NY NY - Lillian Bottrill, 69, Syracuse, 20 August 1968

What do we think of these images? Are they all the same woman? The first two were images in the newspapers of Lillian Bottrill. The last image is of Lillian A.Bottrill who is purported to have been married to William E Botrill, the same name of the deceased husband of Lillian Bottrill’s Missing persons case. The last woman however, has a death date (on a small foot stone) of 1965.
I’m not sure that the last woman is the same as the first two but the similarities are there, in my humble opinion.
The noses, chins, mouths on all are similar, the cheeks of 1 and 3 are similar.
 

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I’m working on going through each article to compile a list of possible locations, and a comparison because a few of the articles give different info. For instance one said she suffered from hardening of the arteries. One said she was going to see her daughter yet another said that she she was going to visit a sick friend. Most say blue coat but one says Navy blue coat. And a coat? It was like 85 degrees that day.

This is the weather report of the day she went missing. It was mostly cloudy, with very little rain, but not during the day. It was indeed a warm day. Syracuse, NY Weather History | Weather Underground

According to the Charley P. file she was wearing a blue raincoat that day. Lillian E. Bottrill – The Charley Project. Maybe it was a very thin coat?
 
What do we think of these images? Are they all the same woman? The first two were images in the newspapers of Lillian Bottrill. The last image is of Lillian A.Bottrill who is purported to have been married to William E Botrill, the same name of the deceased husband of Lillian Bottrill’s Missing persons case. The last woman however, has a death date (on a small foot stone) of 1965.
I’m not sure that the last woman is the same as the first two but the similarities are there, in my humble opinion.
The noses, chins, mouths on all are similar, the cheeks of 1 and 3 are similar.

You confuse me. I'm not sure where you are looking for. MP Lillian Bottril; Is Bottrill her married name or her maiden name? Was she married to a William E. Bottril (too?)?? There could have been mistakes made in the genealogy reports.

IMO and not to be disrespectful, when you grow older the chins will sack down, especially if you have a fuller face as a woman. Lillian Anna Schimbecker Bottrill is a different woman IMO. She had two sons, no daughter mentioned and she passed in 1965. In some case an estranged family member is not mentioned in the obituary, but in Lillian E. Bottrill's case its obvious she had good contact with her daughter.
 
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Interestingly, in the Federal Social Security Database, There is a Lillian Botrill listed born in 1899 (which would make her this cases age) but lists her death as October 1965.
I'm not sure if they are the same person. MP is referred as Lillian E. Bottrill while William's wife is Lillian Ashley Bottrill.
 
She was reportedly senile and yet was living alone and everyone was happy to let her catch buses all over the place; how "senile" actually was she?
LE seemed convinced she was dead, but from natural causes somewhere? Is it possible she travelled elsewhere and is amongst the unidentified or unclaimed ?
 
Hi all,

I issued a FOIL request to the Syracuse PD asking for the case file and expected at least a partial reply because Lillian was not believed to be the victim of any crimes; she was simply an elderly dementia patient who wandered off. My demand was denied. The agency stated that it’s an active investigation and distributing records could compromise the case. I appealed the FOIL denial all the way to the mayor’s office on the grounds nobody suspected criminality, and that there was no way she was still alive. They sent me a sloppy boilerplate rejection letter rehashing the same points about how it’s still an open investigation until she is found or some other closure is reached. That was disappointing.

Nevertheless, I would like to share some threads worth pulling on:
  1. A news article shared earlier in the thread by HeatherA revealed that Lillian may have been headed to 336 Douglas St. to see her daughter, “Mrs. Michael P. Detor”. A search of the Onondaga County real estate database shows Michael P. Detor in fact owned the house until 1994. (See: Picture 1)
  2. Regrettably, a search at Find-A-Grave revealed he died in 1991. (See: Picture 2)
  3. Michael P. Detor’s wife’s name appears to be Thelma Santay, per the above obituary. An ancestor search (See: Picture 3) reveals Thelma Santay’s mother was Lillian Elizabeth Ashley. There’s a good chance Lillian Elizabeth Ashley is Lillian Bottrill considering both would have been 68 in 1968, although I’m not understanding how she got the name Bottrill. Ideas?
  4. Assuming Lillian Elizabath Ashley is Lillian Bottrill, her husband George Herbert Santay died a few years after she disappeared (See: Picture 3). And both of her daughters (Thelma and Phyliss) died in 2001 (See: Picture 4). I cannot find anything whatsoever about Phyliss but isn’t it curious how Thelma’s obituary is silent as to her mother? (See: Picture 5)
  5. It would have been nice to reach out to the police officer handling her case, Ambrose Linehan, but he died in 1989. (See: Picture 6)
  6. After checking property ownership records for Lillian’s last known address (405 Merriman Ave) it appears the house was demolished over a decade ago. The house directly next door has had the same owner since 1999. There is little to no chance anyone there would know anything about Lillian so that’s probably a dead-end road
  7. There are 8 properties in all of Onondaga County registered to people with the last name “Bottrill”. There are almost certainly other Bottrills living in the area who don’t own property, or their residence is registered to someone else. A quick public record search would easily draw up a list of names. A deep dive on the above obituaries will undoubtedly turn up surviving relatives, some of which may have heard stories passed down over the years. Perhaps a friendly ping letter could not hurt, something along the lines of “hey, do you know anything about Lillian Bottrill who went missing in 1968? If so, please write back.” The worst that could happen is they don’t reply. The best thing would be if they offered clues.
My theories? All are purely speculation but let me ask this from the jump: How many other senile women matching her description could have been wandering the greater Syracuse area at that precise time? If Lillian was the confused hitchhiker picked up near the corner of Dorwin Ave and Route 80, then the good Samaritans who gave her a ride were probably weirded out by her strange behavior and more than happy to let her out on Cedarvale Rd. and Tanner Rd. without questions because they had no idea she was the subject of a missing person search until a day or more later.

