She was back among family, after 20 years in New York. She had money from the sale of her share of an architectural consulting business she started and, at 44, a new boyfriend from the big city.
But almost as quickly as her romance with the former bank executive blossomed, it fell apart. Relatives say Lochtefeld went to New York last month to end it and returned scared.
Within days, she was found stabbed to death in her rented Nantucket bungalow — the first slaying on the island in 21 years.
Last week, her ex-boyfriend, Thomas Toolan III, pleaded not guilty to murder as Lochtefeld's stunned family and friends looked on.
"It was like watching the opening act of a play," the victim's brother, Peter Lochtefeld, 45, said of the 10-minute proceeding. The sight of the strapping 37-year-old Toolan in a business suit and handcuffs drew gasps from some in the crowded courtroom.
The day before the slaying, Toolan tried to smuggle a large kitchen knife in his coat pocket onto a plane at New York's LaGuardia Airport, according to authorities. It was confiscated, he received a misdemeanor summons to appear in court, and he was let go. News reports said he bought a knife on the island the next day.
Elizabeth Lochtefeld had moved to Nantucket earlier this year but had spent many summers with her family there. She quickly won friends with her engaging personality. Her family is also well known on the island, where her father, John, owns one of the many art studios and galleries.
In the aftermath of the Oct. 25 slaying and Toolan's arrest hours later in Rhode Island on a drunken driving charge, some islanders told Police Chief William Pittman they would now be locking their doors.
"They've been dealing with big-city issues for some time but they haven't come to grips with something like this," Pittman said.
Lochtefeld's family and friends said there were no clear warning signs until the weekend before she was killed.
The couple began dating around Labor Day. A few weeks later, Lochtefeld was introducing her new beau to friends on the island, a resort with a year-round population of 10,500.
"She was excited. They really clicked," said Sara Boyce, who owns a Nantucket art gallery.
Gene Mahon, 58, met Toolan at a concert on the island last month and thought then that Lochtefeld's stay on Nantucket might be brief. Mahon, whose business specializes in art reproductions and sign making, said Lochtefeld was planning to help him open a nightclub. But seeing how happy she appeared with Toolan, "I thought, 'Oh my God, I wonder if we've lost her to New York,'" he said.
Each had a natural charm and easy way with others, according to friends and family.
"He seemed to emanate calm and gentleness," said New York filmmaker Kate Davis of Toolan, who lived next door to her the past two years. "He was a model for the single, eligible bachelor."
But Toolan also had a checkered past: He was arrested in 2001 and accused of slipping an $80,000 marble bust under his coat at a Park Avenue antiques show. He later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and soon after was asked to leave his job as a vice president at Citigroup. More recently, friends said that he told them he was working in the financial services field, but that was all they knew.
In any case, the relationship unraveled quickly. According to Boyce, Lochtefeld was concerned Toolan was moving too quickly. "She said, 'He's already talking rings,"' Boyce said.
Peter Lochtefeld said that after his sister went to New York to end the relationship, she was held hostage by Toolan one night but slipped out when Toolan fell asleep.
She stopped at the Nantucket police station two days before her death to inquire about a restraining order but never filed for one, police said. "She did mention an ex-boyfriend she was breaking up with," the police chief said.
Toolan's attorney said he would try to get the trial moved off the island.
"It's a beautiful island, but it is very parochial," defense attorney Kevin Reddington said. "Everyone knows everyone. I wouldn't want to try a case here."