Details of Disappearance
Elizabeth was last seen in the front yard of her home in the 300 block of south Lorimer Street in Cape Girardeau, Missouri at 4:00 p.m. on June 13, 1965. She was carrying a small pail of sand at the time of her disappearance. She has never been heard from again.
An extensive search of the area turned up no sign of her. Authorities at first believed she wandered away from home and fell into the Mississippi River a few blocks away, but this theory has since been discounted because Elizabeth would have had to cross streets and railroad tracks and then go down a bluff to reach the water's edge.
In 1970, Phillip Odell Clark, a Missouri man serving a life sentence for murder, told police he'd accidentally run over Elizabeth in his car and killed her on the day of her disappearance. He said he panicked and buried her body because he'd been drinking and was afraid he'd be charged in her death. A photo of Clark is posted with this case summary. He had murdered his ex-wife's grandmother in 1966 and held five other people hostage.
Clark told several different stories about where he'd put Elizabeth's body, and investigators were unable to find any evidence to support his story about her. They concluded Clark's confession was a fabrication. In 1971, he killed a fellow prison inmate and was convicted of manslaughter. He was himself murdered in prison in 1977.
The day after her disappearance, police got a tip from a local auto dealer about a couple who had been staying in a motel behind the Gill home. The couple had been waiting for a part for their pickup truck, a light tan 1965 Chevrolet, to come in so the vehicle could be repaired. The dealer told them it wasn't expected until June 14, and they said that was fine because they planned on staying in town for another week. But when the part arrived on June 14, the dealer learned the couple had checked out of the motel early and disappeared, leaving their disabled truck behind.
Police looked into the couple and learned they had been using alias names and switching the license plates on their vehicles. They had been in Cape Girardeau for some time and were selling purses door-to-door in the neighborhood. Multiple witnesses, including one of Elizabeth's sisters, reported seeing the woman from the motel talking to Elizabeth, trying to get her to come to her car. Another witness reported seeing the couple from the motel buying clothes for a child who was with them, crying for her mother.
In 2010, forty-five years after Elizabeth's disappearance, authorities stated they were investigating her case as a non-family abduction. The couple selling purses, whom the police were never locate, are the prime suspects in her disappearance.
Investigators were able to trace the couple's vehicle back to the original dealer where it was purchased, in Lake Orion, Michigan. They also traced the purses the couple sold back to their manufacturer, but weren't able to find out who bought them.
Authorities would like to identify two couples who were staying in the motel behind the Gill house before Elizabeth disappeared. One man is described as 60 to 65 years of age and a "natty dresser." He drove a black and white 1965 Ford Thunderbird with three different sets of license plates: an Alabama plate numbered 38-19438, a Virginia plate numbered A25-1356, and a possible Florida plate.
The man's companion was a Caucasian female over 60 years old, with white white, 5'1 and 150 pounds. The second woman was younger and is believed to have been the daughter of the older woman, and is described as 5'2 with red hair. Her husband was also Caucasian, 6'1 tall with a slender build. These individuals are probably no longer alive, but police hope their acquaintances or relatives might recognize them.
Elizabeth is the youngest of ten children. At the time she went missing, she was in the care of her older siblings while their mother took her father to St. Louis, Missouri where he worked. Elizabeth's father died in 1970 and two of her siblings are also deceased, but her mother and remaining seven brothers and sisters are still alive.
Elizabeth may resemble one of her sisters; photographs of them as adults are posted with this case summary.