Forty-five years after disappearance, family still searches for little girl
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) – A Cape Girardeau family is still searching for a little girl who vanished into thin air 45 years ago. Elizabeth Ann Gill, who also went by Beth, disappeared on June 13, 1965. She was playing in front of her yard on Lorimer Street in Cape Girardeau. She was two years old at the time.
Beth Gill is the longest registered missing child in the state of Missouri.
August 21st is her birthday, and the City of Cape Girardeau will honor the date as “Elizabeth Ann Gill Day.”
Elizabeth “Beth” Gill is the youngest of ten siblings. One of her older sisters, Martha Gill-Hamilton, still lives in Cape Girardeau. She and her other siblings have brought their missing sister’s disappearance back into the spotlight, and Detective Jim Smith of the Cape Girardeau Police Department has revived the cold case.
Martha Gil-Hamilton’s recollection of what happened on June 13, 1965 is a little different than that of her siblings. She was out of town with her mother and aunt that day, coming back from Chicago. Her father, an electrician, was at work in St. Louis. Two-year old Beth, the baby of the family, was in the care of older siblings.
“The kids had been playing outside. It was a beautiful June day. And suddenly somebody said, ‘Where’s Beth?’ And they couldn’t find her,” Martha says. “It had not been over ten minutes since they had seen Beth. So they immediately started searching the neighborhood. They called my older sister and said ‘What do we do?’ She said, ‘Call the police.’ The police were there within twenty or thirty minutes of Beth being missed, so it wasn’t like they had waited too long to notify the authorities.”
When Martha crossed the Mississippi River Bridge with her mother and aunt, they immediately knew that something in town was askew. Police cars were actively patrolling the streets and an unusually large number of people were out and about in the neighborhoods near the bridge.
It didn’t take long for the realization to set in that the focal point of attention was their home. When they pulled up in front of the house, another aunt delicately descended the stairs to the street. “Mom got out of the car, and she said, ‘Beth is missing.’” Martha says, followed by a long pause. “That’s how it unfolded. From there it was like chaos at the home.”
Police and volunteer searchers scoured the neighborhood and adjoining areas. Search dogs were dispatched to the Mississippi River. Gawkers stared at their Lorimer Street home. Martha’s father was contacted in St. Louis. But still, there was no trace of the two-year old girl. Not that day. Nor the next. Nor the following the week.
It was apparent that Beth had not simply wandered off. Somebody had taken her. There was no evidence of the toddler at all.
Martha says that the police actively searched for her sister for the first three or four years, and then dwindled off. However, she says, hope remained that Beth would be found. “I spoke to Irvin Beard, who was chief of police, a few years before he died. And he never gave up looking,” she recalls.
After a nearly 40 year lull, Beth’s case regained attention about 5 years ago. Most of the case files had been lost. Beth’s family provided the PD with the information that they had gathered, and eventually convinced the department to re-open the case. Detective Jim Smith, who handles cold cases in Cape Girardeau, took on Beth’s disappearance. Some new leads are currently under investigation.
Martha and the rest of her family have more tools available to help them search for Beth. They’ve made extensive use of internet chat forums, social media, and DNA samples to raise awareness about her case. Individuals have come forward, wanting to be tested, to see if they may in fact be Beth. No match has yet been found.
The disappearance of a family member is a nightmarish scenario. The pain will never fully go away, but Martha says that families can at least come to grips with the tragedy by reaching out to each other.
“The event in itself is so painful that families don’t want to talk about it. Initially, this was going to be very difficult for my mother to go back through, but actually it’s brought somewhat of a sense of healing because now she feels like she has done something positive for Elizabeth,” she says.
Elizabeth Ann Gill’s family will mark her 48th birthday on Saturday, August 21st at Old St. Vincent’s Church in Cape Girardeau at 10:00 a.m. The event will mark the official designation of August 21st as Elizabeth Ann Gill Day. A balloon launch will follow the ceremony.