Those who have followed my cold case investigations know how I operate on the Surété level first — reenact the circumstances– before employing the Scotland Yard method — brood on every detail. To do both well, one must revisit the crime scene.
I am not in a position to visit Long Island in order to do some ambiance ambulating, but I can give a few insights here on the current case of The Long Island Serial Killer. It’s not a great handle. We all know that. It seems a lot of killers like to use Long Island to dump their victims, so that “Long Island Serial Killer” might be just too inclusive. In general it has come to imply “The Gilgo Beach Killer.” But bodies are found all over Long Island. Manorville, on the edge of the Pine Barrens, is a favorite spot for dumping. For an asphalt jungle like the suburbs of New York, this is the closest isolated woods around. Just in the last couple of weeks, two men from Amityville seem to be responsible for dumping a body there and then lighting it on fire.
Another favorite spot for dumping bodies, or parts thereof, appears to be along Jones Beach Island. Four of these were discovered at Gilgo Beach area right off the Oak Island Expressway. This discovery was in 2010 after a call girl, Shannon Gilbert, vanished nearby after initiating a 20 minute long 9.1.1. call to police, saying in part: “They are going to kill me.” The searchers for this missing call girl then uncovered something they weren’t expecting. A deteriorated skeleton in a disintegrated burlap bag was in the thickets off the expressway, on the north (inlet) side (not on the beach side) of Gilgo Beach.
Expanding the search uncovered 3 more nearby, all in burlap bags. Searching out the identity of the remains uncovered all had been online prostitutes. Interestingly, a male, described as of Asian origin, was also found along Gilgo’s Oak Island Expressway some distance from the others. He was found to be wearing women’s clothes. He had been hit on the head and thrown into the thickets as well. That made 5 bodies.
Over time, it got worse. In 2011 more body parts were found from other unidentified victims. They were not grouped with these, but were found near the long expressway at other locations or on the beach area. These parts consisted of heads and hands (or entire forearm). The first remains were identified as one Jessica Taylor. In 2003 her torso had been discovered dumped in Manorville, quite far from Gilgo Beach, off the Halsey-Manor Road. The other, simply known as Jane Doe No. 6, was also a collection of head and hands and a foot. Her torso had also been found in Manorville off Mill Road in 2000.
The body of the initial missing call girl, Shannon Gilbert, was not found until December 2011. She was found in a marshy area in suspicious circumstances, though not like the others, and not far from where she had called in a panic.
There are others, but they seem at odds with the Gilgo bodies. Their cases can be saved for another post.
On the face of it, none of the victims reveal a killer with a very distinctive MO. From what I know, it doesn’t even sound like one killer at work. Gilgo Beach is a fairly isolated track of road, with beach and dunes on one side and the thickets and moor on the other. It is rather ideal location, from a macabre point of view, to dump bodies unobserved. For example, the remains of a “toddler” were also found close to Jane Doe No. 6, but now it is certain through DNA that it doesn’t belong to her but to the body of a woman found quite far away in Nassau County.
Moreover, in the case of Melissa Barthelemy, her killer used her cell phone and dialed her younger sister several times, telling her that her sister was a “whore.” The calls were traced to downtown Manhattan, but in each case the “talker” only stayed on the line less than 3 minutes. However, the police feel that the phone was turned on in Massapequa, Long Island, for a short time, possibly accidently. This would seem to fit with the Gilgo Beach area drop sites. No killer would want to transport a dead body in a burlap sack very far. Massapequa is right across the inlet from the Gilgo area, and the drive to the location along the expressway is the unpopulated direction to the drop sites.
Barthelemy’s killer, and hence the killer of the other 3 girls found in burlap (and possibly the Asian male), didn’t seek to hide the identities of his victims or even that murder had occurred. The victims in the burlap sacks were call girls. They have been identified. They were solicited off the internet. I find it hard to believe that a call girl would be solicited off the net and arrive with her “toddler.”
In contrast with the other victims, this would suggest to me more than one killer is involved. Moreover, cutting the head and hands off a victim are the classic method of trying to prevent identity. Those victims dumped on the roadside in the burlap bags were whole.
Cutting a person up is nasty. Let’s face it. What are the logistics of someone being able to do that? Obvioulsy, some have no qualms– but then to graduate to a cleaner method that doesn’t seek to hide the victim’s identity? It seems reverse order.
This tells me the killer of the “Gilgo Girls” felt rather safe in how he solicited online. Obviously he used an alias that cannot be traced to him or his residence. The Asian male victim may be the greatest clue. Did the killer not know he was a man in drag? Yet when he discovered this, why kill him? There is nothing compromising in being shocked by lifting a skirt, so to speak, and discovering the stem on the apple. Throw him out! But no, his killer hits him on the head. The women were strangled. Our man seems to have a process to getting his jollies, and the Asian male did not provide that. Still, why kill him?
I would have to say that the killer revealed something quite dark about his intents before the undressing even began. The male could not be allowed to survive.
This is dependent, of course, on accepting that all the information that is out there (which isn’t much) is accurate.
I would suggest that the bodies were dropped at Gilgo because it is simply a logical choice, from the diabolical mind of a person who doesn’t wish to be observed. It is a mind that also doesn’t know of the Pine Barrens at Manorville, where so many different killers have dropped their various victims. I would prefer to think that the killer might have known the other body parts were there at Gilgo and thus he believed this created a perfect cover. His victims could be confused, as they have been, as the vcitms of another killer who long before dumped remains here. This would indicate the killer has some reason to be doing work off the expressway. This may suggest why the killer seems to know this area is along the county line (between Nassau and Suffolk).
Unless the police have some tangible clue that links all the victims together, I would say more than one killer is involved. Prostitutes are the No. 1 victims of predators, so that all of these being prostitutes really doesn’t provide a link. Links exist in logistics. There is no point in trying to hide the identity of a couple of victims, going to the extreme of hacking them up, and then not caring about 4 others. The killer who dumped the body parts by a “toddler” seems to be a different killer.