It was the first day of summer vacation, 1983. Two little girls, aged 12, rode their bikes to a mall in one of the suburbs in Louisville called Bashford Manor. What happened to one of them after that has remained a mystery for the 25 years. The image of a bike, leaned up against the entrance to the Mall has been burned into the minds of every single person who lived here during that time. The face of a beautiful red haired little girl, with blue eyes and freckles was on television for an eternity. Her parents, with their halting Russian accents, begged for her safe return.
That face eventually was featured on milk cartons so that her features were known to many more outside of the Louisville area. The search turned cold, the face began to appear less often. In time only on the anniversary of her disappearance the story was resurrected and speculation once again was the subject of conversations.
I was stunned along with the rest of our community. My daughter was only two years old the beginning of that summer. I would look at her and understand the horror that the Gotlib family was feeling for their lost daughter, Ann. Abductions and kidnapping happened SOMEWHERE ELSE. Not here, not to us. Not to one of our children!
Could it be that abductions and murder of random children was not reported to us? Or was the plight of Ann Gotlieb the first national "mystery" that gripped our nation?
Because they had no leads, there was no ransom note, there was nothing...nothing! that it was thought she had run away. Her parents vehemently refused to believe that their 12 year old child had left her beloved bike behind. They refused to give up.
Last week, 25 years later, the police broke the news that they had a suspect. And that the suspect had died in 2002 after being released from prison on a medical release. His crime had been assault against a 13 year old girl, also in the Louisville area. They were confident now, with the addition of some new information. Actually some very old information that had never delivered to them but held in the silence for 25 years.
Finally the missing piece of the puzzle. Finally the missing girl, which had gripped Louisville for so long, was explained, if not found.
I double they will ever find her tiny 12 year old body after all these years. The monster that killed her has left this world to meet his fate with God. Maybe all his victims will be standing along side as his eternal judgement is handed down to him.
As for Ann Gotlib's parents? They were offered an apology from the police force and the detecives that were working on the case. Maybe if they had tried harder.....
When I heard the news Thursday night I cried for Ann Gotlib. I cried for her family and I cried for the world that had changed so quickly and without warning that first summer night in 1983.