UNSOLVED FLORIDA: Police name potential suspect 15 years after Ali Gilmore vanished
Investigators say 40-year-old Dwight Aldridge’s phone pinged off the cell towers near Gilmore’s home the night she disappeared.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - It has been 15 years without answers for the family of Ali Gilmore. The 30-year-old FAMU grad was four months pregnant when she vanished from her Tallahassee home off Loraine Court in the middle of the night.
It has become the largest case the Tallahassee Police Department has ever had. Over the years, detectives have interviewed hundreds of people. For the first time, investigators have laid out part of their theory as to what happened and have named a potential suspect.
TPD said Dwight Aldridge, now 40, is a potential suspect for multiple reasons. They are hoping that someone with information will come forward to help them close the case.
According to police, there were no signs of a struggle at Ali’s home. Her front door was locked and her porch light had been left on. Her car was in the driveway with her purse, wallet, and IDs inside. The only things missing were her and the house keys.
Large-scale searches were done in Tallahassee and the nearby Apalachicola National Forest, but they did not turn up any clues. Family, friends, and police looked for her for more than a year using billboards, flyers, and volunteers. A tree was dedicated at Lake Ella on her due date. A candlelight vigil was held on the one-year anniversary of her disappearance.
At the time she vanished, Ali had been separated from her husband, James. Detectives had initially said he was a person of interest, along with others, but they now believe it is likely he had nothing to do with the crime, citing his ongoing cooperation and evidence that backs up his alibi.
For anyone who lived in Tallahassee in 2006, Ali’s face would be familiar. It was plastered everywhere- on billboards, missing flyers, and yard signs. There was extensive coverage on the local news and even some national attention, like The Montel Williams Show, Nancy Grace, and Dateline. But it’s a case that has, for years, baffled the best efforts of those trying to solve it.
“It was something eerie to me, I felt like something wasn’t right when I got there,” said Lt. Jeff Mahoney, of the Tallahassee Police Department.
It is a circumstance that has left a hole in the hearts of those who love her the most.
“It’s an acid taste not knowing. You think about it on holidays and birthdays,” said Tracy Smith, Ali’s older sister. “15 years. They took a lot from us.”
Ali I’isha Grimsley was born on January 5th, 1976 in Riviera Beach. She attended Jupiter High School, where she was a standout track star, and where she met her best friend, Ritha Ratlieff.
“Ali was a really, really sweet (sic) selfless person,” she told WCTV.
A hard worker as well, Ali’s drive would eventually take her to Tallahassee to attend Florida A&M University. After graduating, she took a job as an analyst at the Florida Department of Health, but also kept the job she had since high school working at Publix.
It was not long before she fell in love with a man she met at the Governor’s Square Mall.
“It was very spontaneous,” explained James Gilmore. “I got on my knee right there in front of her and I proposed.”
Several years into their marriage they bought a home together off Loraine Court on Tallahassee’s Southside. Ali was so excited she picked out address numbers that matched the exterior paint color. However, it did not take long for the stress of homeownership to take a toll on the marriage.
“I was a full-time student and I was working full-time (sic) but my income was not enough to carry too much because I was paying child support at the time,” said James Gilmore. “She was carrying a lot of weight and it created a (sic) problem between us.”
James said the couple decided they needed space and in October 2005, he moved into his brother’s house. It was just a short time before FAMU’s Homecoming, which detectives believe would be a fateful night for Ali.
”She went to homecoming, had a good time. Met this gentleman named Dwight,” explained Ali’s sister, Tracy Smith. “Very nice, very attractive. I’m assuming she fell for him right away.”
The first sign of trouble was when the always punctual Ali didn’t show up for work the next day.
“That was the lowest point in our lives,” said Ali’s younger sister, Attallah McLawrence.
It took a few days, but police eventually swarmed the neighborhood, scouring the home for clues.
“We knocked on the door. There weren’t signs of any struggle,” described Lt. Mahoney, who was a young homicide investigator at the time and responded to Ali’s house the day she was declared missing.
“In her bedroom, it looked like her blanket was pulled back as if she was laying in bed at some point. Next to her was a prenatal book that she was reading,” explained Lt. Mahoney.
Ali’s Publix uniform was laid out on her bed, an indication she had made it home from her shift that night of February 3, 2006. However, the smart, driven woman with a megawatt smile had vanished.
In the weeks that followed there were massive search efforts conducted by air and land.
“It was a very intense search,” said Pat Simmons, who was in charge of a volunteer k-9 search and rescue team.
The team spent weeks, at police request, searching wooded and rural areas.
“(We were) looking for anything that could have been tossed out of a car, or more possibly looking for anything that would have a human or human cadaver scent on it.,” Simmons recalled.
At one point, volunteers found the remains of a black bear, but never found anything that tied back to Ali.
Meanwhile, Ali’s family was spearheading their own effort.
“When you’re in our shoes, or in the space that we’re in, nothing happens soon enough. You’re not working hard enough. You’re not searching far enough,” said Percy Walker, Ali’s half-brother.
Her father, Carl McLawrence, regularly drove up from West Palm Beach to help with the effort.
“I took off every weekend,” he said.
The family ran the effort like a campaign, holding news conferences and handing out flyers. It is a skill they had learned from their cousin, Michael Brown, who was then the mayor of Riviera Beach and made the trip north several times to help.
