Details of Disappearance
Gayhart was last seen in Cape Coral, Florida on March 21, 1985. She had lived in Dansville, New York until 1984, when she and her boyfriend, Bob Paddock, moved a trailer to the 50 block of northeast Barron Way in Fort Myers, Florida. Her boyfriend's mother, Dorothy Rittenhouse, stayed with them.
Gayhart regularly called her parents, and also communicated with her family by mail. She wrote that she didn't get along well with Rittenhouse and that they had a lot of fights. Her last letter was to her sister, on March 4. She thanked her sister for the birthday card she had received, and wrote that she would like her sister and brother-in-law to come down to Florida to visit.
On the night of March 14, a neighbor heard an argument in Gayhart's residence, and the sound of glass breaking. Gayhart went to the neighbor's home, upset, and asked to use the phone so she could call her mother. She said she was pregnant and Paddock and Rittenhouse did not want her to keep the child, and that Rittenhouse had told her to leave and never come back. The neighbor saw Gayhart walking out of the trailer with a suitcase.
Paddock rented an apartment after their argument. Rittenhouse said that a few days later, she bought Gayhart a bus ticket so she could return to New York, and went to a local bar to give it to her. They argued and Gayhart refused to accept the ticket.
Rittenhouse said this was the last time she saw Gayhart. She subsequently wrote a letter to Gayhart's mother in New York, with a copy of the bus ticket, which was purchased on March 17 and had no signature on it. Her letters said Gayhart was pregnant and she and Paddock wanted her to have an abortion because they didn't think the child was his. She stated involved with drugs and alcohol and had left with three men in a red pickup truck, and that Rittenhouse was "not responsible for whatever happens."
(Gayhart's loved ones are not sure she was, in fact, pregnant, because she never said anything about it in her letters to her family.)
On March 19, Gayhart went to the Big Howie's Hot Dogs diner on southeast 47th Terrace in Cape Coral, Florida. She asked for a job and was immediately hired. She listed Paddock's new apartment as her address on the application, and told her employer that she and Paddock were not getting along.
Gayhart walked back and forth to work over the next few days. After her shift on the night of March 21, according to her employer, she got into a red pickup truck driven by an unidentified man. Her boss saw her and assumed she had a ride home. She has never been heard from again and she never picked up her paycheck.
When questioned about Gayhart's disappearance, Paddock said he'd last seen her "sometime in the middle of March" and that she stayed with him sometimes but didn't actually lived with him at his new apartment.
Paddock stated she had left a paper sack of clothes, as well as a file box containing a scrapbook with important documents and memories of her firstborn child, who had died at the age of six months, and her second baby, whom she'd placed for adoption at birth. Gayhart was very attached to the scrapbook, and her family doesn't believe she would have left it behind.
Paddock and Rittenhouse returned to New York shortly after Gayhart was last seen. Paddock is still in touch with Gayhart's family, and at one point he told he sister he thought his mother, who is now deceased, was responsible for Gayhart's disappearance.
Foul play is suspected in Gayhart's case; there has been no sign of her since March 1985. New York authorities are investigating.