What bothers me about the hitchhiking thing is what led her to tell the driver to take her to that particular intersection? Who on earth could she have known there? After driving around in that vicinity numerous times, I can say firsthand that it is very rural and remote. There’s not much but a couple farm houses, fields, small streams, a few little ponds, marsh, and clusters of woods. 50+ years ago it was even more undeveloped, and I don’t think the golf course existed.

Theory #1: Lillian was dropped off by the good Samaritans, wandered aimlessly, then collapsed and died from natural/accidental causes such as exposure (it was very hot, per the weather report shard by Bit of Hope) or another method which rendered her unidentifiable. She was not found until after she faded from the public eye. Given the technological restraints of the era such as no cell phones, primitive forensic tools, absence of AI facial recognition, limited television ownership, and zero internet, whoever found the corpse had no idea who she was or that she was even missing. They might not have even known Syracuse PD was on the lookout for an endangered missing person. Her corpse was never identified, no one claimed the body, so she was buried in a Potter’s field as a Jane Doe.

Theory #2: Lillian wandered, ended up in a body of water, swamp, drainage ditch, or other out of sight place and her remains are sitting under nearly 60 years of muck.

Speculation over. I don’t know where City of Syracuse, Town of Onondaga, or Onondaga County would bury a Jane Doe, but that might be a great place to look because it is extremely unlikely that she ever made it out of those jurisdictions. Does anyone know what those municipalities do with Jane Does?
 

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@NYC2CNY I want to thank you massively for doing this. I'm absolutely flabbergasted that LE wouldn't share anything,despite there being no evidence of criminality, that just seems counter productive! I mean c'mon after all this time they may as well release whatever they have! I supposes potentially they may have evidence of criminality that we are unaware of?

You made an excellent point that I'd never thought of! Of course there weren't 2 similar women with dementia wandering around! The chances are very low and therfore high chance it was Lillian.
 
@NYC2CNY I want to thank you massively for doing this. I'm absolutely flabbergasted that LE wouldn't share anything,despite there being no evidence of criminality, that just seems counter productive! I mean c'mon after all this time they may as well release whatever they have! I supposes potentially they may have evidence of criminality that we are unaware of?

You made an excellent point that I'd never thought of! Of course there weren't 2 similar women with dementia wandering around! The chances are very low and therfore high chance it was Lillian.
Hello @Ciriii57

You're welcome! Happy to help. @Bit of hope and @HeatherA your contributions were also very helpful. I wonder if you have any more info to share?

I will now issue another FOIL request, this time asking the city of Syracuse for records regarding all deceased Jane Does aged 60+ found from 1st Aug 1968 to date. It might not hurt for me to issue the same demand to the town and county of Onondaga. If her body was found and put through regular legal channels, one has to imagine a file was generated even if they did not know who she was. It would be very helpful if those agencies include a physical and clothing description, but we shall see if they even give me anything. If nobody resembling Lillian turns up in any such records, we have to assume her remains are probably still out there under 60 years of muck in a marsh.

Importantly, @Bit of hope and the the newspaper article about officer Linehan's search indicated Lillian was known to frequently use the city buses. If you look at a map of the Syracuse bus system, you will see there is a stop at the corner of Dorwin Ave and Salina Street. That is a few short blocks from the intersection where the good Samaritans supposedly picked her up, Dorwin Ave and Route 80. This further supports the idea that Lillian took an incorrect bus headed south instead of north to 336 Douglas St., got off at Dorwin Ave, wandered a couple minutes west to Route 80, then got picked up by the good Samaritans who dropped her off 10 minutes west at Cedarvale Rd. and Tanner Rd. While that doesn't explain why Lillian asked to be let out at an oddly specific intersection in the middle of nowhere, one thing is for sure: There is no possible way on this planet a 68 year old dementia patient walked halfway across Syracuse in 89 degrees fueled only by a glass of buttermilk and senility.

