OAK BEACH, N.Y. (AP) — Editor’s note — New York authorities have arrested a man in connection with part of the Long Island murders known as the Gilgo Beach murders. Architect Rex Heuermann, who lives across the bay from where the bodies were found, was charged Friday with the murders of three women, and officials said he was the prime suspect in another murder. Announced.
Eleven bodies found along the New York Beach Highway in 2010 and 2011 were depicted in the 2020 Netflix movie Lost Girls, and investigators have long been puzzled. The Associated Press reprints an article by Frank Ertmann, filed December 10, 2011 from Oak Beach, New York, detailing the circumstances of the incident at the time.
This is the largest murder investigation ever conducted on Long Island, New York. Ten people have been murdered and scattered on a remote beach highway for over 15 years, all presumably victims of the same serial killer. But this isn’t the first time a New York suburb has drawn national attention for a murder.
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Back in 1974, Ronald DeFeo killed his parents and four brothers in the “Amityville Horror” murders. In 1993 Colin Ferguson opened fire on a commuter train, killing six and injuring 19. And on Father’s Day this year, four people were executed in the Medford pharmacy robbery.
Then there are serial killers Joel Rifkin and Robert Shulman. Most of their victims were prostitutes. In the 1990s, Rifkin had 17 and Shulman had 5.
But the so-called Gilgo Beach murder mystery is quite different.
“It’s the biggest investigation I’ve ever been involved in,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer told The Associated Press. “This case has been the most high-profile case I have handled in over 30 years in the police industry.”
There is a website dedicated to tracking down the “Long Island serial killer,” a two-hour documentary that aired this month on A&E, and whose death was also featured on CBS’s “48 Hours.” Dormer has also received media attention for his role in the case in his native Ireland.
And it all happened almost by accident.
On December 11, 2010, the bodies of a Suffolk police officer and his dog were found in a sand dune about 25 miles east of Jones Beach. They were looking for 24-year-old Shannen Gilbert, a missing prostitute in Jersey City, New Jersey. She disappeared seven months ago after meeting a sexual client at Oak Beach, about three miles away.
They accidentally found the body of a woman. This discovery prompted a more extensive investigation. Two days later, three more sets were found near the first. But no one was Gilbert.
Police expanded the search over 15 miles along the highway, bringing in more K-9 troops and officers on horseback. Fire departments have erected aerial ladders through poison ivy-infested undergrowth and pine bushes to allow officers to search from above. State Police dispatched officers to assist, and recruits from the Suffolk Police Academy were called up.
The FBI provided aerial surveillance photographs of the area and other technical assistance.
By April, searches had found the remains of 10 victims. Police suspect nine of them to be involved in sex trafficking. Dormer said the first four found were strangled and dumped elsewhere. He did not confirm reports that they were wrapped in burlap.
In March, the head, hands and forearms of a woman working as a prostitute were found in Washington and New York City. The rest of her dismembered body was found in 2003 in Manorville, about 75 miles east. She turned out to be 20-year-old Jessica Taylor.
Like Taylor, the first four victims were all in their 20s. They were last seen leaving to meet a client for sex. They were Melissa Barthelemy, 24, from Buffalo and living in the Bronx. Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Maine, was last seen leaving a hotel on Long Island. Amber Lynn Costello, 27, originally from Wilmington, NC, but currently resides in North Babylon, NY. Five other victims have not yet been identified.
Then there are mothers and children.
Police said their bodies were found seven miles away along the parkway. Police released photos of the matching jewelry each wore, but their identification remains a mystery.
Dormer said it’s not unheard of for women to bring their children for online sex.
Another unidentified victim was a man dressed as a woman.
The whereabouts of Gilbert, the woman who triggered the investigation, remained a mystery until a few days ago.
She was last seen hysterically fleeing a client’s home in Oak Beach, a gated community along the Ocean Parkway several miles from where other victims were found. rice field. Police found her belongings in a swamp near Oak Beach this week. They continue to search for her body.
Dormer said officers believed she drowned in a swamp and did not believe her death was related to a serial killer. Still, Dormer said, “If it hadn’t been for Shannan Gilbert’s disappearance, the bodies of the other victims might never have been found.”
Authorities were initially skeptical of the number of victims, the fact that some had been mutilated and others had not, and the nearly 15-year time span between the first and last killings suggested that multiple perpetrators were involved. I doubted there was.
But Dormer said authorities now believe one person killed them all. He argued that it’s not uncommon for serial killers to evolve and adjust their techniques. But he admitted that others, including some in his own department, disagreed.
But among those who do agree is Louis B. Schlesinger, a professor of forensic psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an expert on serial killers.
“The odds of multiple people being serial killers on Long Island are close to zero,” he said. “This is not a movie. These kinds of different ways of manipulating happen very often.”
Schlesinger explained that although serial killers are most often male, the victims of one killer can be put in different situations. “Maybe it was just as easy as he found it too troublesome,” Schlesinger said. “The women who were killed many years ago were mutilated, but the women these days were not. Maybe he thought it was a hassle.”
He also explained the passage of time between killings.
“They have murderous urges, but they can control it,” he says. Or, “Perhaps he was in prison for a while.”
A suspected killer has contacted one family, although no suspect has been identified despite a $25,000 bounty and more than 1,200 reports.
In the days after Melissa Barthelemy was reported missing in 2009, someone used her cell phone to call her teenage sister in Buffalo at least six times. The caller finally admitted to the girl that he was the killer.
The New York City Police tracked the call to Midtown Manhattan, searching areas near the Pennsylvania Station and the Port Authority bus terminal, but the signal was lost. Cell phone records show a call from Massapequa, Long Island. Police searched the scene, including calling a local hotel, but nothing was found, officials said. I haven’t had a phone in years.
Melissa Kang, of New London, Connecticut, wants people to remember her victims as more than anonymous prostitutes. Her sister, Maureen Brainard Burns, was found along the Ocean Parkway in December last year. She said her sister was trying to get out of the escort business, but she received an eviction notice when she went to see her last client.
“We all know they took the wrong path in life,” Ms. Can said. “But they were still normal people with families who loved them.”
Kang has built bonds with other women’s mothers and relatives, conversing with them almost daily and sharing her thoughts on Facebook. Some of them are planning a wake at Oak Beach on Tuesday.
“She has always been there for me and has given me moral support, so I will spend the rest of my life fighting for her and for justice,” he said of his sister.
But she added: “It’s not all about Maureen. There’s a killer out there. He didn’t just take ten lives. He destroyed the lives of ten families.”
Many on Long Island have dealt with the events of the past year mostly with a shrug. Hundreds of thousands of people trekked to state and town beaches last summer, setting up umbrellas and frolicking on the surf where nearby murder victims were strewn.
“Of course I feel terrible for the victims,” said Diane Gentil, Westbury’s legal secretary. “But I’m less worried about serial killers. I’m more worried about you.”
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