Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is a Serial Killer On Loose on Long Island?

The discovery of four bodies alongside a road near Jones Beach on Long Island has raised the specter of a serial killer. The remains of the four bodies, each in various states of decomposition, have been tentatively identified as all women, and investigators from the Suffolk County police department are working with the FBI to ascertain the identities of those bodies.

This discovery recalls a similar discovery of four bodies near Atlantic City under similar circumstances. If the two incidents are connected, we're talking about a methodical serial killer who targets prostitutes. Investigators are trying to connect the two cases by examining Craigslist as the link.
Detectives are looking into the Craigslist angle of the women who were murdered in New York. If that information can be tied to gambling records, including comps and casino credit, they may be able to establish the critical link to bringing the killer to justice, accordint to officials.

After the murders in Atlantic City, detectives scoured hotel records for the names of any known offenders in the area. The prostitutes on Pacific Avenue met with detectives and offered information about strange clients they encountered.

Hundreds of leads were investigated and followed up on by the Atlantic County Task Force that was formed to investigate the murders. The unit is still working and waiting for more information from Long Island detectives.

In Atlantic City the bodies were found relatively soon, approximately one month after the murders. This allowed for fast identification of the victims. The police immediately reached out to witnesses in the community for additional information. There are no such witness groups in the Long Island case.

The bodies found on Long Island laid out in the elements for so long that only skeletal remains were left of three women. Two of the bodies in New York were stuffed into burlap bags keeping critical evidence with the bodies.

Prostitutes who advertise on Craigslist are more isolated from each other. They often work alone unlike the street walkers in Atlantic City who all seem to know each other and exchange information about their clients. However, prostitutes who use Craigslist to advertise their services leave an electronic history of their records. This may be the leverage detectives need to catch the killer.
Investigators are looking for hallmarks of the killer (the signature) by which the killer identifies the victims as his. The investigators are busy trying to figure out the identities of those victims:
Dental remains might uncover fillings or a false front tooth, which could help identify the victim, Mr. Van Zandt said. Investigators can tell if a skull has been crushed by a rock or if throat bones show signs of being crushed. All of that can be matched against existing missing-persons records — there are some 875,000 people reported missing in the United States each year — and run through a federal database, he said.

Already, two cases of missing women are being studied in connection with the Long Island case. One is the disappearance in May of Shannan Gilbert, 24, a prostitute from Jersey City. She was last seen not far from where the remains were found.

The other involves Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Me., who was last seen on June 6 leaving a hotel in Hauppauge, N.Y., several miles northeast of where the bodies were found, after she had been coaxed into doing escorting, with meetings arranged on Craigslist, said Cynthia Caron, who runs a nonprofit group that helps families of missing people.
Investigators have removed the SUV from a home where Gilbert was last seen.

Some of the more notorious New York area serial killers are known to target prostitutes, including Joel Rifkin, who may have killed as many as 17 drug-addicted prostitutes before being captured and thrown in prison on a life sentence, and Arthur Shawcross, whose parole on an earlier manslaughter case enabled him to resume a murderous spree across upstate New York.

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