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Friday, December 5, 2008

Ann Gotlib's fate clearer after 25 years,

police say
Suspect named; he died in '02

By Jessie Halladay
The Courier-Journal

After 25 years of interviews, fruitless searches and tips , Louisville Metro Police say they
think they know what happened to 12-year-old Ann Gotlib, who went missing on the first
day of her summer break in 1983.

Citing new information gathered since summer's 25th anniversary of Ann's

disappearance, police said yesterday they believe she was abducted and killed by Gregory
Oakley, a convicted child abuser who died in 2002.

Oakley was an early suspect in the case but, despite years of police investigation, could
never be definitively linked to Ann's disappearance.

Bobby Jones, the retired detective who arrested Oakley in another case involving a young
girl in 1984, apologized yesterday to Ann's parents, Russian immigrants Anatoly and
Lyudmilla Gotlib. He said he wished he'd pushed harder to link Oakley to the girl's case.

"I'd just like to apologize to them for not being more aggressive," Jones said during the
police news conference. He added later that he didn't think the case was handled properly
by the department, which was then the Jefferson County police . "I believe that we could
have solved it back in 1984."

The Gotlib family issued a short statement through police yesterday, asking for privacy
and time to understand the latest developments.

Ann disappeared on June 1, 1983. Her bicycle was found near the Bacon's department
store at the old Bashford Manor Mall, not far from where she lived on Gerald Court.

Though her body has never been found, police said they now believe that Oakley
abducted Ann and killed her with an overdose of the painkiller Talwin.

National spotlight

In the days after Ann's disappearance, hundreds of volunteers scoured the area
surrounding the mall and detectives tracked leads. Stories about what had happened
swirled through the community, leading to outlandish reports that included Ann being
kidnapped by the Soviet government.

Her disappearance was one of the first to put a national spotlight on missing children as
law enforcement authorities checked sightings and reports from Oregon to Florida. Ann's
face appeared on billboards, milk cartons and she was the topic of national television

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement released yesterday that Ann's
disappearance is one of the reasons Congress passed the Missing Children's Assistance
Act, which helped establish the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a
national clearinghouse for information about such cases.

Over the years l ocal detectives would look into the case again . At one point, they
tracked a story that Ann had been buried at Fort Knox; it was later disproved.

Oakley surfaced repeatedly as a suspect, and a recent tip prompted another effort to find
the answer.

Not long after a June memorial service marked the 25th anniversary of Ann's
disappearance , a former girlfriend of Oakley's provided new information to police about
his whereabouts on the day Ann disappeared, said police Maj. Dave Wood.

The girlfriend, whom police did not identify, said Oakley had come to her house about 11
p.m. that day , and asked her to wash some of his clothes. That helped police establish
that Oakley had been in Louisville when Ann disappeared.

Though police had known since 1984 that Oakley had been at the Bashford Manor Mall
to mak e a bank transaction on June 1, 1983, Oakley had said he left town after making
the withdrawal .

Police say they also got additional information from a man who had served time with
Oakley in a Kentucky prison in the late 1980s and early 1990s .

The inmate, whom police declined to identify, first told them in 1992 that Oakley had
admitted killing Ann. But police were skeptical of the information because the inmate
had lied about some other things involving Oakley during a polygraph test, according to
Sgt. Denny Butler, a Louisville homicide detective currently working the case.

After re-examining the case this year, detectives decided to re-interview the inmate, who
told police again that Oakley confessed to killing the girl. A polygraph test confirmed the
former inmate's statement, police said .

Always a suspect
Oakley first came to police attention in Louisville when he was arrested in January 1984
for an attack on a 13-year-old girl , during which the girl was stabbed. He was eventually
convicted of attempted rape and burglary and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Police questioned Oakley about Ann's disappearance at that time, including giving him a
polygraph, which he failed . But police could never definitively connect Oakley to her
disappearance, though he was always a suspect, Wood said.

"At the time, the investigators evidently didn't feel there was enough evidence," he said.

Oakley died in Alabama of lung cancer in October 2002 , just three months after
receiving a medical parole from the Kentucky prison system, police said.

Shortly before his death, Oakley responded to a Courier-Journal reporter's request for an
interview in a letter, saying he had nothing to do with Ann's death. In the letter Oakley
noted that he was dying and had no reason to lie.

Larry Carroll, a retired detective who worked cold cases for metro police, took a run at
solving the Gotlib case in 2003 after Oakley's de ath .

He said he subpoenaed Oakley's prison records but never ca me up with more than "word
around the prison yard" that Oakley had killed Ann.

Police are not officially closing the investigation into her case, hoping that people will
continue to come forward with additional information.

Anyone with information should call the anonymous crime tip line at 574-LMPD.

Reporter Jessie Halladay can be reached at (502) 582-4081.

The Ann Gotlib case

June 1, 1983: 12-year-old Ann Gotlib is returning to her home when she disappears. Her
bicycle is found leaning against a pillar at Bashford Manor Mall.

June 4, 1983: A police bloodhound picked up Ann's scent near the mall, but led police to
an apartment of a friend's grandmother. The FBI said the dog was distracted by cooking

Late June 1983: Police question a Nicholasville man suspected in three child sexual
abuse incidents in Louisville . Ralph Barry Barbour admitted to the three incidents, but
was at a Lexington business at the time Ann disappeared , according to three witnesses.

January 1984: A man accused of breaking into a house, then stabbing and attempting to
rape a police officer's 13-year-old daughter becomes a strong suspect. Gregory Lewis
Oakley Jr. had visited a bank branch in the mall hours before Ann vanished. But Oakley
denied any involvement in the case and insisted that he had left town on business
immediately after withdrawing cash from the bank. A polygraph examiner concluded that
Oakley was lying when he denied responsibility for Ann's disappearance, court records
show, but police found no physical evidence linking him to the girl.

May 1984: Ann's photo was featured as part of a made-for-television movie about
another missing child. Afterward, a Boston resident reported seeing a "dirty, freckle-
faced girl" in the city's Charlestown section who ran away when called by the name Ann.
About 200 detectives searched but found nothing.

1990: Texas death-row inmate Michael Lee Lockhart claimed that Ann was among 20 to
30 girls he had killed and that he had buried her body at Fort Knox while there on active
duty seven years earlier. After three days of digging up a remote tank range, however,
police also discounted that tip.

1993: Lockhart provided the Gotlib family with a map of the alleged point of burial, and
the family asked for permission to dig at the Army post. Jefferson County police went to
the post but could find no terrain that matched Lockhart's map.

October 2002: Oakley dies in Alabama.

May 31, 2008: Over the years, local police, FBI and other law enforcement agents have
checked hundreds of tips and interviewed more than 1,000 people — to no avail.

June 1, 2008: At a memorial marking the 25th anniversary of Ann's disappearance, her
mother, Lyudmilla Gotlib, says: "We still hope for a miracle, because nothing short of a
miracle can help solve all this."

Yesterday: Louisville Metro Police say new interviews of two key witnesses point to
Oakley, including a statement by a former inmate who served time with him in the late
1980s and early 1990s. The inmate said Oakley told him he killed Ann with an overdose
of Talwin, a pain killer. The inmate's statement has been confirmed by a polygraph test,
police say.

Ann Gotlib's body has never been found.