NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) - A Niagara Falls family has had their worst fears confirmed. State Police confirm their DNA matches that of a torso pulled from the Niagara River.
Thirty-year-old Loretta Gates went missing on August 25th at 11 p.m. She had been going across the street to a convenience store, and was never seen again. Police know she made it to the store, and disappeared sometime in the early morning hours of August 26th. Three days later, Canadian authorities pulled a torso from the lower Niagara River.
After conducting a search and looking through missing person cases, Canadian officials determined the torso likely belonged to an American. Some of the characteristics matched those of Gates, whose family reported her missing on September 4th, and the family submitted a DNA sample. On Friday, State Police confirmed the torso belongs to Gates.
State Police Capt. Steven Nigrelli said, "In my 22 years of law enforcement, this is a pretty horrific homicide. But I have to tell you, every homicide's horrific. The grisly nature of this body, and how it's been discovered... I can't even imagine what the family's going through."
Her death has been ruled a homicide and authorities are now investigating. If you recognize Gates or know anything about what happened to her, call police. You can see more photos of this mother of 3 right here.
Gates' family has been candid that she had a drug problem in the past, but authorities can't say if that played a role in her death. Police are not disclosing how Gates was murdered, but do say it appears her limbs and head were intentionally severed.
Late Friday afternoon, Niagara Regional Police pulled a partial arm and a leg from the whirlpool rapids after a fisherman spotted them and called police. Authorities were out seeking more body parts. Each will be sent for DNA analysis to see if it also belong to Gates.
"We assume, high probability. But until you get that scientific match that those parts belong to Loretta Jo Gates, we're not comfortable to say that," Capt. Nigrelli said.
Two other bodies have been recovered from the Niagara River this summer. State Police reviewed those cases Friday afternoon after this development. Right now, they say there is nothing to suggest a link. The other two bodies were not dismembered, though those cases do remain unsolved.
If you have information on Gates' murder, call Niagara Falls Police detectives at 286-4553.
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