The Long Island Serial Killer (also known as the Gilgo Killer, the Long Island Ripper, and LISK) is a serial killer who is believed to have murdered at least eleven people in the Long Island area. He targets prostitutes, who were often contacted via the online bulletin board Craigslist, and is believed to have been in operation for at least fifteen years. The Long Island Serial Killer dumps the bodies of his victims along Ocean Parkway, a fifteen mile stretch of highway that traverses Jones Beach Island on Long Island, New York. Located near the popular beach towns of Gilgo Beach and Oak Beach in Suffolk County as well as near Jones Beach State Park in Nassau County, the killer dumps his victims, unburied in thick brush, often only a few feet from the heavily-travelled roadway.
The disappearance of Shannan Gilbert
The discovery that a serial killer was on the loose came by chance during the unrelated hunt for a 24-year old missing prostitute, Shannan Gilbert. Spurred along by her concerned family, Shannan’s mysterious disappearance prompted a 7-month search by area law enforcement. Police could find no trace of Shannan Gilbert, who seemingly vanished into thin air, despite a very clear account of her last living moments.
On May 1, 2010, Joseph Brewer, a resident of the Oak Beach gated community, found lovely Shannan Gilbert’s escort advertisement on Craigslist. Brewer called Gilbert and requested her services at a “party” he was hosting at his home. At 2:00 AM on May 1, 2010, Gilbert arrived at the home of Joseph Brewer (which was located only a few miles from Gilgo Beach) prepared to render services as agreed upon during their phone call. Gilbert’s “driver”, Michael Pak, waited outside the home. Brewer claims that shortly after her arrival, Gilbert demanded money. He then asked her to leave the house.
Gilbert’s driver, Michael Pak, told police that Gilbert ran from the home screaming “they’re trying to kill me!”. At 4:51 AM, Gilbert called 911 emergency services. Operators noted that during the call, Gilbert seemed disoriented and confused and mistakenly gave her location as Jones Beach. Gilbert then ran to the nearby home of Gustav Coletti. When Coletti told Gilbert he would call the police for her, Gilbert ran away. A few minutes later, Pak pulled up to Coletti’s home in his sports utility vehicle and told Coletti that he was “looking for a woman who’d become upset and run out of his party.” 911 operators listened on the open line for 23 minutes while Gilbert continued running from house to house knocking on doors and seeking help. Two of the neighbors, Coletti and Barbara Brennan, called 911 themselves but by the time police arrived, Shannan was nowhere in sight.
The search for Shannan Gilbert stalled after the fateful night that she disappeared. Whether budget cuts, lack of experience, or uncooperative weather hindered the search, the Gilbert family became frustrated and angry at the perceived lack of progress police made in their investigation. It would be over six months before Gilbert’s body was discovered but her mysterious disappearance would serve as the catalyst for a series of very gruesome and unexpected discoveries.
First bodies found
Several months later, on December 11, 2010, Police Officer John Mallia took his cadaver dog to an area near the spot where Gilbert was last seen. Mallia recognized an opportunity to train his dog while at the same time, searching in the area where Gilbert was last seen. His efforts paid off when the skeletal remains of a woman in a nearly disintegrated burlap sack were found along the highway that leads to Jones Beach, 45 miles east of New York City. After police expanded the search area, three more bodies were found just two days later, on December 13, 2010.
In all, four bodies were found all within 500 feet of each other and in various stages of decomposition. Police determined that all four were missing prostitutes who had advertised their services on online bulletin boards, Craigslist and Backpage. Police surmised that the killer lured the prostitutes back to his home where he killed them and disposed of the bodies along the beach-front roadway. All four were strangled and at least one was found with an “item” around her neck.
24-year-old Melissa Barthelemy
The first body that John Mallia’s cadaver dog found was identified as 24 year old Melissa Barthelemy (also known as “Chloe”). Standing 4’11” and weighing a slight 95 pounds, Melissa Barthelemy was identified using DNA taken from a toothbrush in her home. She was last seen on July 10, 2009 (some reports indicate July 12). Her body had lain in the thick brush along the roadway for more than a year before being discovered.