I will post when I get a reply from the city. Thanks, all!
 
It might not hurt for me to issue the same demand to the town and county of Onondaga.
I was going to suggest the entire county but you already have it covered! Haha

who dropped her off 10 minutes west at Cedarvale Rd. and Tanner Rd
I think the first thing I would like to know is what "exactly" existed in this location in 1968 or close by within walking distance.

Secondly from the newspaper article which says he dropped her off at her request at Cedarvale Rd. And Tanner Rd.
Now what i dont know is whether Lillian specified this exact location by name to the driver, or was it a case of "Sir, please let me out here". If it was the second option then she may have had literally no idea where she was and innher addled state she panicked.
 
I was going to suggest the entire county but you already have it covered! Haha


I think the first thing I would like to know is what "exactly" existed in this location in 1968 or close by within walking distance.

Secondly from the newspaper article which says he dropped her off at her request at Cedarvale Rd. And Tanner Rd.
Now what i dont know is whether Lillian specified this exact location by name to the driver, or was it a case of "Sir, please let me out here". If it was the second option then she may have had literally no idea where she was and innher addled state she panicked.
Hello,

The FOIL requests to the County of Onondaga and City of Syracuse have been accepted and are currently under review. The Township of Onondaga has not been very helpful. They told me "we don't have anything to do with death certs" and when I explained "I did not ask for death certs, I asked for records regarding found Jane Does" they went unresponsive. In a couple more days I will send a touch-base email and offer to clarify. Then, I also added a second request to the township for pics/videos taken of the intersection/vicinity of Cedarvale Rd. and Tanner Rd. during 1968. Although, I did look a little further into it and it turns out the Township of Onondaga does not have its own law enforcement agency like some of the other towns/villages/cities do in the area. In other words, it is very likely Onondaga County and/or the sheriff's office will have Jane Doe records, if any. The same goes for the NYS troopers, who have concurrent jurisdiction over that area. Tonight, I will issue Troop D a mirror FOIL request as well. Fingers crossed someone gives us something pertinent.

@Ciriii57 you make a lot of sense. She was a dementia patient from across the city, probably had no car, and was known to always be using buses. It is unlikely she asked for that intersection by name. The car probably just pulled up to the stop sign, she said "this is where I get off", and the good Samaritans were more than happy to let a strange old lady out ASAP. It's frustrating that the article makes no mention of their names because it would have been nice to try and speak with them.

After doing a little more homework, it turns out there is even stronger evidence for the theory Lillian got onto at least one wrong bus then got off at the wrong stop. Assuming the routes have not changed since 1968, two buses (the Sy966 and Sy972) both stop on Dorwin Ave and Route 80. That is the precise corner where the good Samaritans picked her up. This further supports the idea that Lillian took an incorrect bus headed south instead of north, got out, and probably loitered until she hitchhiked.

I will post when I get a reply from anyone. Thanks, all!
 
Hello,

The FOIL requests to the County of Onondaga and City of Syracuse have been accepted and are currently under review. The Township of Onondaga has not been very helpful. They told me "we don't have anything to do with death certs" and when I explained "I did not ask for death certs, I asked for records regarding found Jane Does" they went unresponsive. In a couple more days I will send a touch-base email and offer to clarify. Then, I also added a second request to the township for pics/videos taken of the intersection/vicinity of Cedarvale Rd. and Tanner Rd. during 1968. Although, I did look a little further into it and it turns out the Township of Onondaga does not have its own law enforcement agency like some of the other towns/villages/cities do in the area. In other words, it is very likely Onondaga County and/or the sheriff's office will have Jane Doe records, if any. The same goes for the NYS troopers, who have concurrent jurisdiction over that area. Tonight, I will issue Troop D a mirror FOIL request as well. Fingers crossed someone gives us something pertinent.

@Ciriii57 you make a lot of sense. She was a dementia patient from across the city, probably had no car, and was known to always be using buses. It is unlikely she asked for that intersection by name. The car probably just pulled up to the stop sign, she said "this is where I get off", and the good Samaritans were more than happy to let a strange old lady out ASAP. It's frustrating that the article makes no mention of their names because it would have been nice to try and speak with them.

After doing a little more homework, it turns out there is even stronger evidence for the theory Lillian got onto at least one wrong bus then got off at the wrong stop. Assuming the routes have not changed since 1968, two buses (the Sy966 and Sy972) both stop on Dorwin Ave and Route 80. That is the precise corner where the good Samaritans picked her up. This further supports the idea that Lillian took an incorrect bus headed south instead of north, got out, and probably loitered until she hitchhiked.

I will post when I get a reply from anyone. Thanks, all!
Thank you for doing what you do!
 

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