In the fall after she turned 18 years old, Milford High School graduate Gillian “Jill” Gibbons packed her bags to get ready to attend a school for aspiring airline flight attendants.
She never got there.
She and her older sister, Jennifer Kirkpatrick, a young mother then living in Oneonta, were both working at what was then called the Rose Ave. Country Club in Oneonta. On the night of Sept. 12, 1989, Gibbons did not arrive to relieve her. And the older sister became worried. They had no cell phones back then, Kirkpatrick recalled in an interview.
Several hours after frantically calling everyone she could think of who had been acquainted with her kid sister, Kirkpatrick determined that her last movements were to go to the State University at Delhi campus that day to drop off a friend, returning later in the day to visit her mother who was working then at the Bresee’s department store.
While driving past the municipal parking garage in downtown Oneonta, Kirpatrick spotted a sheriff’s deputy standing near the entrance and decided to go into the lot to look around. There, in the darkness, she saw her sister’s car. At that point, she had hoped, her sister had simply gone out on the town to enjoy the company of friends. But she said Wednesday she was very worried because it was not like her sister to skip work without telling anyone.
Assuming the car was locked, she tugged the door handle hard. Too hard, she quickly discovered, because it wasn’t locked at all. It opened right up, and there sprawled across the front seat, her head on the driver’s seat and her feet on the passenger seat, was the body of Gillian Gibbons.
An autopsy would later determine she was stabbed to death. The weapon, a 17-inch survival knife, was discovered by detectives in a Portlandville pond, precisely where police said David Dart, then 20 years old, told investigators they would find it.