Barthelemy lived in a $700 Bronx basement apartment on Underhill Avenue in Tremont (a Bronx neighborhood). Barthelemy had grown up in Buffalo, New York where she graduated from cosmetology school and worked in various salons in the area. Barthelemy moved to New York City hoping to use her cosmetology license to find a better paying job. Her landlady told police that she suspected Barthelemy had begun working part-time as a stripper to supplement her meager income. Soon, Barthelemy began earning extra money as an escort advertising her services on Craigslist.
On the night that Barthelemy disappeared, she had met with at least one client, deposited $900 in her bank account, and attempted to call an old boyfriend who did not answer his phone. She then checked her voicemail from two different motels in Massepequa (a Budget Inn and a Best Western). Shortly after checking her messages, she left the motel for a appointment with a client. Her pimp (Johnny Terry, aka Blaze) had offered her a ride but she declined the offer. Barthelemy was never seen alive again.
Shortly after her disappearance, her family hired a psychic who told the family that Melissa was in a shallow grave near the ocean in a place beginning with the letter “G”. A year and a half after her disappearance, Melissa Barthelemy was indeed found in thick brush along the roadway that ran along Gilgo Beach.
The killer taunts Barthelemy’s family
The family was not at all shocked when Melissa’s body was found – they had felt she was dead all along. One week after her disappearance, Melissa’s sister, Amanda Barthelemy, began receiving a series of mocking phone calls that were placed from her missing sister’s cell phone. The first calls occurred on July 16, July 19, and July 23. The caller referred to Barthelemy as a “whore” and a horrible, nasty person. “Is this Melissa’s little sister? I hear you’re a half-breed.”
Starting with the third phone call, the calls were coarsely traced and determined to originate from midtown Manhattan in the Madison Square Garden and Times Square areas of town. Police rushed to the scene after each call but the cunning caller kept each communication under 3 minutes so the exact location of the call could not be determined with any accuracy. Surveillance video of the area where the calls came from showed hundreds of people milling around, many with phones pressed to their ears.
The mocking calls continued for five weeks. The caller described what he was doing to her sister in graphic detail, including explicit details on the sexual mistreatment the caller was imposing on Barthelemy (the caller implied that she was still alive). He later told Amanda that her sister had been brutally murdered. The voice, whom Amanda described as belonging to an older white man, sullenly asked Amanda, “Do you think you’ll ever see her again? You won’t. I killed her.” and he hung up. The phone call lasted less than a minute. Amanda and her mother kept a detailed journal of the calls and later turned the journal over to the police.
Melissa’s mother, Lynn Barthelemy, told reporters:
“Most of the calls were in the evening. We thought maybe he lived somewhere else and works in the city and commutes.”
The last call was received on August 26, 2009.
“I’m watching your sister’s body rot.”
27-year-old Amber Lyn Costello
The next victim’s body was found on Monday, December 13, 2010, also along Gilgo Beach. 27-year old Amber Lynn Costello, a prostitute and known heroin user, was 4’10” and weighed 100 lbs. She was from North Babylon, New York, a town located only 10 miles north of Gilgo Beach. She had been missing since September 2, 2010, over a year later than the date Barthelemy disappeared. She was last seen in North Babylon, New York. On the night that she disappeared, Costello went to meet a stranger who had seen her advertisement on Craigslist. The customer had called her several times and had offered her $1,500 for her services. At the time her body was discovered, Costello had never even been reported as missing.
25-year-old Maureen Brainard-Barnes
The third body discovered, (the second body found on December 13, 2010) was the remains of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, a 4’11”, 105 lb prostitute. The 25-year old prostitute had lived a battered life. During her short life, she had suffered a broken nose, broken fingers on her right hand, and had a scars on her abdomen, face, and forehead. She was last seen on July 9, 2007 (over three years before her body was discovered), when she left Norwich for New York City to meet a client she had booked through Craigslist. Three days after she went missing, her best friend Sara Karnes received an “odd phone call”.
“The man said she was at a whorehouse in Queens. I told him she would never go for that, because she was independent. He goes, ‘Well, that’s where I saw her.’ And he described her to a T to me.”
Karnes went on to describe the man’s accent as “proper” with accentuated S’s and T’s and definitely not a New York, Boston, or Maine accent.
