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Massive law enforcement effort targets Falls homicide

Law enforcement officers will cast a broad net Tuesday in the ongoing investigation of the death and dismemberment of a 46-year-old Niagara Falls woman whose partial remains were discovered last month.

Approximately 90 officers will work together in a large-scale, information-gathering mission targeting specific areas of Niagara Falls, based on facts developed in the case, according to Capt. Kelly Rizzo, chief of detectives for the Niagara Falls Police Department.

Meanwhile, the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office in Buffalo determined Tuesday that bones found Monday evening in a burlap sack floating near the Youngstown breakwater were not human. After a family boating nearby called authorities to report finding something suspicious in the water, local officials and a Coast Guard crew boated to the scene and recovered the sack.

The mutilated body of Terri Lynn Bills was found last month in a vacant house on Willow Avenue. Her head, hands and feet were removed from her body.

Three years ago, Loretta Jo Gates, 30, was found murdered. Her torso was found in the Niagara Gorge below Horseshoe Falls and other body parts were found in Hyde Park.

Niagara Falls police have yet to say whether those cases are connected.

Officers participating in Tuesday’s information-gathering mission represent Niagara Falls and State Police, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Niagara and Erie County Sheriff’s Offices, the Niagara County District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of Homeland Security.

“As numbers go, this will be the largest mission of its kind in the history of Niagara Falls,” Rizzo said. The collaboration will further prove “the incredible working relationships that have been developed by law enforcement throughout Western New York and [show] the desire of these organizations to solve heinous crimes such as these no matter where they occur.”

Rizzo declined to release further information Tuesday morning about the day’s mission, but said a news conference will be held Tuesday afternoon at the Niagara Falls Police Department.