen for us&' )yudmila Gotli and her hus and, Anatoly, appealed again yesterday for information that !ill ans!er the -uestion that's stumped police and .B/ officials despite thousands of leads and t!o decades of investigation& +hat happened to Ann0 $ean!hile, child-!elfare advocates say Ann's case has helped increase national a!areness of missing and a ducted children and has revolutioni,ed ho! missing-child cases are handled across the country& The Gotli case !as 'part of the reason that Congress reali,ed that Americans needed help !ith missing children,' said Charles 1ic(ett, a senior case manager at the 2ational Center for $issing and E3ploited Children& Congress created the center, !hich is in Ale3andria, 4a&, in "567 to help la!enforcement agencies !or( together to find missing children& +hen Ann - a girl !ith au urn hair and frec(les - disappeared, much of the country !as eginning to tal( more a out missing children& At that time, an estimated "&6million children vanished from their homes each year& But )ouisville had never dealt !ith a case li(e Ann's&

'+hat's important to understand is 8 that a little girl !ould disappear and never e seen again, and no one ever e charged, in a noncustodial a duction, is rather rare,' said 9avid Beyer, spo(esman for the .B/ office in )ouisville& Before Ann vanished, it !as so rare that a local child-advocacy group formed in $ay "56: found fe! people !illing to ;oin its volunteer ran(s& 'This !as an issue that !as very hard to get people to tal( a out,' said )ucy )ee, e3ecutive director of the E3ploited Children's *elp <rgani,ation& '/t !as ;ust too frightening to thin( a out something li(e that happening here&' The follo!ing month, it did& <n June " Ann disappeared in road daylight from the usy shopping center on Bardsto!n =oad, across the street from her home on Gerald Court& 4olunteers then came from every!here, )ee said, to ;oin e3isting EC*< mem ers and police to search ditches, mail fliers to police departments across the country, canvass near y neigh orhoods and pray& EC*< mem ers also arranged fund-raisers and coordinated ne!s conferences for Ann's parents& 'They are -uiet people and it !as very difficult for them to face the media, ut they (ne! they had to,' )ee said& '+e did !hat you do !hen you're helping any family in the midst of a tragedy&'' The possibilities As time passed, various theories a out Ann's disappearance surfaced& Among them !as the possi ility that Ann, !hose family immigrated from =ussia in "56%, had ecome the victim of a Soviet government (idnapping designed to force the family's return& After some chec(ing, .B/ officials said they found no evidence to support this& There !as also speculation that Ann had left voluntarily ecause she !as having trou le ad;usting to American life and getting along !ith friends& .amily and friends, ho!ever, said that the girl's an3iety !as typical of adolescence& 1olice eventually agreed, saying that if she'd left voluntarily, she'd most li(ely have contacted a relative or ta(en money and some f avorite possessions& And then there !ere the !rong turns, strange coincidences and ad tips& Three days after Ann's disappearance, a police loodhound pic(ed up Ann's scent around a ditch near the mall and led detectives to the !indo! of an apartment in a comple3 across the street& /t !as the home of Ester <(myans(y, the grandmother of the last friend

