|The Niagara Regional Police expanded their search for clues in relation to the torso that was discovered in the Niagara River on Wednesday August 29th, 2012. (MIKE DIBATTISTA /QMI AGENCY
NIAGARA FALLS, ONT. - The family of a missing woman from New York state have submitted DNA samples to police to determine if the headless torso found in the Niagara River last week is that of Loretta Jo Gates.
The 30-year-old mother of three was last seen Aug. 25 after leaving her mother’s home in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
New York State Police are investigating whether the two cases are linked.
Samples of the missing woman’s DNA as well as DNA from her mother and sister have been sent to the Erie County crime analysis lab.
“We are awaiting DNA confirmation,” State Police Capt. Steven Nigrelli said Thursday. “We’re hoping to have the results of the DNA analysis today.”
Nigrelli said Gates fits the profile of the victim found floating in the Niagara River on Aug. 29.
Police say the torso had likely been in the water for between four days and two weeks.
Initial post-mortem results indicated the victim is a white female between the ages of 31 and 55.
She had a pierced navel that was “closed off” and two caesarian section scars.
According to her Facebook profile, Gates has three children, ages 11, five and four, and works as a supervisor at a model agency in Cheektowaga, near Buffalo.
She announced her engagement on Facebook on Aug. 20. She vanished five days later and her family contacted police on Tuesday.
Her family told Buffalo media outlets on Thursday that Gates has a closed navel piercing as well as a C-section scar.
Family members say Gates had struggled with a drug and alcohol addiction in the past, but that she had been clean and sober for almost four years. She was working to regain custody of her children.
An entry on her Facebook page reads: “I’m getting my life together for my three children I love them so so much.”
NRP Det. Sgt. Brian Smith said he was told of the possible match Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s a good lead. We have other leads we’re following up with (on the Canadian side) as well,” he said.
“We’re asking if anyone knows her and knows where she is to let us know so we can eliminate her.”
Since the torso was discovered, police on both sides of the border have ruled out more than 50 missing person cases.
“Both us and the Niagara Regional Police are going through every missing person case,” Nigrelli said.
“If they fall into the parameters we’re looking at, then we will rely on DNA analysis.”
Meanwhile, Niagara police on Thursday suspended the ground and water search for further evidence relating to the torso.
On Wednesday, officers conducted a shoreline search from Kings Bridge Park in Chippawa to Fort Erie.
In addition to the foot search, the NRP marine unit searched the water, focusing on the shallow waters near the shore.
No further evidence was recovered and no additional searches are planned.
Anyone with information on the case can call police at 905-688-4111, ext. 4200 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.