This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
At 30-years-old, Tallahassee resident, Ali Gilmore, was finally able to check off her goals she worked so hard for. She landed a good job at the Florida Department of Health as an analyst, was pregnant with her first child, and had purchased her first home in a good community. All that was taken away when she seemed to vanish in thin air.
It was only a little over a decade ago that billboards and yard signs were plastered over Tallahassee screaming for help to find Gilmore – who had mysteriously disappeared.
A $30,000 reward was offered for information on Gilmore’s whereabouts. In the days after she was reported missing on Feb. 3, 2006, police went door-to-door looking to see if anyone knew where she was. Search teams from all over the country spent endless hours in the woods hoping to find Gilmore.
“This all became so much bigger than anyone thought it would,” said one of Gilmore’s friends, Liz Denson. “People really did care. They didn’t have to know her.”
Gilmore disappeared just as her dreams were all aligning, Denson said. Her disappearance was puzzling for those who knew her well.
She was known for never missing a day at work, unless she told her boss she wasn’t coming in; but on that morning, she didn’t show up to work, and she never called. Gilmore was four months pregnant. Denson said that this was out of character for Gilmore. Not a call or warning that she wasn’t coming in that day.
The last reported sighting of Gilmore was when she left her part time job at Publix on Thursday night. Her boss and a coworker went over to her house when Gilmore didn’t show up to work and found that she wasn’t there. They talked to neighbors hoping that they saw her go somewhere. When no one had answers, they knew it was time to call the police.
According to News One, when the police arrived they found nothing suspicious inside the house. The mystery continues to this day.
The story came as a shock to many who lived near her on Loraine Court.
“She had everything going for her. It seems like that was taken from her,” said Jeremy Mutz, a former Tallahassee prosecutor.
To Gilmore’s friends and family, she always seemed happy. She possessed a positivity that other people always noticed.
“She had an infectious smile,” Denson said. “She would always have a smile on her face, it was contagious. If you were sick or down, she would try to make you smile.”
She and Gilmore quickly became friends when they were coworkers at the Department of Health.
Their bond grew when Gilmore invited Denson to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner in South Florida.
“I never really liked going home for Thanksgiving because both my parents were deceased, and it would bring back bad memories,” Denson said. “Ali told me to come home with her. We had a road trip and it was fun. Her family was inviting; I was thankful I met them.”
Gilmore would always make people feel included, to reach out and help others.
“I can give her a lot of credit for my college degree, which has definitely made my life better,” said James Gilmore, her husband at the time of her disappearance. “If not for her encouragement and support, I don’t know that I ever went back to school to get it.”
Her husband wasn’t the only person that Gilmore encouraged. She convinced Denson to start attending church and buy a house.
Gilmore’s support of others was evidenced following her disappearance, when her friends came together to print out “Where is Ali Gilmore” fliers. Her friends felt that there was a lack of coverage for African American missing women, so they were determine to get Gilmore as much press as possible.
They pushed and pushed the flyers of Gilmore that people started to pay attention to disappearance. The story became so much bigger. Billboards started being put up and the story even got national coverage.
To this day the story remains a mystery.
Twelve years have gone by, yet there isn’t a day where Ali doesn’t cross the mind of friends and loved ones.
“The first several years without Ali were horrible for me,” Gilmore’s husband remembered. “From the despair of wondering what happened to her and why, to the loneliness of not seeing her and hearing her voice while living in a house with all her things.”
There are many questions surrounding the disappearance, but her family and friends try to stay optimistic that she might still be out there.
“My family always asks me about her,” Denson said. “I like to make light of the situation and think that maybe she’s out in the Bermuda living her life and happy. I have to make light of it because I don’t want to think about something horrible happening to her.”
Anyone who has any information about this case, the identity, or location of the suspect(s) is asked to contact the Tallahassee Police Department at 850-891-4200
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