to see Ann efore she disappeared& <(myans(y said later that Ann had never visited the apartment& .B/ officials said the dog erred !hen distracted y the smell of coo(ing food, even though the dog's handler thought it too coincidental that the scent led to a relative of a friend of Ann's& The <(myans(ys !ere eventually chec(ed and cleared& Three !ee(s after Ann's disappearance, police -uestioned a 2icholasville man suspected of molesting a "%-year-old girl at the Je!ish Community Center ;ogging trac( and flashing t!o near y >-year-olds hours efore Ann vanished& That man, =alph Barry Bar our, admitted the incidents involving those three children and ac(no!ledged a using half a do,en others in ?entuc(y and /ndiana, ut three !itnesses said he !as in a )e3ington trophy shop at the time of Ann's disappearance& /n January "567, a man accused of rea(ing into a house, then sta ing and attempting to rape a police officer's ":-year-old daughter, ecame a strong suspect& Ban( records sho!ed that that man, Gregory )e!is <a(ley Jr&, had even visited a an( ranch in the mall ;ust hours efore Ann vanished& But <a(ley denied involvement and no physical evidence lin(ing him to Ann !as ever found& /n $ay "567, Ann's photo !as featured as part of a made-for-television movie a out another missing child& After!ard, a Boston resident reported seeing a 'dirty, frec(lefaced girl' in the city's Charlesto!n section !ho ran a!ay !hen called y the name Ann& A out #%% detectives searched ut found nothing& /n "55%, Te3as death-ro! inmate $ichael )ee )oc(hart claimed that Ann !as among #% to :% girls he had (illed and that he had uried her ody at .ort ?no3 !hile there on active duty seven years earlier& After three days of digging up a remote tan( range, ho!ever, police also discounted that tip& Three years later, )oc(hart provided the Gotli s !ith a map of the alleged point of urial, and the family as(ed for permission to dig at the Army post& Jefferson County police !ent to the post ut could find no terrain that matched )oc(hart's map& The national picture 9uring the early "56%s, child e3perts around the country !ere eginning to loo( to )ouisville for innovative !ays to help (eep children safe and prosecute adults !ho hurt them& The creation of the Jefferson County $issing and E3ploited Child @nit, !hich paired social !or(ers and police officers to !or( on child-a use and child-e3ploitation cases, had proved so successful that it ecame a national model&

And in "56", Ernie Allen, once head of the )ouisville-Jefferson County Crime Commission and the county's chief administrative officer, invited e3perts on teen runa!ays, child pornography, (idnapping and child prostitution and the parents of highprofile missing or a ducted children to )ouisville for a conference on those issues& The conference, the first of its (ind, helped organi,e a successful lo ying effort for legislation needed to create the 2ational Center for $issing and E3ploited Children& Since then, the center has helped la! enforcement !ith more than 65,%%% missing-child cases and the recovery of A:,:B" children y serving as a liaison et!een the agencies, managing its o!n investigations of missing-child cases and !or(ing to (eep the children in the pu lic eye& The center also trains officers and other police personnel around the country in !ays to -uic(ly find missing children& John =a un, head of the Jefferson County e3ploitation unit at the time of Ann's disappearance, !as as(ed to oversee that effort through the unit's model program not long after center !as created& Even no!, ho!ever, he can't help ut note the irony of receiving national praise for investigative methods that didn't find Ann ut that made all the difference in finding scores of other children& .or e3ample, he said, Ann's case !as one of the first in !hich detectives used ill oards& 'Everyone told us it !as stupid to do that, ut luc(ily, the company !as !illing to do it for free& +e got a sle! of leads from those,' he said of the ig signs as(ing for information on Ann's case along high!ays from /ndianapolis to )e3ington& 'Cou couldn't have lived !ithin a hundred miles from )ouisville and not (no!n a out Ann& '/t all should've !or(ed, ut it didn't,' he said& Ann's case !as one of the first to enter the center's system& <f the more than 6,%%% cases that the center's staff constantly update and investigate, it is no! one of the oldest& Charles 1ic(ett, a senior case manager at the center, has handled Ann's case since the eginning& As part of his duties, 1ic(ett stays in contact !ith local police and .B/ agents !or(ing the case, updating the center's file& *e also monitors crimes in other parts of the country, searching for similarities and possi le leads on suspects and (eeps the Gotli family informed& @pdated reports are filed on Ann's case at least every 5% days& 1ic(ett said that local investigators and agents have een as tenacious in investigating Ann's case over the years as any he's seen, and that some cases as old as Ann's are eventually solved&

