Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes was a college student on Easter Sunday 1994.
That day, Heidi Allen was working at the former D&W convenience store in New Haven, when she mysteriously disappeared and has never been found.
Gary Thibodeau was eventually convicted for kidnapping her in 1995 and spent the next 23 years claiming his innocence and fighting for a new trial, until his death in prison last summer.
But Oakes is confident they got the right man.
- No Closure: 25 Years After She Disappeared, Where Is Heidi Allen?
- Heidi Allen Case: The Trial That Freed One Thibodeau, Convicted Another
“I truly believe that Gary Thibodeau and somebody else went to the D&W and abducted Heidi,” Oakes said. “And it’s unclear exactly where they took her and how they disposed of her body.”
Oakes did not play a role in the initial investigation, but he would become responsible for fighting to keep Gary Thibodeau from getting a new trial.
In 2014, to begin a series of appeals, Lisa Peebles took on the case as Thibodeau’s public defender.
"He was dealt a huge injustice. We all felt so bad for him every time we saw him,” Peebles said.
She believes it is obvious Thibodeau was innocent.
“I started this process, I think I can describe myself as very naïve,” Peebles said. “But in my wildest dreams, I never thought the case would wind up the way it is with everything we were able to uncover.”
Peebles believed there were holes in the prosecution's case and worked tirelessly over the years to uncover evidence she believed cleared her client.
There was everything from recorded conversations, to assertions about other men having taken Allen, to evidence that led investigators to search a cabin in Mexico.
“The short version is yes, I absolutely thought I was going to win,” Peebles said.
In June 2018, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled against Thibodeau’s efforts to overturn his conviction, barely two months before his death.
It was a decision that would take its toll on his already failing body.
"So he kind of accepted his fate,” Peebles said. “Maybe he would come back in another life and have a good life.”
Gary Thibodeau lay dying in prison while his brother Richard, the one who called police that Easter morning, was living a free life after he was acquitted of all charges.
"I did this to him. He put the blame on me for the whole scenario,” Richard said.
The case caused tension between the brothers for a long time but that eventually faded.
"I guess over the years, he kind of learned to let that go. I started going to see him more often,” Richard said.
Allen's family remains thankful for authorities and their efforts to keep Thibodeau behind bars.
"We love Mo Todd, the Oswego County Sheriffs and the DA. We've held firm to that for 25 years,” said Allen’s sister, Lisa Buske. “Were there oopses along the way? I'm sure there were because the last time I checked they were all human beings.”