Details of Disappearance Gifford was last seen at the Banana Boat lounge on State Road 84 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on January 1, 1982. She had gone there with a female friend to celebrate the holiday. While at the lounge, she met Dennis Michael Sochor and his brother Gary; they had never met before. According to witnesses, Dennis kept trying, unsuccessfully, to buy Gifford drinks for most of the night.
At 2:00 a.m., Gifford's friend got sick and was helped to her car by Gifford and the Sochor brothers. She fell asleep there, and when she awakened at 5:30 a.m., Gifford was gone and she has never been heard from again. She was last seen when she paid her bar bill at 1:30 a.m.
Several people at the Banana Boat had taken photographs of the New Year's revelers that night, and some of the photos showed both Gifford and the Sochor brothers. Authorities were able to identify them using the photos. Dennis had a history of sex crimes; in 1980, he abducted a nineteen-year-old woman and raped her repeatedly after she refused his sexual advances. He was sentenced to a year in prison, but served only five months.
On January 5, four days after Gifford's disappearance and shortly after his photograph was shown on a television news broadcast, Dennis left South Florida and caught a flight to Michigan.
At first, Gary claimed he and his brother had parted ways at 2:00 a.m. and he had no idea where Gifford was. He later changed his story and told police that he'd seen Dennis rape and kill Gifford after she refused his sexual advances. He stated Gifford agreed to go out to breakfast with them, and on the way, Dennis stopped at a secluded spot and raped and strangled Gifford. Gary said he had wanted to help her but he was too frightened of his brother because "he had the devil in his eyes." He later recanted this story.
The 1981 Datsun pickup truck Dennis was driving on the night of Gifford's disappearance, which had been issued to him by his employer, was found in Tampa, Florida on January 22. The interior was bloodstained.
There was no sign of Dennis, however, and he was not located until May 1986, when he was arrested in Georgia for driving under the influence. He was questioned about Gifford's disappearance and confessed to raping a woman in Michigan in 1979, and to having raped and strangled her. He was charged with murder and extradited to Florida.
He was convicted of Gifford's kidnapping, rape and murder in 1987 and sentenced to death, although his defense tried to argue that Gifford had never been held against her will and her murder was not premeditated. He remains on Florida's death row, awaiting execution.
Gifford's body has never been found; Dennis stated he could not remember where he had left it.
- Broward County Sheriff's Office
Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004. Last updated July 22, 2020; casefile added.