Searchers race against nature for clues to Long Island killings
Police are conducting an extensive search of the area near Gilgo Beach and Ocean Parkway on Long Island after finding human remains this month.
April 16th, 2011
05:55 PM ET

Searchers race against nature for clues to Long Island killings

On this cold, wind-whipped, rainy spring day, I can tell you one thing about this place: The barrier islands, facing the Atlantic on one side and Great South Bay to the north, are inhospitable and uninviting. But it's the best time of year for investigators searching for more victims.

That's because the twisted, prickly, thorny brush - beautiful in its own way - is beginning to bud. And that's bad if you're trying to find clues in a possible killing spree. Once everything blooms, police say it will be next to impossible to get in the scrub and hack away to find anything.

Even search dogs trained to handle difficult situations are balking.

A few feet into the brush from a beachside road, things can be easily lost or hidden. You could see how anyone, even an alleged killer, might choose to use the area as a dumping ground.

Police have identified the remains of Melissa Barthelemy, 24, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, Amber Lynn Costello, 27, and Megan Waterman, 22 near Oak Beach, New York, in recent weeks. Their efforts are part of a probe into suspected serial killings that have turned up at least eight bodies - four of them identified as prostitutes - since December 2010. The grisly finds occurred as police searched for Shannan Gilbert, 24, who was last seen alive in May in the Gilgo Beach area.

Detectives and divers are taking a short break this weekend but will resume their work next week. They’ll be back in the water looking for clues. The FBI expects to put a helicopter back in the air for more high-tech aerial imagery.

Around here, residents are watching and waiting to see what happens next. Rumors are rampant about who might be involved, with some speculating that a member of the community might be invoved. Some people are frightened; others aren't.

Among those taking extra precautions are prostitutes.

Four of the eight victims identified so far were women who advertised their services on Craigslist. I talked with some women who continue to work this area of Long Island. Some are now carrying weapons. Mainly, they're trying to to take a friend along to make sure when they meet with a client, they leave the client.

One shrugged off any risk. "Hey, we know what we're doing when we take this job."

Watch: Inside the mind of a serial killer

Why is the case grabbing so much attention as far away as Germany? Maybe it's because of the taint. Human remains are being recovered from a long stretch of beach brush in a place where people like to live and vacation.

"It’s just a beautiful place," one detective told me. "This area seems damaged right now because of the bodies that have turned up."

Who are the other victims who have yet to be identified? Are they connected to the first four?

This week, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer cautioned against expecting any quick answers.

"Please keep in mind this isn’t an episode of CSI."

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Filed under: Crime • New York • TV-CNN Newsroom
soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. chrissy

    hello phillip and banasy my dearly missed friends. hope ur both well. one thing i have to wonder about this case is with the technology big brother has with satelites being able to zoom in and see where u are at any given time why cant they do so on this?

    April 17, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. chrissy

    seriously if they have a time line on the deaths they should be able to view the commings and goings in the area and be able to zero in on suspects much faster and know exactly where to find the evidence needed 4 conviction. just sayin...

    April 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Asia

    It Would B Nice 2 Find Out Why This Situation Intrigues Germany So Much, Since We Ourselves Won't Know Anything Until Recovery & Lab Work Is Done: Is It A Slow Week In The Crime World There? Are They Holding A Confessing Bad Boy Who Needs Extradition? Are There Missing Person Reports Of Women Who Mistakenly Signed Work Contracts 4 Van Dersoot International? R There Similar Crimes There? Do Their Archeological Museums Think We've Got New World Bog Bodies? What's The Deal? Would B Nice 2 Know.

    April 17, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy

    @chrissy: I miss you too! Hope everything is going okay for you and your family. Nice to see you!

    April 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
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