Details of Disappearance Loader was last seen at her daughter's residence in Port Washington, Ohio on the evening of August 29, 1994. She had been staying with her daughter while she underwent treatment for cancer, but finally felt well enough to spend the night at her own home two miles away, so she took her belongings that evening and left. She was supposed to have breakfast with her sister the next morning, but when her sister came over at 8:00 a.m., she didn't answer the door.
When Loader missed her breakfast appointment, her daughter and son-in-law went to her home and realized she had been abducted. The back door frame was splintered, a red telephone cord was missing, and Loader's glasses were left behind on her pillow. She has never been heard from again.
Witnesses reported seeing Loader's red 1989 Buick Skylark being driven around Newcomerstown, Ohio between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. on August 29; the driver matched the description of 22-year-old Lewis Eugene Gilbert II, who had recently been released from prison after serving a term for theft, breaking and entering, and child endangerment. Around the same time, 16-year-old Eric Alvin Elliott was reported missing, and police determined he was with Gilbert. Photos of both of them are posted with this case summary.
Two days later, Loader's car was found abandoned in Fulton County, Missouri. Only 150 yards away, an elderly couple, Flossie and William Brewer, had been murdered in their basement and their vehicle had been stolen. Authorities linked their deaths to Loader's disappearance and started an interstate manhunt for Gilbert and Elliott.
On September 4, the body of a fourth victim, Roxy Lynn Ruddell, was found in the woods near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Brewers' car had been abandoned near the crime scene and Ruddell's truck had been stolen. On September 6, a week after their crime spree began, Gilbert and Elliott were apprehended in New Mexico.
Elliott was initially tried in Oklahoma for Ruddell's murder in 1995; he argued he was not Gilbert's accomplice and only stayed with him because he feared for his life. The jury was unable to reach a verdict, and a second trial was scheduled, but on the eve of the second trial he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Gilbert was sentenced to death for Ruddell's murder. In 2002, he was convicted in Missouri for the Brewers' deaths, and got another death sentence. After his conviction in Missouri, he met with Loader's son-in-law and admitted he had killed her, and asked for forgiveness.
He stated he and Elliott planned to run away to California and start killing homosexual people there, but they needed a car. They walked about eight miles from Newcomerstown to Loader's home outside Port Washington, and saw her car outside. They were looking for the keys when Loader came outside and saw them. There was a struggle, and the men tied her up with the phone cord and put her in the trunk of a car.
According to Gilbert, as they were driving along back country roads with Loader, she told them, "You might as well kill me because I have cancer." They did, and dumped her body off on the side of the road. Gilbert drew a map to where he and Elliott had dumped Gilbert's body, but a search turned up nothing.
Gilbert was executed in Oklahoma in 2003. Elliott is serving a life term in prison. Loader's body has never been found and no charges were filed in her presumed death, but foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.
- Tuscarawas County Sheriff's Office
Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004. Last updated July 17, 2020; casefile added.