Family still searching for sister missing since 1965 - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Family still searching for sister missing since 1965

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (WSIL) -- In 2018, law enforcement received more than 424,000 reports of missing children, leaving family and friends worried what happened to them and if they will ever see them again.

One family who has been going through that for more than 50 years is the family of Elizabeth Gill, the longest missing child case in Missouri.

It was a typical summer day on June 13, 1965. The Gill family children played outside with neighbor kids on Lorimier Sreet in Cape Girardeau. 

"We had all the kids, all had been playing in our yards, the next door neighbor's and our yard," recalls Jeannie Hink, Elizabeth's sister.

Even young Elizabeth, or Beth as the family calls her, was outside with her siblings. She was the youngest of ten children.

"She had been playing in the yard with our brother," remembers Trish Dokich.

Sisters Jeannie and Trish say that's when tragedy struck.

"We were beginning to get ready for church, 5 o’clock mass, and gathering everybody together, and we could not find Beth,"  Jeannie remembers.

The sisters say only a few minutes had gone by without anyone seeing Beth, and they immediately called the police.

That’s when Beth's other sister, Martha, arrived with her mom, Anola, from an out-of-town trip. The pair saw police lights from the bridge going into town.

"Mom just stopped the car in the middle of the street, jumped out and she ran to the steps," Martha recollects. "'Anola we can’t find Beth,' and mom passed out."

Family and volunteers searched for Beth for weeks. Authorities even dragged the Mississippi River, but still no signs of the toddler.

Local businesses, including a car dealer, did provide tips to police. It’s believed a group of transients who stayed at a hotel right behind the Gill's home tried coaxing Beth into coming up to them and kidnapped her before vanishing.

"They were supposed to come in and pick up a part and had told him not to worry about the time frame, they would  be in town for a week or two, and they suddenly left town," Martha says.

The transients were described as a couple in their 50's along with their daughter and her husband, both in their 30's. They were driving a 1965 Chevy pickup and a 1965 Ford Thunderbird but were seen driving around Cape Girardeau using license plates from three different states.

Beth's father sent mail to President Lyndon Johnson asking for help. In return, the family received a letter from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover saying the disappearance didn’t fit the FBI's criteria.

But, as time went on, so did advances in technology and new ways for the sisters to search for Beth and her possible kidnappers.

Martha searched the internet for names of the possible suspects and the word "arrested."

"A woman showed up, about the right age, had lived in Michigan. We knew that the vehicles had been purchased in Michigan," she explains.

In around 2003, Jim Smith with the Cape Girardeau Police Department began looking into the case again and was given this new lead by the family. He and an FBI agent flew to Pennsylvania where the woman lived at the time.

"She was very reluctant to talk to us," says Smith, who's now retired. "But she basically finally said that she recalls that a member of the family were detained for an entire day for the disappearance of a young child."

Smith couldn't verify the claim, and the woman refused to answer further questions.

"I don't know if she knows where she is now," Martha says. "I do believe she knows what happened."

The sisters have also submitted DNA samples to several databases and ancestry websites. "In hopes some day that she might have questions and start looking and search and find us," she explains.

Over the years, several people have come forward believing they could be Beth, including women who were adopted. Two women submitted DNA that was not a match, but Martha encouraged them to keep looking for their long-lost family.

"One had actually been kidnapped by her father in a divorce 50 years before. So although her mother was deceased, she has found numerous siblings."  

Although the family had hoped to be reunited with their sister, they were happy to help others reconnect with theirs.

"That's been a blessing, and we've always felt that even if we were not able to find our baby sister, that other people have been helped within this whole process." 

The family believes the tragedy brought them closer together and still smile at the idea of reuniting with their little sister.

If anyone believes that they have information on the disappearance of Elizabeth Gill, call the Cape Girardeau Police Department at (573) 335-6621. They follow up on all leads. 

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