BRUNSWICK, Maine -- A woman who said she was going to see a man she met through a newspaper personal ad committed suicide in an Alabama hotel room soon after she disappeared from Maine in June 1986, police said Wednesday.
Gail Delano, 36, of Westport, a twice-divorced mother of two, is now believed to have planned a scheme in which her car was abandoned in a restaurant parking lot in Maine.
Her disappearance had raised fears about the safety of meeting strangers through anonymous personal ads.
Delano was the object of a two-year search until her disappearance was linked to an unsolved suicide in Mobile, Ala., after an account of her case was aired on NBC's 'Unsolved Mysteries' television program.
'My feeling is that (this case) would probably never have been solved if not for 'Unsolved Mysteries,'' said Lt. Charles N. Love, of the Maine State Police.
Delano's family turned to the 'Unsolved Mysteries' program earlier this year after police were unable to find her. Last summer, a film crew from the program came to Maine and taped a segment on the Delano case. The program, which aired in early October, generated more than 200 calls from around the nation. Love said one of the calls came from the Alabama Department of Forensic Science.
Alabama authorities said their unsolved suicide seemed to match details provided about Delano on the 'Unsolved Mysteries' program. Love said dental records lonfirmed the victim and Delano were the same person.
Delano's family was also able to identify clothing and jewelry from the Alabama victim, Love said.
Delano had not been seen since she left home June 21, 1986, saying she was going to meet a man she had contacted through a personal ad in a weekly newspaper.
Her car was found in a restaurant parking lot on U.S. 1 in Brunswick several days later. The car keys were on the ground beneath it.
Later, Delano's pocketbook was found in bushes next to the parking lot, but no signs of the woman were found.
Love said investigators have pieced together the woman's movements. Between 10 and 11 p.m. the day of her disappearance, a woman checked into the Mobile Hilton Hotel under the name of Jackie Stafford of San Diego. She reportedly paid for two nights' lodging with $115 in cash.
The hotel staff was unable to enter the room because a locking chain was placed across the door, but three days later the staff entered the room and found her body in the bed.
A search turned up a collection of prescription drugs behind a drape, and an autopsy revealed the woman died of a drug overdose. The drugs matched those prescribed for Delano, some of them for depression, said Love, noting that no motive for the suicide is known.
The woman was not identified and she was finally buried in Mobile, Love said.
Love said Maine State Police received a bulletin on the Alabama suicide on their national crime computer, but said the victim's weight did not match Delano's and the bulletin was ignored. Love said Alabama authorities had access to the Maine missing persons report on Delano, but for some reason did not match it to the suicide.
'We haven't been able to tell why there was no match,' Love said.