Archive for November 23rd, 2011

Long Island Serial Killer Article in British GQ

This article kind of brings all the information together as well as showing the reaction in the area. It is kind of long but really interesting.

America’s eyes are trained on a quiet coastal corner of the country where a murderer has claimed ten victims and remains at large, despite the efforts of investigators. Now, as Alex Hannaford reports for GQ, a growing band of self-styled ‘superheroes’, including ‘Samaritan Prime’, is joining in the hunt and attracting as much attention as its quarry. 

There are some pretty interesting photos that go with the article including the one of Samaritan Pride.

Gilbert was a 23-year-old prostitute from upstate New York. She had moved to New Jersey a few years earlier to try to make it as a singer, but had drifted into escort work to make ends meet. Since she’d begun posting ads on Craigslist, Gilbert had started to make good money, but occasionally, perhaps unsurpris­ingly, there was a price to pay. Once, she was beaten up by a boyfriend and a surgeon had to insert a titanium plate in her jaw. Her taste for recreational drugs, too, meant she wasn’t left with much at the end of the day, but despite this, she had started taking a college course and moved into her own place for the first time.

On the night of 1 May 2010, a client called Joseph Brewer contacted her via Craigslist, and her driver – a man called Michael Pak, whom Gilbert had worked with before – drove her to Brewer’s gated community by Oak Beach.

Pak waited outside in his car while Gilbert, wearing a blonde wig, leather jacket and jeans, went inside. At around five o’clock in the morning, Brewer came out asking Pak for help. Pak found Gilbert distressed, speaking to police on her phone. She was saying she feared for her life, and in those twilight hours she kept the 911 dispatcher on the line for 23 minutes. But she didn’t say why, didn’t give an address and refused to leave with Pak, her trusted driver. Instead, Gilbert ran out of the house, screaming for help, banging on the door of one of Brewer’s neighbours, 75-year-old Gustav Coletti, who offered to call the police. Gilbert, sobbing, begged him not to and instead disappeared into the night. The only trace, a set of footprints in the sand.

By the time Pak pulled up outside Coletti’s house, Gilbert was gone. Suffolk County police, tasked to the case, searched Brewer’s house and questioned both him and Pak but publicly said neither was a suspect. Coletti was cleared as well. Sometime in early summer, police stopped searching for clues among the brush scrub and marshes along Ocean Parkway. As summer 2010 turned to autumn, you could feel a chill in the breeze on Long Island. But as the fallen leaves blew along this remote stretch of road, with them, it seemed, went any leads.

On 11 December last year, just a few miles up the road from where Gilbert disappeared, a Suffolk County police officer, out training his cadaver dog on the grassy bank that lines the road, noticed his animal had picked up a scent on the wind. He walked over to the brush scrub and thorns, and peered in. A few feet in, he saw human remains.

Detectives closed off Ocean Parkway in both directions and combed the area for more clues. A few days later, the grisly body count had risen to four as they came across the badly decomposed bodies of two more young women and the skeletal remains of another, each wrapped carefully in coarse, brown burlap sacks – jute bags usually used for grain or, around here, more likely as sandbags. Each body lay spaced about 500 yards apart, and it was clear that the number of victims and the way in which they’d been arranged along this desolate, windswept stretch of road, bore all the hallmarks of a serial killer.


It wasn’t long before the four women were identified as prostitutes: Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of the Bronx; Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Connecticut; Megan Waterman, 22, of Maine; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27, of North Babylon, New York, a town just across Oyster Bay. And all had offered their services on Craigslist, just like Gilbert.

Then came more chilling news: the teenage sister of victim Melissa Barthelemy told police she may have been contacted by the killer back in August 2009. Shortly after her sister went missing, a man phoned Amanda Barthelemy several times from her older sister’s mobile phone. In the final call he said: “Do you think you’ll ever see her again? You won’t. I killed her,” before hanging up.

After the snows had thawed in spring, Nassau police got involved in the search. Behind the “no parking” and “emergency stop­ping only” signs that line Ocean Beach Parkway, the impenetrable brush and dense under­growth make access to the beach via anything other than designated paths or deer trails impossible. It wasn’t long before the thorns and poison ivy had taken their toll. “My guys got shredded, torn apart,” Smith explains.

There was only a small window of time before the dunes once again became strangled with spring vegetation. On 29 March, however, police in Nassau County found another body, half a mile east of where the first four were uncovered. A few days later, searchers hovering over tick-infested foliage on ladders attached to fire trucks, discovered three more sets of human remains, bringing the total to eight. But there was still no trace of Shannan Gilbert.

Nassau County detectives, with park police, officers from New York state and cadaver dogs, worked their way west from the Suffolk-Nassau line. Some time around noon they came across a black bag 30 feet from the roadway; inside were what appeared to be human bones. Three hours later, a few yards from the entrance to the John F Kennedy Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary, detectives found a human skull – later identi­fied as belonging to another former prostitute, Jessica Taylor – in the undergrowth.

The days following these finds saw high activ­ity in the area: roads were closed, cordons set up, helicopters swooped overhead looking for potential “dump sites”. One hundred and fifty officers combed the roadside along the barrier island, but they found nothing further – just some debris, a makeshift shelter that Smith says could have been there for years and a lot of animal bones.

There were now ten bodies – the four bodies initially found last December and six more – although Suffolk County police made it clear they were sure they weren’t all victims of the same killer. It was obvious the first four were connected, but then there was Taylor’s skull, a bag of bones, and the body of a small child and an Asian man in his twenties.

Like the Suffolk detectives, Smith didn’t link the bodies to the same killer. Until the forensic evidence came back, he wouldn’t even say they were all murder victims. “People do strange things,” he tells me. “Some people go off into the woods to die. Sometimes family members are embarrassed by a suicide and they may move the body. Who knows – it could have been a medical student with a cadaver throwing it in there.”

But it was the four initial bodies, those of the missing prostitutes, that really shook the local populace, and nothing was going to allay the fears of the people who lived on the island: a place that had now, whether they liked to admit it or not, become an open-air charnel house. Fear turned to panic turned to anger, and there was a growing sense that something, by someone, had to be done to stop any more girls like Shannan Gilbert going missing.

The author now writes about what has happened in the community.

In summer the population of this sleepy beach community multiplies overnight, and this year the message from the au­thorities was clear: this summer, like every other, the beaches were open. It echoed the scene from Jaws in which Mayor Vaughn, fearing reports of a shark attack will ruin the summer tourist season, overrules a plan to close the beaches.

But it didn’t change the fact that there was, if not real fear, then a paranoia among the locals who had been told of the likelihood that a serial killer was among them. Such warranted fear is as ripe as it was back in December – and building. Frustrated by the lack of progress made by the local police, un­covering the killer’s identity has for some people become an obsession; while for others, turning vigilante and helping the murderer meet his demise is a dark compulsion.


It is an interesting article and there is much more to read.

The hunt for Long Island’s serial killer

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