22-year-old Megan Waterman
The fourth body was also found unburied and covered in thick brush. The body was determined to be the remains of 22 year old Megan Waterman. Waterman’s profile differed from the previous three victims, Rather than being slight in stature, Waterman was 5’5” and weighed 150 lbs but her proximity to the other bodies left no doubt she was a victim of the same killer. Megan Waterman came from South Portland, Maine and had been missing since June 6, 2010, a mere six months prior to the discovery of her body making her the most recently deceased of the four victims found and potentially the most likely victim to provide promising evidence.
The day Waterman went missing, she told her 20-year old boyfriend Akeem Cruz, that she was going out and would call him later. There is much debate as to whether Akeem Cruz was Waterman’s “boyfriend” or pimp and he initially seemed to be a promising suspect in her disappearance. Cruz had a prior criminal history. He had once been arrested for threatening a woman with a knife, cutting the tires of her car, and angrily threatening to kill the woman. After Waterman’s body was found and identified (and he was ruled out as a suspect), Cruz went on to earn a 20 month sentence at the Maine Correctional Center for drug trafficking.
After telling her boyfriend she would see him later, surveillance video showed Mega Waterman leaving the hotel on June 6, 2010 at 1:30 AM. She left on foot. The Holiday Inn Express motel in Hauppauge, New York was only 15 miles northeast of Gilgo Beach and 23 miles away from the site where her body was found.
A serial killer on the loose
The close proximity of the bodies and method of killing (strangulation) told the police that a serial killer was unleashing a rampage of brutal murders on their beach town. Suffolk County Commissioner Richard Dormer announced to the public,
“Four bodies found in the same location pretty much speaks for itself. It’s more than a coincidence. We could have a serial killer.”
Police initially suspected the murders could be related to the slayings of four prostitutes whose bodies were found in a drainage ditch in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This suspicion was quickly ruled out. As a result, authorities would restrain their search to the area in and around Gilgo Beach, a decision that would soon prove to be mistaken.
When the first heavy snow came, just after Christmas, police told the public that the search would resume after the weather warmed up and the ground became more conducive to a detailed investigation of the area (but before the new Spring foliage had a chance to grow). When they resumed their search he following Spring, they were stunned to find not only additional bodies, but proof that the killer used more than one location for disposal of his victims. It was during this second round of searches that they discovered the killer had been in operation for a long, long time.
Still more bodies found – killer has been active for more than a decade
In late March and early April of 2011, a Marine Unit policeman spotted something unusual in the grass while driving along the beach. A subsequent search netted the police four more bodies. Two more women, an Asian man, and a female toddler were found in Nassau County, all about one mile apart and about five miles west of the four bodies found the previous winter (Barthelemy, Costello, Barnes, and Waterman). Law enforcement officials announced that Suffolk County would now coordinate their efforts with Nassau Police and the New York State Police and expand their search grid to include nearby Nassau County.
The newest set of remains showed marked differences from the previous four victims. The bodies were not contained in burlap sacks, were placed a bit further from the road (not on the edge of the bramble but some thirty feet in from the highway), and had been there much longer than the first four bodies. Some of the victims had lain undiscovered for nearly a decade (later police would discover more bodies that had lain undiscovered for nearly 15 years).
At first police believed more than one serial killer was operating in the area and that it was just a coincidence that they both used the same dumping location for their victims. After further thought, and to the chagrin of the District Attorney who was prosecuting the case, they changed their minds and decided that the same serial killer was responsible for the deaths of all eight victims found to date. They surmised that over the long period of time that the killer had been in operation, he had changed his modus operandi. He had evolved.
20-year-old Jessica Taylor is discovered – again
The body that the passing policeman spotted on March 29, 2011 was later identified as that of 20 year old Jessica Taylor, a working prostitute from Washington, D.C. Located off the roadway and slightly east of Gilgo Beach, only her skull, a pair of hands, and a forearm were found. Wondering where the remainder of her body might be, Police remembered a similar discovery that had occurred many years earlier on the same stretch of road but more than 40 miles away. DNA tests proved their assumption correct. Police found that the remainder of her dismembered body had been discovered much earlier, on July 26, 2003, on the same stretch of highway but 45 miles away in Manorville, New York.
