LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ann Gotlib was 12 years old when she disappeared in the summer of 1983.
Her mother reported her missing, having been last seen alive at what was then called Bashford Manor Mall. 25 years later, police say a man, who had died years earlier, was responsible for her disappearance.
Despite the discovery, Gotlib was never found. But documents just released to WHAS11 News reveal federal investigators suspected Gregory Oakley in Gotlib's abduction within months of her disappearance.
For the last three years, WHAS11 has been fighting for access to the records to re-examine the 40-year-old case.
LMPD continually denied access, but that denial was overturned when an interview from the WHAS11 video archives proved the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s case is closed, and the public is entitled to see what's inside this case.
In 2008, 25 years after Gotlib was reported missing, LMPD's lead homicide detective Barry Wilkerson announced the department had proof Gregory Oakley abducted the little girl.
"I think I have every bit of probable cause to make the arrest if he were alive," Wilkerson said.
It was the first time police publicly acknowledged Oakley in the case but according to investigative documents, detectives considered him a suspect as early as January 1984, just seven months after Gotlib disappeared.
According to documents exchanged between federal agents during the winter months of 1983 and 1984, special agents developed three possible suspects in the Gotlib case.
The first was a 26-year-old man from Somerset who had kidnapped a child and tied them up using shoe strings. The second was a man from Louisville who was under investigation for a child rape. The third was Gregory Oakley.
At the time Oakley was a USDA meat inspector, who had recently been arrested in another attack on a young girl in the Louisville area.
Officers were able to rule out suspects one and two using their alibis, shifting their focus to Oakley.
The document listed evidence against Oakley including his house being located just one-and-a-half blocks from Gotlib's and just two blocks from where she disappeared. He had also been charged with rape two years prior and arrested in another case involving an attack on a little girl that same month.
Finally, records show he failed a polygraph when questioned about Gotlib.
Investigators needed to learn more about the potential child abductor, so they began a nationwide search for evidence.
Oakley traveled for work, so federal agents launched investigations in every state he visited the year of the abduction. That investigation led police to Charleston, West Virginia; Fort Worth, Texas; and all across Kentucky.
Documents reveal, federal agents looked for evidence of Gotlib or Oakley's possible tie to similar crimes involving attacks on young girls.
These records don't show what the agents found, but summarized the investigation deeming Oakley as "armed and dangerous."
At the time, January 1984, Oakley was in custody in Jefferson County having been arrested on attempted rape and assault charges involving a little girl in Hikes Point.
He would be convicted in that case and serve nearly 20 years in prison. Oakley was let out on a medical release not long before he died in 2002.