|+Secret+confession+by+Gregory+Oakley+is+later+forgottenThe Legacy of Ann Gotlib | Secret confession by Gregory Oakley is later forgottenPolice doubted Oakley admitted taking Ann
By Jessie Halladay April 12, 2010
This is how Ann Gotlib, who was 12 when she disappeared in 1983, might appear in a photo thats been age progressed 27 years.
This story is based on recent interviews and police investigative files recently released in the Ann Gotlib case. The files show that the man who police now say abducted and killed Ann came to the attention of police seven months after she disappeared. But sloppy record keeping and missed opportunities kept police from officially naming Gregory Oakley and pronouncing the case solved for 24 more years
"I did Gotlib.
Charles Cavins says he didn't know what those words meant when Gregory Oakley uttered them to him in a prison yard in 1989.
What's a Gotlib? he remembers thinking, as the two walked in the exercise yard at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex near La Grange.
But as the two inmates talked in the following days, Oakley told him about a little red-haired girl, Cavins said. How Oakley had kidnapped her, drugged her, raped her and then finally strangled her.
I felt absolute horror, shock, Cavins said, in a recent interview at a Kentucky prison.
While the two had become friendly, it was out of character for Oakley to talk much about himself, said Cavins, who was imprisoned for theft and burglary.
I never understood, and I don't today, why he felt comfortable telling me what he did.
Cavins said he didn't know at the time that what he had been told would become the key to one of Louisville's biggest mysteries, the disappearance, six years earlier, of 12-year-old Ann Gotlib.
He didn't know that Jefferson County Police, the FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, community volunteers and Ann's parents had searched for her for years, following thousands of fruitless leads since her abduction on June 1, 1983.
He didn't know that police considered Oakley a suspect in Ann's disappearance but had never charged him.
But Cavins did know that he now held the secret of a man who was locked up for attacking a child with a knife a man whom he feared.
He kept the confession to himself.FALSE CONFESSION
Large dig at Fort Knox fails to unearth anything
In 1990, as Jefferson County detectives continued to chase leads in Ann's disappearance, they got another possible break.
A death-row inmate in Texas was claiming he abducted and killed Ann while stationed at Fort Knox.
As Michael Lee Lockhart's execution for killing a police officer in Texas approached, he told a Texas detective that he killed Ann and could point out where he buried her body at the post.
Jefferson County Detective Jeff Magers, who had worked on the case off and on since it began, was now leading the investigation. He flew to Texas to interview Lockhart.
There were doubts about Lockhart's confession, said Magers, who is now retired from policing. None of his other crimes against young girls, one in Indiana and one in Florida, matched what police knew of Ann's case. And Lockhart could only provide vague details of the kidnapping.
He was somebody who was capable of doing or saying anything, Magers said in a recent interview.
The nature of this case demanded that we couldn't rule out anything.
Lockhart identified a general area on a map where he said he buried Ann, but he said he couldn't be more specific unless he was on the ground in Kentucky.
It would be an ordeal to get Lockhart to Kentucky, and Texas authorities were hesitant, Magers said. But finally the FBI arranged to have him flown to the post by U.S. marshals. Under heavy guard, Lockhart surveyed the area.
He walked around a little bit and then he pointed and said it was right here, Magers recalled.
But police dug up the area and found nothing. Then they used heavy machinery and a forensic anthropologist to dig up an area the size of a football field, looking for signs of a burial, Magers said.
Still, nothing was found.
Lockhart went back to Texas to face his execution.SEEKING A DEAL
Inmate comes forward after he is recaptured
The next big lead would come nearly two years later.
Cavins had walked away from his incarceration at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex near West Liberty, been picked up by police and was in a city jail in Mount Carmel, Ill.
He was looking for a deal.
Cavins knew Mount Carmel Detective Jim Seaton, and he asked him to get in touch with investigators in Louisville.