Jane Doe No. 6
A subsequent search of the area on April 4, 2011 (five days later) revealed a second set of remains, a head, hands, and right foot scattered along Ocean Parkway. Examination of the right foot showed a tattoo that the killer had mutilated likely in an attempt to conceal the victim’s identity (demonstrating that earlier on in his murderous career, the killer had gone to greater lengths in an attempt to hide his victims). Not immediately identifiable, the victim was dubbed Jane Doe No. 6. The victim was about 5’2” and between 18 and 35 years old. As with Jessica Taylor, DNA analysis proved that the remainder of her body, a torso, had been discovered in 2003, also in Manorville, New York.
The body of a female toddler is discovered
Police were surprised to find that the body of the seventh victim was that of a young, female toddler. On April 4, 2011, just hours after the remains of Jane Doe No. 6 was discovered, searchers found the small body laying near the body of Jane Doe No. 6. They concluded that the toddler was between 18 and 24 months old. The small baby was found wrapped in a blanket and wearing hoop earrings and a rope style necklace. Reported to be “non-Caucasian”, police at first believed the toddler was likely the daughter of Jane Doe No. 6 (given the proximity of the bodies). Adding a further unusual twist to the already-bizarre saga, DNA analysis linked the toddler to another victim that would be found the following week – nearly 7 miles away.
Body of 8th victim found – another surprising twist
Later in the day on April 4, 2011, police found the body of a victim that differed significantly from previous victims. This time the victim was a male – dressed in women’s clothes. Police determined that the victim was of Asian descent, 20 to 30 years old, about 5’6” in height, and of slight build. They concluded that the victim died of blunt force trauma and had been dead from between 5 and 10 years. The body was discovered at Cedar Beach and was missing four teeth, two molars, and at least one of his top front teeth. Since the victim was found wearing women’s clothes, police deduced that the cross dresser was working as a prostitute.
Body of toddler’s mother discovered
One week later, on April 11, 2011, another unidentified victim was found by a cadaver dog near Jones Beach. Only a skull was found but was quickly linked (via DNA) to a pair of legs, wrapped in plastic, that had washed up on the Blue Point Beach section of Fire Island (in Davis Park, New York) on April 20, 1996, nearly 15 years earlier (Fire Island is on the same stretch of road as the other locations but about 45 minutes away). Police noted that the victim’s jewelry matched that of the toddler found a week earlier. DNA analysis proved what they had suspected – the victim was the mother of the toddler. Eleven days later police would find two teeth, about 12 inches from the location of the skull, that also belonged to this victim. That it took police nearly two weeks to find additional remains so near the skull is one reason many people question the competency of the law enforcement officials in this investigation.
Body of tenth victim found
Later in the day on April 11, 2011, police found remains of a tenth victim along the parkway to the west in Nassau County. Police have revealed very little information about this body. Adult female bones, head, hands, and right foot, were found east of Zach’s Bay. Wrapped in a plastic bag, they were found less than 40 feet from Ocean Parkway and on state-owned land. The remains would be linked to a female torso discovered in Manorville in 2000.
We have multiple killers – no wait, it’s just one
After the tenth victim was found, police informed the public that they believed multiple killers were responsible for the deaths of the 10 victims. By November 2011, the police had reversed this announcement and informed the public that they believed one person was responsible for all 10 deaths.
“Serial killers evolve,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said. “They don’t necessarily do the same thing all the time. What’s common here is the dumping ground, and the people who are victims: sex workers.”
How the Long Island Serial Killer’s method of operation changed over time
The timing and location of the bodies offered a theory that the killer carried the bodies away from the highway down Ocean Parkway, first depositing part of the remains in Manorville, New York, driving a bit further and depositing the baby into the brush, then driving seven miles further and disposing of the remainder of the toddler’s mother’s body near Gilgo Beach.
