Jeffrey Wayne Gorton (November 1, 1962) is
an American murderer and rapist, who was convicted in 2002 of the rape
and murder of flight attendant Nancy Ludwig on February 17, 1997 at
the Hilton hotel in Romulus, Michigan.
He later pleaded no contest to charges that he
raped and murdered a professor and provost of the University of
Michigan-Flint, Margarette Eby, on November 9, 1986.
The two rapes and murders were proved to be the
work of one person by matching semen samples taken from the two crime
scenes. Gorton had left a latent fingerprint at the Eby crime scene;
when it was matched to him, the Michigan State Police learned the
killer's identity. Gorton was then proven to be the rapist by matching
the DNA of his semen with that of the samples taken from the two
Gorton was sentenced to life imprisonment without
Family waits for answers in slaying, peace
By Ben Burns - Free Press Special Writer
February 19, 2001
Not a day goes by that Art Ludwig doesn't think
about his wife Nancy, a Northwest Airlines flight attendant, and her
long walk down a third-floor hallway at a hotel near Metro Airport 10
Her spirit and her unsolved slaying haunt him and
his daughters. Today, he is wandering around California to get away
from his Minneapolis home during the anniversary month of her death.
Too many memories.
His daughters, Linda, Sandy and Laura, want to do
something to bring their 41-year-old stepmother's killing back into
the public eye, but they don't know what to do. Do they come back to
Detroit and hold another news conference? What do they say? There is
Five years ago, they checked into the hotel where
Nancy Ludwig died. They stayed in a room four doors down the hall from
where hers had been. More than 250 people, including television
reporters, print reporters and the curious turned out to greet them.
They held a candlelight vigil in the room where their stepmother died,
and they prayed. Their prayers weren't answered.
The world has turned; the media moved on. Nancy
Ludwig now warrants a one-paragraph mention in a list of metro
Detroit's unsolved murders. But her restless spirit is alive in the
hearts of relatives, friends and coworkers at Northwest Airlines.
"I think about her every day," Art Ludwig, a
retired Minneapolis television executive, said last week. "Sometimes I
see a woman from the back and it's the spitting image. 'It's Nancy,' I
think. But of course it isn't. I am totally frustrated. But now they
have the national DNA matching system up -- and someday, someday, they
might find a match. They told me I'd be the first to know. But I've
stopped bugging the police. They don't have anything to tell me."
Ludwig, now 67, was sick in bed with a cold the
night his wife died.
That Feb. 17 about 9 p.m., Nancy Ludwig rode the
elevator to the third floor of what was then the Hilton Airport Inn.
The small brunette said good-night to a friend also on layover, pulled
her luggage cart around a corner and walked down a long hall, past an
alcove with a noisy ice machine, to Room 354.
Romulus police detectives speculate she turned to
open the door with a key card and her killer stepped out of a
stairwell, then pushed her into the room. Defensive cuts on her hands
showed she tried to fend him off, but he overpowered her, gagged her
and tied her hands with rope. He tortured her, raped her and cut her
throat. The killer then removed her clothes and placed her body on the
bed and raped her again.
He turned on the television to CNN's coverage of
the Persian Gulf War, cleaned up in the bathroom, wiped the body with
a washcloth, untied the hands and packed everything in the blood-spattered
room that might identify him, including the wastebasket trash bag. He
removed her earrings and rings, picked up her identification and
luggage, hung a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door and disappeared into
the night. He made only one mistake: Police found enough material for
DNA samples in the bathroom.
Art Ludwig flew to Detroit the next day to identify
his wife's body. He said later, in an emotional interview with a class
of Wayne State University investigative reporting students, that his
life was over, too. "He killed two people that night," Ludwig said.
"He killed Nancy, and he killed me. My life was over as I knew it."
Using all his television and media sources, he
campaigned to publicize the slaying. Tips poured in and filled two
file cabinets at the Romulus police station. The weird, the crazy and
the would-be metaphysical came out of the woodwork to offer their
counsel and advice. Rewards totaling $80,000 are still being offered.
One person said the killing was an Arab spy plot to
get Nancy Ludwig's passport. Another said a professional bowler had
committed the heinous crime. The Romulus police checked thousands of
tips and eliminated hundreds of men as suspects.
Every time a killer is caught with a similar
pattern of activity, his DNA is run against the Romulus samples.
Hundreds of men nationwide have been checked. Meanwhile, the Romulus
police wait for a break.
Nancy Ludwig's picture appears at the top of the
department's Web page. "She is a permanent fixture until we solve it,"
Executive Lt. David Early said. The page contains sketches of two
possible suspects who were seen in the area of the hotel the night of
her death. One rode the shuttle bus to the hotel with her and her
friend and reportedly stared at Ludwig. The other was seen loading
what looked like Northwest Airlines burgundy luggage into a 1978-80
Chevrolet Monte Carlo, light brown or bronze with a white license
plate. Neither man has been found.
The flight attendant's death has left a permanent
mark on the lives of Ludwig, his daughters, her friends and the other
attendant who was with her at the hotel that night.
That attendant reportedly sleeps with a light on in
her room to this day when she is on the road for Northwest.
Since the killer had pictures of all of Nancy
Ludwig's stepdaughters and her address book, Linda Ludwig moved to a
different address and doesn't give out her home phone number.
Countless other women, knowing Nancy Ludwig's tale, are careful when
they check into strange hotels and motels. As Linda Ludwig put it: "We
know that we are never safe."