Jefferson County Detective Denise Spratt, who by then had been assigned the Gotlib case, learned about Cavins' offer on March 17, 1992, and quickly planned a trip to visit him that week. She would take her FBI counterpart in the case and several commanders with her.
She said they were encouraged but cautious.
At that point, after so many years, you don't get your hopes up, she said in a recent interview.
Cavins was edgy and reluctant to talk until he was sure police would help him out of his fix, Spratt remembered.
But Cavins opened up as he talked about his relationship with Oakley. He spoke about how they developed a friendship while working on an inmate legal team that tried to improve conditions at Luckett.
Their conversation about Ann had started with Oakley asking Cavins about friendship and whether or not he'd ever betray a friend, according to records.
Cavins pledged his loyalty, he said, because he never expected to hear anything damaging.
Cavins told Spratt the conversation then turned to Ann. Cavins, who was from northwestern Kentucky, wasn't familiar with the case that had captivated the Louisville area for years.
His ignorance insulted Oakley, Cavins told Spratt. But Oakley opened up nonetheless.
He said Oakley told him he'd lured Ann into his car and injected her with Talwin, which police would find was a narcotic used by veterinarians. Oakley said he gave her too much, which made her vomit as he sexually assaulted her.
Angered, Oakley strangled the girl, Cavins told investigators.
Because Talwin is a narcotic typically used in animals, police reasoned it was not a drug that a man such as Cavins with no violent history and little education would know about unless he'd been told.
Cavins also told police that Oakley said he'd put Ann's body in a tarp and buried her, according to Spratt's 1992 report.
Oakley, who had read a book about new DNA technology, wanted Cavins after he was released to go to the burial site, dig up the body, set it on fire and then rebury it to prevent it from being traced to Oakley, Cavins told police.
He also told detectives that when the news broke that authorities were searching for Ann's body at Fort Knox,Oakley told him that they would never find her there.FAILED POLYGRAPHS
Tests, recanted story leave police frustrated
Despite investigators' gut feeling that Cavins was telling the truth, they asked him to take a polygraph test which he failed.
Almost immediately, Cavins recanted the part of his story involving Ann's body, saying that Oakley never gave him specifics about it and that there was never any plan between them for digging it up.
He told The Courier-Journal in a recent interview that police had told him the only way he was going to get a deal was if he knew where Ann's body was, so he lied.
Spratt said police gave Cavins repeated polygraphs, but each showed he was being deceptive. There is no record in the police files of how many tests Cavins took or the exact questions he was asked.
Some of the stuff he said rang true, and yet he kept flunking the polygraph, Spratt said.
Investigators left Illinois frustrated.MISSED CHANCES
Reassignments, mislaid files impair investigation
While Cavins returned to prison in Kentucky in June 1992, Spratt moved on with her investigation in Ann's case.
Police records show she chased leads as they came in. She said she even went back to question Oakley's ex-girlfriend, Virginia Bailey, but didn't learn anything new.
Investigative records show that in 1994, FBI agents also were continuing to explore Oakley as a suspect, interviewing one of his three former wives, as well as his friends from Alabama.
Spratt said she and FBI agent Deirdre Fike wanted to interview Oakley. But given his history with the opposite sex, she first wanted to know more about how he might react to being interviewed by two women.
Spratt said she asked Fike to get in touch with federal experts in behavioral science to determine if Oakley would shut down when confronted by a woman or if it might give them an edge.
But they never got the chance. By 1996, Spratt was promoted, and Fike was reassigned within the FBI. There was no re-interview.
Spratt did what many of the detectives who had handled the case before her did she typed her notes into investigative letters, assuming the next detectives assigned to the case would follow up.
But those reports didn't wind up with the other investigative letters from the case.
No one would revisit the information Cavins gave police for the next decade.
In fact, the last two detectives assigned to the case wouldn't even know Cavins existed until after the 25th anniversary of Ann's disappearance.