Nancy Ludwig, the 42-year-old Northwest Airlines flight attendant who was found dead in a Detroit Hotel 25 years ago, is the subject of this week’s Your Worst Nightmare on Investigation Discovery. Each week viewers tune in to the latest intriguing crime story to see how it was solved by detectives. In tonight’s episode entitled “Fight or Flight,” viewers will learn the gruesome details that inspired this latest ripped-from-the-headlines case. Nancy Ludwig, of Minnesota, was a bright-eyed brunette who was killed by serial killer Jeffrey Gorton in 1991. The case went cold for years before it was later connected to the death of Margarette Eby, a university professor who was killed years earlier. Both cases were linked due to DNA evidence. For his crimes, Jeffrey Wayne Gorton was sentenced to life in a Michigan correctional facility. Tom Henderson’s 2004 book, Blood Justice: The True Story of Multiple Murder and A Family’s Revenge, is based on the horrific case.
The day started out pretty normal for Nancy Ludwig that February 1991. Ludwig had been working as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines (NWA) since 1976 and enjoyed her job. Sadly, she didn’t know that a simple stay-over in a Detroit hotel would mean the end of her life. We know what we know about the case thanks to information provided by some other flight attendants who were paying attention that fateful night. According to them, Nancy Ludwig arrived on a flight from Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 17, 1991, and she had plans to spend the night in the Hilton hotel in Romulus, which was situated near the Detroit Airport. She was last seen rolling her burgundy luggage down the hallway as she made her way to room 354. She was never heard from alive again, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The next day, the maid would have cleaned her room had it not been for the Do Not Disturb sign placed on the outside of the hotel door. Eventually, after so many hours had passed, a hotel maid entered the hotel room and made the terrible discovery. She immediately alerted police, ID’s Your Worst Nightmare will show.
When law enforcement officials arrived, they found the body of a white female lying face down in a pool of blood. Bound and gagged, the woman appeared to have been dead for hours. And strangely, they found that all of the woman’s belonging had vanished, including her burgundy luggage, her clothes, and even her Northwest Airlines uniform. An autopsy report later confirmed that the victim, identified as Nancy Jean Ludwig, had been raped and her throat was cut.
The investigation revealed that a strange man was seen watching Nancy Ludwig as she rode over on the shuttle, headed to the hotel. Another hotel patron also reported seeing a disturbing-looking man on the stairwell. A third witness was said to have seen a man loading a burgundy luggage into a cooper-toned car. Sadly, it would be years before police were able to solve the case.
Five years earlier, 55-year-old Margarette Eby was found dead in her Flint, Michigan, home. And just like in the Ludwig case, her throat had been cut, and she had also been sexually assaulted. When Margarette Eby’s son learned about the Ludwig case, he was positive that the cases were related. Turns out, he was absolutely correct.
Years later, DNA evidence connected Eby and Ludwig. And a fingerprint was traced to Jeffrey Gorton, a former Navy sailor who had previously sexually assaulted another woman. A look into Gorton’s background showed a man with a weird sexual fetish that included collecting several hundreds pairs of women’s underwear, according to an article in the Argus Press.
In order to see just how these tenacious detectives made the connection between the two victims and the killer, you’ll have to tune in to Investigation Discovery’s Your Worst Nightmare tonight at 9 p.m. For extra reading, look at two other articles about Your Worst Nightmare, including the cases of Lois Pearson and Chanin Starbuck.
[Photo by Carlos Osorio/AP Images]