“They did a tremendous job of doing all they can to keep her in the minds and authorities on the job of looking for her,” he said.
On one trip to Tallahassee, a severe car accident left Ali’s mother, Laurvetta Grimsley-McLawrence, injured. She has never fully recovered and uses a walker to get around on foot.
“I always ask God, ‘please, let me be around,’” she said.
Ali’s family ad never imagined back in 2006 that we would still be searching.
“I just want to know: Where is Ali Gilmore, what happened to my sister, and who is responsible?” said Smith.
Now, fifteen years later investigators are hoping by releasing new information they will be able to crack the case.
“She was four months pregnant at the time of her disappearance. We believe through evidence she had circled on her daily planner that the date of her conception date with ‘D. A.’, which are initials for ‘Dwight Aldridge.’ Dwight Aldridge went to multiple doctor visits with her,” announced Lt. Mahoney.
The date of conception circle on Ali’s calendar, was the night of FAMU Homecoming, said Lt. Mahoney. Information that is backed up by one of Ali’s sisters.
“She potentially didn’t know who would be the father, either James or Dwight, but she was more so thinking Dwight because Dwight attended to her OBGYN tests and appointments, and he was excited or seemed to be excited,” said Smith.
Meanwhile, Lt. Mahoney said estranged husband James Gilmore passed a voice stress test and has been consistently cooperative over the years. James said even he had questions about the paternity of the child after Ali told him about the affair during a counseling session.
“We were going to work it out either way, in my brain that’s where I was, I didn’t… I did not, not want to be with her,” he said.
Police have pointed to several additional reasons why Dwight Aldridge is still on their radar.
“I think that he lied to us about his alibi, about where he was,” explained Lt. Mahoney.
Investigators have long reported that Ali received a call at 12:48 a.m. Friday morning, but never revealed who that call was from- until now.
“That phone call was made to her from Dwight Aldridge,” reported Lt. Mahoney.
TPD said that Aldridge admits to speaking with Ali that night, but lied to them about where he called from, claiming to not be near her house. Something that cell phone tower data refutes.
“His phone towers are hitting in her neighborhood at that time,” said Lt. Mahoney.
According to Lt. Mahoney, Aldridge still resides within the Tallahassee community but has stopped cooperating with the investigation.
WCTV reached out to Aldridge several times, through phone numbers found online and by an email address located in court records, but did not hear back over several weeks. Police said Aldridge’s family has ties to Bristol and owns a large swath of land in the area.
The only photo of him WCTV could find of Aldridge, was from around 2003 from the Department of Corrections, where he spent roughly five years in prison for armed robbery prior to meeting Ali. The photo is now nearly 20 years old.
A public records request to the DOC showed Aldridge was disciplined for theft on July 23, 1999 at Hillsborough Correctional Institute while he was an inmate. The details of the disciplinary report are still being processed for a FOIA request. A spokesperson for the Florida Commission on Offender Review said Aldridge did not have a parole-eligible sentence, so he was not monitored by the state after his release.
The only public comments Aldridge has ever made were to the Tallahassee Democrat in 2009 where he referred to Ali as “a friend.”
However, it would seem he has moved on from whatever his connection to Ali was. Florida State University said that Aldridge graduated in December 2020 with a nursing degree. Online records show he received a ‘Student Nursing Award’ from Archbold Medical Center. The media contact for Archbold Medical Center did not respond to WCTV’s request for information.
“This is my niece and my nephew I never got a chance to meet,” said Ali’s little sister, Attallah, while holding a picture of Ali’s sonogram.
Ali was scheduled to learn the sex of the baby the day after she disappeared.
Attallah, who always looked up to her big sister and even followed in her footsteps to FAMU, said she has spent the last 15 years living life for two people.
“The steps and the moments that I experience in life, I’m doing it for both of us,” she said.
And she continues to hold onto hope that they will someday get justice for Ali.
“I just want the shackles to be free from my family,” she added.
So many years have passed that Ali’s then 8-year-old nephew Terrell Campbell, who can be seen in the background of vigils and news conferences as a small child, is now a grown man.
“It was so so traumatic,” he said. “Shee was someone’s mother-to-be. Someone’s sister. Someone’s daughter.”
Everyone who loved Ali has been left in a sort of limbo.
“The thing that I think about more, is what could have been. What could have been and us getting back together and raising our- hopefully, it was a daughter,” said James.
Others manage the pain by visiting Ali at the tree that overlooks Lake Ella. It was planted on her due date in 2006 and now stands several stories tall.
“I love you, I love you,” said big brother Percy Walker. “Where are you Ali?”
Today, Ali would be 45 years old. Her child 15.
If you have any information regarding Dwight Aldrige or the case, you are asked to call the Tallahassee Police Department at (850) 891-4200, or to make an anonymous tip to Crimestoppers at (850) 574-TIPS.
You can view previous installments of WCTV’s “Unsolved Florida” at the links below:
- UNSOLVED GEORGIA: Death of South Georgia radio personality still unsolved 10 years later
- UNSOLVED FLORIDA: Family searching for answers in Wakulla County’s only unsolved homicide
- UNSOLVED FLORIDA: Father found murdered in car on Tallahassee’s southside
- UNSOLVED FLORIDA: Who is Kelley Brannon? Pt. 1
- UNSOLVED FLORIDA: What happened to Kelley Brannon? (case details) - Pt. 2
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