Niagara Falls police are investigating a possible serial killer connection after a second woman was found, killed and dismembered in a manner that is equal parts similar and gruesome to a murder that took place three years ago in the Niagara Falls metropolitan area. The women are related by marriage.
Writes CNN: “Two slayings in Niagara Falls, New York, that investigators Tuesday called ‘shocking to the conscience’ have police wondering whether they have a sadistic serial killer on their hands.”
In September 21012, the remains of 30-year-old Loretta Gates were found floating in a bag in Hyde Park Lake, near the Niagara River. Her head was found separately, inside of a bag, near a walking path within the park. Gates’ torso – containing 30 to 40 stab wounds – was spotted in the river, near the base of the Falls, by tourists on board the Maid of the Mist tour boat. The murder of the mother of three was never solved.
On June 16 of this year, the remains of 46-year-old Terri Lynn Bills were discovered in the same area. Her body had also been dismembered; her torso was found in the basement of an abandoned house located at 1129 Willow Ave. in the city of Niagara Falls. Bill’s heads, hands and feet have not been found.
Bills’ body was discovered by passerby Crystal Frizzell, 33, who was walking by the property and could smell the stench of a corpse from outside. She and a companion decided to go in.
“It was bad,” Frizzell said. “We were joking, ‘It smells like a dead body or a rotten cat or something.’ I looked, and when I turned to the basement to look down the stairs, the body was right there.”
What she saw sent her running out of the home.
“I could tell it was decapitated. You could see the neck bone where it was cut,” she said. “I ran out of the building, across that field, and I was throwing up in the next field.”
Niagara Falls Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto confirmed they have reached out to all available federal and state departments.
“Absolutely, this is a terrifying situation. There is no way to sugar-coat it, but it is highly unusual,” he said. “We are sparing no expense in terms of manpower. Our criminal investigation division (members) are all working on it, as well as our crime scene bureau and any other specially trained officers.”
“You can’t overlook that the two homicides share a lot of similarities,” said Niagara Falls Police Capt. Kelly Rizzo. “It is hard not to make that connection.”
Rizzo said the shocking deaths have caused his department to assign nearly 100 officers to the case. Officials said that the New York State Police and FBI profilers are involved; the U.S. Border Patrol and Homeland Security have also been briefed.
Rizzo said his department is monitoring social media pages for any information that may assist with the investigation.
“We got a lot of good information. We are definitely closer to figuring out who did it based on the information we got,” he said.
Adds the Niagara Falls Reporter: “It turns out that Gates and Bills were acquainted. They knew each other through a familial relationship with Scott Martin, Gates’ boyfriend and the father of two of her children, and the only person ever questioned by police in connection with her horrific murder.”
“I don’t want to relive it. I didn’t do it. I loved the woman; she gave me two beautiful children. But there was a lot of suspicion and I am disappointed in how they treated me,” Martin said of the 2012 investigation. “They treated me horribly and I am very disappointed in the Niagara Falls Police Department.”
Martin said the police treated him like a suspect, even though he willingly went to them.
“I was not in custody, I went in willingly,” Martin said. “They came to my house with no search warrants, no papers, and I let them search whatever they wanted to. I gave them my vehicle willingly. They trashed my vehicle, sprayed all sorts of whatever they use looking for blood, DNA, or whatever, and left my car a mess.”
Niagara Falls Police are advising city residents to be extra vigilant about being alone in the city parks and abandoned areas. Anyone with any information about a potential Niagara Falls serial killer is asked to contact the FBI.