The discovery of the older remains showed police that the killer’s method of operation had evolved, possibly due to increasing confidence gained after the first victims laid undiscovered for so long. With the early murders, the killer had dismembered the bodies and spread the remains across multiple locations in an effort to keep the bodies hidden and unidentified for as long as possible. The killer had hidden part of the remains in Manorville, New York and part of the remains on Ocean Parkway nearer to Gilgo Beach. The remains at Manorville were typically found much sooner than the ones nearer Gilgo Beach. He also deposited the bodies further from the road and attempted to hide their discovery by wrapping them in plastic.
Recognizing that the bodies at Manorville were quickly discovered while the bodies at Gilgo Beach had yet to be found, the killer began leaving the bodies intact, depositing them in the same location along Ocean Parkway and closer to the road (and wrapping them in burlap instead of plastic). Possibly the killer was ready for national exposure and sought to make it easier for the police to find the bodies of the victims or maybe the killer became more comfortable that the bodies would not easily be discovered. If the later is true, the revelation of the new dumping ground proposes that the Long Island Serial Killer will continue killing but again change his modus operandi and find another secluded area to dispose of his victims’ bodies.
Finally, Shannan Gilbert’s body discovered
On December 7, 2011, Shannan Gilbert’s clothing and some of her personal belongings were found less than 400 yards from Coletti’s home. Police discovered a purse, cellphone, jeans, shoes, and lip gloss in a marshy vacant field between Ocean Parkway and the bay. The pocketbook was discovered by Suffolk Police Officer John Mallia, whom in an ironic twist, was the first to discover a Long Island Serial Killer’s victim’s body barely a year earlier.
Police began methodically searching the area and on December 13, 2011 at 9:14 AM, the remains of Shanna Gilbert were found in a marsh about a half mile from where she disappeared. Although the marsh was somewhat dry at the time, police believed the marsh would have contained 2 to 3 feet of water at the time of her death. Drainage canals running through the area often contain water even after surrounding areas ran dry. Her body was found only a few feet from the Ocean Parkway road that she was trying to reach.
Police believed that Gilbert collapsed in the marsh, exhausted, and drowned. Gilbert’s mother disagreed. She noted that Gilbert was terrified of the water and said that Gilbert would have immediately turned back if she felt water on her legs.
Police also discounted the Long Island Serial Killer as the culprit.
“We believe that it’s just a coincidence that she went missing in Oak Beach and the bodies were found on Gilgo Beach, which is right across Ocean Parkway and farther west. The M.O. is completely different, the scenario is completely different.”
Police noted that Gilbert’s body was found deep within the underbrush and they felt the killer could not have worked his way that far into the brush to leave her body.
An odd fact was uncovered though. At the home of Joseph Brewer, where Gilbert ran frantically screaming “they are trying to kill me”, another man was inside. A 48-year old male, who was known to have utilized the services of prostitutes, was staying with Joseph Brewer at the time. Police would not say whether or not they had questioned the man or if he was a suspect. The man has since moved and is believed to be living in Georgia.
Profile of the killer
Police believe the killer could have knowledge of law enforcement, a common belief whenever a serial killer proves particularly adept at his trade. They also feel that he carefully plans his attacks, a more plausible evaluation given the Long Island Serial Killer’s ability to evade police for over a decade.
“He premeditated his acts,” Cohen said. “He knew what he was doing and my personal belief is that Melissa was not his first victim. He started to get good at this, and he’s getting better at it.”
Police theorize that the killer is a white male who is familiar with the South Shore of Long Island (likely a long-time resident of the area). And given the costs he was willing to pay for the escort services, they believe there is a high likelihood that the Long Island Serial Killer is an upper class citizen in a high income bracket.
A seasonal serial killer?
Some experts believe the Long Island Serial Killer is a “seasonal visitor” to the area. Dr. Scott Bonn, a serial killer expert and professor of sociology at Drew University told reporters:
“There is an obvious seasonal aspect of this that warrants consideration. This is a vacation area. [The killer] may be a seasonal visitor. He could also be a Manhattan resident who has a summer home.”
Bonn noted that if the Long Island Serial Killer is indeed a seasonal visitor to the area, there are likely many other victims located in other parts of the country.
Controversy and ineptitude within the ranks
Several families of the victims are upset with the way police have handled the investigation. Delays in search campaigns and refusal to explore alternative theories are the two primary complaints. In addition, there has been public disagreement between law enforcement personnel and the District Attorney’s office.
