Niagara Gazette — "I thought she was absolutely beautiful," he said, describing how they met at a mutual friend's house. "I told her she had the prettiest blue eyes I had ever seen. We talked every day after that night."
Now, Martin and his children are struggling to cope with Gate's death, he said. Peter, 4, doesn't really understand, although, no doubt, he someday will. Mariah, 5, stands in front of a display of photos of her mom created for the memorial service and, unprompted, seeks out her mother. "Mommy," she says pointing to one photo. "Mommy," she says again, pointing to another. "These are all pictures of mommy."
It's hard for her," Martin admitted. "This morning she was up at quarter to four, screaming for her mother."
Recently, despite his lawyer's advice, he said he agreed to joint custody because he said Loretta was doing so well in her rehabilitation. Even though they hadn't lived together for the last year and a half, Martin expresses gratitude to her. "She gave me two of the most beautiful children in the world."
Family members know all three of Loretta's children will be challenged living with the memory of their mom's unthinkable death. Gates was missing for about a week after leaving her mom's house to go to the store. Parts of her body turned up in the Niagara River last month and more were found in a duffle bag in Hyde Park Lake. State Police have joined the efforts of city police detectives and the investigation is ongoing.
"We're continuing to follow our leads," said Niagara Falls Police Supt. John Chella said on Thursday.
In the meantime, family and friends continue to grieve. Gate's mom, Tammy Mattoon Gates, reached by telephone, said simply, "I will always love her and I miss her so much."
Loretta's father, Arthur, who works in shipping at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, was interviewed along with the children and other family members and friends, and remembers his middle child from that marriage as a playful, good kid. "She was doing so well, fighting this addiction," her father said. "Then something went wrong."
Her uncle, Bobby Gates, said that Loretta had recently phoned him to talk about faith. Gates, who said he was born again while serving time in prison for burglary, said that she and he had spoke at length after she inquired about God. "I don't know if she had any inclination that this was going to happen," he said of the murder. "But, she did say she accepted God and I know she's been saved."
Kyla's grandmother, Melinda Minteer, has had custody of the 11-year-old for the past three years, as Kyla is the daughter of Minteer's son, Chris Lewis. Minteer said that Loretta loved all her kids and "tried to create happy times when she was with them." Kyla, when asked her favorite memory of her mom, said simply, "her rubbing my back," recalling Loretta's loving touch.
A click on a Facebook page titled "Justice for Loretta Jo Gates," which includes comments, pictures and videos, indicates a large community of people who also care about Gates, including a family friend who is holding a fundraiser for her Nov. 24. Michael "Jabba" Ward, a local music promoter who has held two successful events called "Jabbapalooza," is planning a music fest for his birthday and said all the proceeds will be given to the Niagara Falls Police for a reward to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of Loretta's killer.
Although a site for his concert has not been selected yet, six bands have already volunteered their time for the event and the details will be available on the Loretta Jo Gates Memorial page on Facebook.
Many others have lent a hand to the family as well. Martin's friend, Lisa Nicoloff, who often watches the two younger children, said that her own daughter's dance teacher at Adele's School of Dance offered a year's worth of free lessons to Mariah. "I just melted," Nicoloff said when she heard of the offer, adding "every little girl loves to dance."
Family and friends have also joined together to hold a fundraiser from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Sheraton at the Falls, 300 Third St. More information can be obtained by calling Arthur Gates at 998-0778.
Many are already reaching out to the children. Martin's friend, Lisa Nicoloff, who often watches the two younger ones, said that her own daughter's dance teacher at Adell's School of Dance offered a year's worth of free lessons to Mariah. "I just melted," Nicoloff said when she heard of the offer, adding "every little girl loves to dance."