|“||I'm watching your sister's body rot.||”|
— The Gilgo Beach Killer
Brief Case History
The police investigation into the Gilgo Beach Killer was originally centered on the search for Shannan Gilbert, an escort from New Jersey, who was reported missing in May 2010. She was last seen in the area after she fled from, rather than to, her driver, identified as Michael Pak. Before going missing, Gilbert managed to make a 911 phone call, panicking and saying that "they were going to kill her". In December, a police officer was exercising with his dog when he accidentally found the skeletal remains of a woman in a nearly disintegrated burlap sack. Following this discovery, three more bodies were found two days later, in the same area on the north side of the Ocean Parkway. The discovery of the bodies led police to believe that a serial killer was responsible. The investigation was expanded to Nassau County, where they eventually found more remains.
On June 16, Suffolk County police raised the reward from $5,000 to $25,000 for information about the killer or the victims, the largest ever offered in the county's history. On November 29, police announced that they believe one killer is responsible for all of the murders and that the person is almost certainly a resident of Long Island. On December 13, the remains of Shannan Gilbert were found in a marsh about half a mile from where she disappeared; some of her clothes were also found a week later. The Gilgo Beach Killer also called Melissa Barthelemy's family, one of his victims, via her cell phone. He taunted her sister Amanda by calling Melissa a whore and said information that only her family knew. The killer kept stalking Amanda and her family, resulting in the calls continuing for months until they abruptly stopped after a TV station revealed their existence. As of today, the identity of the killer is uncertain.
Most of the Gilgo Beach Killer's victims were Caucasian women associated with the sex trade and were strangled to death. Two exceptions were possibly incidental: a young Asian male who was wearing female clothing and is believed to also have been a prostitute, who was killed by blunt-force trauma; and an infant girl aged between 16 and 24 months, who was identified as the daughter of one of the female victims through DNA, and died through undetermined means. The infant girl and her mother were the only female victims who were biracial. The adult bodies were dismembered in order to easily place them inside burlap sacks. The killer then dumped the remains along the Ocean Parkway, near the remote Long Island towns of Gilgo Beach and Oak Beach. On one occasion, he stalked a victim's family for months by harassing them via phone calls.
It has been suggested that the Gilgo Beach Killer is most likely a Caucasian male in his mid-20s to mid-40s who is very familiar with the South Shore of Long Island and who has access to burlap sacks, which he uses to contain the victims' bodies in. He may have a detailed knowledge of law enforcement techniques and perhaps even ties to the law enforcement community, which have thus far helped him avoid detection. The killer's use of modern technology to commit the murders means that he must have some knowledge of how computer systems and cell phones work so he cannot be traced to something as simple as an IP address when searching for victims on Craigslist or when he made the phone calls to a victim's family.
- December 2010 (found):
- Melissa Barthelemy, 24
- Amber Lynn Costello, 27
- Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25
- Megan Waterman, 22
- March-April 2011 (found):
- Jessica Taylor, 20 (her head and hands were found on the beach; her torso was found in Manorville)
- Jane Doe #6 (her head, hands, and right foot were found on the beach; her torso was found in Manorville)
- John Doe, 17-23 (was wearing female clothing)
- Baby Doe, 16-24 months
- Jane Doe #3 (a.k.a. "Peaches"; her torso was found on June 28, 1997; Baby Doe's mother)
- Jane Doe #7 (her skull was found in Tobay Beach; her legs were found on Fire Island on April 20, 1996)
Note: The dates denote when the bodies or body parts were found
- February 1982: Tina Foglia, 19 (dismembered and abandoned in a Long Island parkway inside three different bags)
- March 3, 2007: "Cherries" (pseudonym; dismembered; only her torso was found)
- June 2008: Tanya Rush, 39 (dismembered)
- January 23: Unnamed woman, 29 (killed by unknown causes)
- June 24: Natasha Jugo, 31 (killed by unknown causes)
- Unspecified date: Unnamed woman (dismembered)
Several identified killers have been suspected at one point of being the Gilgo Beach Killer or having a connection to him:
- Joel Rifkin (b. January 20, 1959), a serial killer who is believed to have murdered at least 17 prostitutes in New York and Long Island. He denied any involvement with the case.