In December 2011, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota disagreed with Police Commissioner Richard Dormer’s theory that a single killer is responsible. Spota told reporters:
“I would never even discuss this publicly, except I think that the facts that have been disclosed so far do not bear out the single killer theory at all.”
Spota was particularly upset when Police Commissioner Richard Dormer changed the Police Department’s original theory that multiple killers were involve and even more upset that he was not told the new theory before it was announced to the public. Spota was introduced to the revised theory during a public press conference.
“I have to tell you that in our office, the DA’s office and the homicide squad work hand in hand. The moment that any police are called to a crime scene and they determine it to be a homicide, the prosecutor is called out immediately. They’re right there. And that’s the way we’ve always worked.”
The disagreement is easy to understand given the evolution in the Long Island Serial Killer’s method of operation during his decade plus rampage. Early victims had been dismembered and body parts spread over multiple geographic areas while later victims where dumped, bodies intact, in the Gilgo Beach area. Police Chief Dormer felt that serial killers can evolve over time and their modus operandi often evolve too. But the open and obvious discord between the investigative departments has surely hindered progress with the case.
List of Long Island Serial Killer victims
- Jessica Taylor, 20, of Manhattan, was reported missing in July 2003. That same month, her partial remains (torso) were discovered laying on a plastic sheet near the northwest corner of LIE and Halsey Manor Road. Her skull, hands, and forearm were found in March 2011 along Ocean Parkway.
- Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwhich, Conn., was reported missing in July 2007. Her remains were found in December 2010.
- Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of the Bronx, was reported missing in July 2009. Her remains were found in December 2010.
- Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Maine, was reported missing in June 2010. Her remains were found in December 2010.
- Amber Costello, 27, of North Babylon, was reported missing in September 2010. Her remains were found in December 2010.
- Jane Doe 1, partial remains found in November 2000 wrapped in plastic bags by hikers in Manorville, New York, about a half-mile west of Halsey Manor Road and north of the Long Island Expressway. Her head (X-Rays revealed her nasal bones had been fractured and healed), hands, and legs were found in 2011 on Ocean Parkway.
- Jane Doe 2, a toddler found in April 2011 in the brush of Ocean Parkway. Believed to be the child of Jane Doe 3.
- Jane Doe 3, mother of toddler, remains found in April 2011.
- Jane Doe 4, partial remains found in 1996 by walkers on Fire Island. Her skull was discovered in April 2011 west of Tobay Beach. Her torso and hands remain missing. Victim had a 3 1/2″ scar on the lower section of her right leg and a 2″ surgical scar on her left ankle with red toenail polish on all toes.
- John Doe 1, remains of an adult male, wearing women’s clothing, found in April 2011. He had been dead for at least five years, possibly ten years.
- Shannan Gilbert? Some believe Shannan’s death was due to accidental drowning. Her family believes she was a victim of the Long Island Serial Killer.
Suspect questioned in December 2012
The following was reported in December, 2012.
“A possible suspect in the still-unsolved Gilgo Beach murders has been arrested in Mount Vernon, by NYPD officers, acting along with the New York State and Yonkers police.
Lucius Crawford, who has a history of violent crimes against women, was arrested on Tuesday at a Mount Vernon home. He is suspected of two 19-year-old homicides in New York.
When police entered the home, they found a woman, who had been stabbed to death. Crawford’s parole tracking ankle bracelet has also been removed, and was found at the scene. Crawford had previously served time in prison, from 1995 to 2008.
Because of the suspect’s past history of violent crimes against women, Suffolk County detectives are now probing any possible links he may have to the Gilgo Beach murders, which first grabbed attention around Long Island in 2010.”
Time Out Dolls on victim’s grave markers?
It was reported on the Dark Minds television show, that someone has placed Time Out Dolls on the highway grave markers of four of the victims. This could be a kind soul placing “crying” dolls alongside the markers or as some suspect, the killer himself taunting the police.
