On January 25, 2011, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer confirmed that the dead bodies police found in Long Island were all women who worked as escorts, advertised on Craigslist — and were probably murdered by a serial killer.
The bodies of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Connecticut; Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of Erie County, New York; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27, of North Babylon, New York, were discovered on an isolated strip of waterfront property in Gilgo beach in December 2010.
A few days later, police found the skeletal remains of Megan Waterman, 22, of Maine. All four women had been missing for months or years.
Police made the grisly discovery by accident while searching for 24-year-old escort Shannan Gilbert, who was last seen fleeing the home of a client she met on Craigslist in Oak Beach on May 21, 2010. Gilbert’s body was found on December 13, 2011, in the same area.
So far, more than 10 bodies have been found in the area, including those of a toddler and an Asian male. Many experts believe that all were the victims of the Long Island Serial Killer, or killers — but the murderer’s identity remains a mystery.
At the time Dormer said that the four bodies were found in an area of a quarter mile, “which indicates they were dumped there by the same person or persons,” Dormer said. “It’s too coincidental that there were four bodies in the same location.”
Some experts believe that there may also be a link between the Gilgo Beach murders and four bodies found in Atlantic City in 2006.
Recently investigators matched DNA from partial skeletal remains found on Ocean Parkway in 2011 to “Peaches,” an unidentified woman whose torso was discovered in Rockville Centre in 1997 and given the nickname because of her fruit tattoo. Authorities confirmed that this means that “Peaches” was the mother of the child recovered in the Gilgo Beach murder probe.
The case took another extraordinary turn when James Burke, the ex-Suffolk County Police Chief, was sentenced to 46 months in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges stemming from accusations that he beat a suspect in custody, threatened to kill him, and then coerced his fellow officers into covering up the misconduct.
Then last month, a sex worker known only as “Lee Ann” went public with her claims that Burke, who also allegedly obstructed the FBI from investigating the unsolved Gilgo Beach murders, attended “sex parties” in the area near the crime scenes.
She claimed that she had “rough sex” with Burke and saw him “grab a girl by her hair and drag her to the ground.”
John Ray, lawyer for the family of murder victim Shannan Gilbert, said that the parties were held in Oak Beach and involved drugs and prostitution. He said he hopes to question Burke under oath.
Suffolk County detectives continue to hold out hope that the biggest case in the department’s history will one day be solved.
Main photos: Victims Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy,and Amber Lynn Costello [Who Is The Long Island Serial Killer/Facebook]