- Neal Falls (September 24, 1969 - July 18, 2015), a suspected serial killer who is believed to have murdered at least ten prostitutes in multiple states, most of whom were advertising themselves online. Falls was shot and killed by an escort when he attempted to strangle her.
- John Bittrolff (b. July 1, 1966), a Suffolk County local who was found guilty in 2017 of murdering two prostitutes in 1993 and 1994 and is suspected of murdering a third. On September 12, 2017, it was announced that Bittrolf was also a suspect in one of the Gilgo Beach murders. Bittrolff lived in Manorville at the time the first victims of the Gilgo Beach Killer died.
- Robert Durst (b. April 12, 1943), a New York real estate heir and suspected serial killer. Like the Gilgo killer, Durst dismembered a victim, bagged the body parts, and disposed of them near the ocean (though the victim was male and a Texas jury ruled that the killing itself was an act of self-defense). The FBI created an informal task force in 2012 to investigate places where Durst was known to have lived in the past, one of which was the state of New York. Ultimately, a connection between Durst and the Gilgo Beach Killer was ruled out.
A number of unidentified serial killers have also been mentioned as suspects in the case:
- The Original Night Stalker, who is believed by some to have moved from the Western to the Eastern Seaboard and continued killing, escaping detection by utilizing a completely different M.O.
- The Eastbound Strangler, a serial killer active in Atlantic City in October-November 2006, who strangled four women to death and dumped the bodies in a drainage ditch. Any connection to the Gilgo Beach murders was eventually left aside by investigators.
- The West Mesa Bone Collector, who murdered at least eleven prostitutes in Albuquerque, New Mexico and buried their bodies in a mass grave, which was found one year before the Gilgo Beach Killer's first canonical victims' remains were found.
- The Brockton Killer, who murdered two women and dumped their dismembered bodies in a wooded area of Massachusetts. The bodies were found on December 28, 2014. Due to the nature of the murders, he is highly believed to have murdered more victims in the past.
On Criminal Minds
Though the case didn't become infamous until a few months after Remembrance of Things Past aired, Lee Mullens' habit of having his victims call their families has some similarity to an incident involving the Gilgo Beach Killer: a few weeks after one of his victims disappeared, he is believed to have used her cell phone to call her sister and taunt her.
The Gilgo Beach Killer was mentioned in Scarecrow, when the BAU briefly assumed a serial killer in Yakima, Washington, to be him, since both targeted female sex workers and disposed of their victims' bodies in a single location near or in a body of water. Both also wrapped at least some of their victims' bodies in burlap sacks. In addition, a would-be victim of Decker's, who was nicknamed "Cherry", had a tattoo of cherries near her cleavage; a suspected victim of the Gilgo Beach Killer, known only as "Cherries", had a near-identical tattoo on the same spot. In one scene of the episode, the BAU believed that the Gilgo Beach Killer may have relocated to Yakima before formally identifying the unsub, which is not unlike a criminology professor's theory that the killer may have fled the state altogether after the discovery of his burial ground. A Twitter post confirmed that the Gilgo Beach Killer case provided some inspiration for the episode's plot.
While the case wasn't mentioned or referenced in A Good Husband, there is a scene in which the BAU discuss dismemberment being a possible strategy to ensure difficult identification and the killer most likely being a local, if he was capable of getting rid of a torso in a large city without suspicion. This discussion is similar to law enforcement's ideas about the Gilgo Beach Killer's earliest crimes.
- New York Post articles:
- Reddit post about the Gilgo Beach Killer's connection to other unidentified killers
- Newspiece about Tina Foglia and her possible relation to the killer
- ↑ Estimated age