A “time out doll” (also known as time out dolls, timeout doll, pouty pouting dolls, tantrum tots, shy dolls, hide n seek dolls, peek-a-boo dolls and corner kids) is a large, realistic child doll that is posed with its hands over its face, intended to be stood in a corner or up against a piece of furniture so it appears that the doll is a child who is being punished. They are typically custom-made, often in the UK, and a popular prop at car shows.
The taunting phone calls made to Melissa Barthelmy’s sister may reveal clues
Potential clues may be derived from the taunting phone calls made to Melissa Barthelmy’s sister shortly after she disappeared in 2009. The calls were reportedly traced to Manhattan – around Madison Square Garden and Times Square. Police have released little detail of their investigation into the murders but noted that too many phone calls were coming from the area to allow them an accurate trace to a single person. This is an interesting proclamation as it implies the killer walked amongst the public talking openly about his devious activities – sexual torture and murder. This is highly unlikely. It is more likely the killer was inside one of the buildings or a passing automobile or had found a private area amongst the crowds from which to place his calls – if the calls came from Manhattan as reported.
The mysterious phone calls also call into question another interesting fact – some of the victims plied their trade (prostitution) in and around the Manhattan area leading many to believe they met the killer, and their untimely end, in the populous Manhattan area.
Finally, given the high number of prostitutes, and pimps, that frequent the area, some have theorized that the killer could be a pimp. Competing groups of prostitutes is common in New York City and although the prostitutes themselves often tolerate competitors, their pimps do not.
The Craigslist connection
Each of the women worked through Craigslist which may be an important connection. Detective O’Toole explained:
“The killer contacts them and then he is in computer contact with them. He is manipulating them in three different ways — that is a lot of work. He is a manipulator. It is risky. One of these young women could become suspicious. That says a lot about him: This is part of his hunting behavior. That manipulation and the hunting process and his ability to control his women in his hunting process.”
Update: 2/12/2016 Shannan Gilbert autopsy reveals she may have died of strangulation
Police long suspected Shannan Gilbert drowned and was not a victim of the Long Island Serial Killer. Her family however, has long insisted that she was terrified of water and would not have gone anywhere near it. They believed she was murdered by the Long Island Serial Killer. Their family attorney announced today:
“Shannan was strangled to death, just like the other four found along Ocean Parkway in Oak Beach, who were clearly strangled as well.”
The new autopsy was conducted in 2015 by Dr. Michael Baden, the former New York City chief medical examiner. Family members showed reporters a letter in which Baden discusses his findings, saying, “There is no evidence she died of a natural disease, of a drug overdose or of drowning.” He goes on to say that “there is insufficient information to determine a definite cause of death, but the autopsy findings are consistent with homicidal strangulation.”
The original autopsy was done by the Suffolk County medical examiner shortly after Gilbert’s remains were found. It found no evidence of drugs and found the cause and manner of death were “undetermined.” In a statement, Suffolk Police Commissioner Tim Sini said Dr. Baden’s letter provided no additional information and concludes that there is still insufficient information to determine a definite cause of death
Update: 7/26/16 Mother of Shannan Gilbert murdered
In an unusual twist, the mother of Shannan Gilbert, 52-year-old Mari Gilbert, has been discovered dead in her upstate Ellenville, New York apartment. The suspected killer is her youngest daughter, 27-year-old Sarra Elizabeth Gilbert. Sarra was arraigned on charges of second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon. She is being held without bail in Ulster County Jail.
51-year-old John Bittrolff, a carpenter from the Long Island area, has been sentenced to at least 50 years in prison for the bludgeoning deaths of two women, 31-year-old Rita Tangredi and 20-year-old Colleen McNamee. Both women were murdered sometime between 2007 and late 2010 and were believed to be drug addicts and prostitutes. DNA evidence tied Bittrolff to the murders. Investigators say some aspects of the evidence found at Gilgo Beach were similar to what has been attributed to Bittrolff’s crimes. Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said the remains of some victims found along Gilgo Beach “may be attributed to the handiwork of Mr. Bittrolff.”
In an effort to stimulate interest in the case, Suffolk County police released evidence collected nine years ago – a leather belt embossed with the initials “HM” or “WH”. Suffolk County police say the belt did not belong to any of the victims and they have reason to believe the belt was “handled” by an unknown suspect.