When we last left off, the disappearance of Shannan Gilbert led police to discover the remains of ten people along a remote stretch of beach in Nassau and Suffolk Counties in Long Island, New York. Beginning with the Gilgo Four, who were found in 2010, we see a dark and disturbing picture of sex workers who believed they were being hired for their services, and were ultimately murdered.
Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, was a petite woman and a struggling mother trying to pay off the mortgage on her house. After leaving the sex industry for seven months, she ultimately had to return after receiving an eviction notice. She was last seen on July 9, 2007.
Melissa Barthelemy, 24, was an escort living in the Bronx. On the night she went missing, she met with a client, deposited $900 into her bank account, and attempted to make a call to an ex-boyfriend that did not get through. Beginning a week after her disappearance, Barthelemy’s sister Amanda began to receive disturbing calls from someone claiming to know Melissa’s whereabouts. These calls culminated in a final message: Barthelemy was dead, and the caller was “going to watch her rot.” Barthelemy was last seen July 10, 2009.
Megan Waterman, 22, went missing after posting ads on Craigslist as an escort. She had told her 20-year-old boyfriend the day before that she was going out, and that she would call him later. She was last seen on June 6, 2010.
Amber Lynn Costello, 27, was an escort who had received several calls from a stranger offering $1,500 for her services on the night that she disappeared. Costello’s sister, Kimberly Overstreet, has reportedly vowed to use Craigslist as bait for the killer so that she may catch him herself. Costello was last seen on Sept. 2, 2010.
The discovery of these women led police to discover six other sets of remains found along that beach and the surrounding area. Only one of those six has been identified: Jessica Taylor, 20. She had worked in Washington D.C. and Manhattan as a prostitute. She was found naked and dismembered, missing her head and her hands, 45 miles east of Gilgo Beach in Manorville in 2003. Plastic sheeting was found underneath her remains and her tattoo had been mutilated with a sharp instrument. Another set of yet-to-be identified remains were found near her as well. On March 29, 2011, Taylor’s skull, hands, and upper arms were found near the rest of the Gilgo Beach Victims.
Besides Taylor, none of the other remains found in 2011 and attributed to the Long Island Serial Killer have been positively identified. Jane Doe No. 6, found on April 4, was the set of remains found near Taylor. What remained of her was a head, a right foot, and hands. Her torso was found separately near a power station. The similarity in disposal methods and dismemberment between Jane Doe No. 6 and Taylor suggested a link to investigators.
John Doe, also found on April 4, was a young Asian male who had died of blunt force trauma 5–10 years beforehand. He was 17–23, and was missing four teeth.
A human skull and a set of teeth have been designated as Jane Doe No. 7, and were also discovered on April 4. A DNA test has revealed that these remains are most likely tied to a pair of severed legs found on Fire Island in 1996.
A set of remains, identified by investigators as “Peaches” due to a distinctive tattoo of a peach, was first discovered on July 28, 1997. Her torso was found discarded in a green Rubbermaid container at Hempstead Lake State Park. On April 11, 2011, police discovered dismembered, skeletal, human remains in a plastic bag near Jones Beach State Park. Originally identified as Jane Doe No. 3, the remains were determined to have the same DNA as “Peaches,” and they were identified as the same person. Earlier that month on April 4, a set of child remains was discovered near Jane Doe No. 6, and nicknamed “Baby Doe.” “Peaches” and “Baby Doe” were determined to be related, most likely mother and child.
This killer left behind a long and vicious trail of bodies along the Gilgo Beach waterline. Police were worried that they had more bodies to find. Big, bustling cities like New York and its outer areas could lose people easily, especially since sex workers were and still are less likely to be reported missing. They still had Shannan Gilbert to find. Without her, there may have never been a case in the first place.
They found her 19 months after she first disappeared. Half a mile from where she had been last seen and maybe a brisk walk away from “Peaches” and “Baby Doe,” Gilbert’s body was found in a marsh in Oak Beach. However, her death was ruled as an accidental drowning, probably due to a drug-induced panic. Mari Gilbert, Shannan’s mother, contested that ruling and staunchly believed that Shannan’s death was through some sort of violence. Renowned forensic pathologist Michael Baden did an independent autopsy of Gilbert and ruled she had been victim to some violence before her death, but did not reach any strong conclusion as to the cause of said death. Mari Gilbert died in July 2016 after being stabbed by Shannan’s sister, Sarra Gilbert.
Whatever the cause of Gilbert’s death, the Long Island serial killer ultimately ripped her family, and other families, into emotional shreds. If you do your own research into this horrific killer, you can find a list of further possible victims, including Shannan Gilbert, who have not been conclusively tied to the killer. There is a list of possible suspects, including John Bittrolf. Bittrolf was a Manorville resident tied to the murders of two other prostitutes, and who is currently in prison for those murders. He has been announced as a possible suspect in the serial murders and has been possibly tied to one of the ten victims.
However, I do not know if anything will come of this suspicion. After a quick internet search, the last mention I see of Bittrolf in the news is in an article from April of this year, contemplating whether the DNA testing used in the Golden State Killer case could apply to the Long Island Serial Killer. If you believe that this case deserves more interest, then we have something in common. Try your own research. See what facts you can dig up. If we know more about the monsters, maybe we can catch them before they hurt anyone else.