'They are loo(ing at everything they can loo( at in this case,' 1ic(ett said of police& 'This #%th anniversary is no different than ">, "A, "6, or "5& 8 +e're still loo(ing at people !ho could match this case&' To help !ith that effort, the center conducted an intensive t!o-day cold-case revie! in Ale3andria last month for )ouisville and .B/ officials !or(ing Ann's case, plus a representative from the Jefferson County common!ealth's attorney's office& 9uring the meeting, 1ic(ett said they and some of the country's est criminal and cold-case e3perts revie!ed every aspect of the case - every suspect, every shred of evidence and every lead - to come up !ith ne! clues& 1ic(ett said he doesn't e3pect police to ever stop loo(ing for Ann& 'They still hold out hope that it's going to get resolved,' he said& 'They !ant to ring it to an end&' The numbers 2early 6%%,%%% children - more than #,%%% a day - !ere reported missing in "555, according to the 2ational /ncidence Studies of $issing, A ducted, =una!ay and Thro!a!ay Children& <f those, only ""B cases involved children eing a ducted y a stranger or slight ac-uaintance, transported more than B% miles from home, and permanently (ept, ransomed or (illed& Earlier estimates of the num ers of missing children are considered s(etchy, ecause study definitions varied so !idely, ut e3perts thin( the num er of nonfamily a ductions has decreased from the #%% to :%% reported in "55%& ?entuc(y has had a sharp decrease in the num er of missing children, from 6,%5: in "55: to 7,>76 last year& <n average, officials say, a out #B% children remain missing at the end of each year, the ma;ority of them runa!ays& /n /ndiana, the overall num er of missing youngsters is higher - et!een "",%%% and "B,%%% annually over the past eight years - ut a steady decrease has also left police there !ith fe!er children to find& ?entuc(y officials ac(no!ledge that Ann's case raised a!areness of the pro lem in the "56%s, ut credit the state's decrease to pu lic a!areness of more recent disappearances, !hich included "55> a ductions of 5-year-old Am er *agerman in Arlington, Te3as, and A-year-old $organ 4ioli of Bo!ling Green& Both girls !ere found murdered& They also cite the success of preventive efforts& /n 9ecem er, ?entuc(y (ic(ed off its Am er Alert program& /t !ill !or( through the state's e3isting emergency-alert system to issue alerts a out a ducted children on radio, television and high!ay message signs& /ndiana egan its Am er Alert program in <cto er&

There are at least 7" programs across the country, and they have een credited !ith recovering at least "A children since "55A& '.ortunately, !e haven't had to activate our system at all since our program egan& +e ran a test in 9ecem er and found that the signal had reached the outermost areas of ?entuc(y !ithin four minutes and !as scrolling across televisions !ithin "% minutes,' said ?entuc(y State 1olice Capt& Sonny Cease, head of the state Am er Alert program& '+e're prepared to use it every day ut hope !e don't have to&' The toll /t's een four years since he retired from the .B/, and even longer since he !or(ed on the investigation, ut the urden of not having solved the Gotli case still haunts Chris *oehle, >%, !ho lives in )a Grange& 'She's the first thing / thin( a out !hen / !a(e up and the last thing / thin( a out at night&' *oehle said& 'Anatoly and )yudmila, they're such !onderful people& / thin( of them every day&' *oehle and his partner, 1hil Austin, !ere part of an army of federal and local officials !or(ing the case over the years& And he said that although the officers he !or(ed !ith !ere dedicated, it doesn't matter& They failed& *e failed& 'Cou can s!eeten it up any !ay you !ant& 8 +e !ere responsi le for finding this child,' he said& '+e failed individually and as a collective group&' 9uring yesterday's ne!s conference, )yudmila and Anatoly Gotli recogni,ed the efforts of police and .B/ agents& The couple still hope someone !ill provide the information they need to let them lay the uncertainty to rest !ithin their lifetimes, and they said they have loo(ed for !ays to live their lives !ithout Ann& '+e have our friends, our family, our ;o ,' her mother said& '+e try to live as normally as possi le&'

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