Officers who investigated Gotlib case talk about their work

Bob Jones, retired Jefferson County Police detective
Bob Jones, retired Jefferson County Police detective

By Caton Bredar - bio  | email  
Posted by Charles Gazaway - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Thursday's break in the Ann Gotlib case comes after one of the most exhaustive investigations in state history. While local police continue to question whether they did enough, their work brought attention to the plight of missing and exploited children, and served as a model that continues nationally to this day. WAVE 3's Caton Bredar spoke with former detectives on the case as well as the President of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shortly after the announcement of Greg Oakley as their prime suspect.

The Gotlib case rocked the Commonwealth, and 25 years later continues to rock the confidence of parents, detectives and everyone directly or indirectly involved. Jefferson County Police always felt convicted felon Greg Oakley, Jr. was involved in Ann's disappearance. In addition to fitting their profile, during questioning he failed a lie detector test according to Bobby Jones, formerly a detective on the case.

"We asked him if he knew Ann Gotlib, he said no," Jones said. "We asked him if he had any knowledge of Ann Gotlib. He said no. We didn't overload him with questions, but he matched kind of the profile we were looking for."

Before Jones could follow up on the case, he was ordered to transfer the case over to the FBI. It is a move Jones regrets, and one he never was able to explain to the Gotlib family.

"...very frustrating. I have never spoken to the Gotlib family personally. I'd just like to apologize to them. For not being more aggressive," Jones said. "I felt bad that we didn't aggressively investigate like we should have, or like maybe I could have been allowed to have done."

It was a similar sentiment offered years earlier, back in 1989. Six years into the investigation, Sgt. Ron Howard of the Jefferson County Police expressed mixed emotions in a WAVE 3 exclusive.

"There are places in the investigation, points where we could have done better," Howard said. "However, if you go back and look at the entire investigation, then I think we've done a darn good job on it."

It is also a sentiment the president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children agrees with. Reached by phone at his home in Alexandria, VA, Ernie Allen said the police did a good job with the Gotlib case.

"From the original investigation of the Jefferson County Police Dept. and the FBI, to the continuing work of the Louisville Metropolitan Police, I think it's a real model for law enforcement across the country," said Allen.

Allen was living in Louisville at the time of Gotlib's disappearance and says police did a great service in keeping the case open.

"There were a handful of children whose stories changed the way America responds to this problem," Allen says of the issue missing and exploited children. "And Ann Gotlib was one of those children."

Allen points out his agency did not even exist at the time Gotlib disappeared. Born in the wake of her case, the National Center today assists local and federal officials in thousands of cases just like hers. The break in the Gotlib case offers hope to the families of other missing children according to Allen.

"It indicates that just because a child has been missing for a month or a year, or 10 years or even 25 years it clearly demonstrates it is possible to solve these cases and to bring closure," said Allen, who also told WAVE 3 he believes the recent developments in the case may provide some sort of resolution to the Gotlib family, if not closure.

"Victim parents have said to me for years that the worst is the not knowing. And while this doesn't bring her home to the Gotlib's, at least they know who did it."