Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Long Island Ripper



Gilgo Beach
Gilgo Beach
On a bright, warm day, Gilgo Beach is one of Long Island's loveliest spots. Part of a narrow barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great South Bay, this park, quieter than crowded nearby Jones Beach, is in summer a happy haven for boaters, surfers, swimmers, sunbathers and volleyball players. But when police found four bodies there in December 2010, one of the nastiest winters New York had seen in years forced them to restrict their search; when cops fully resumed the search in late March of the following year, more bodies awaited them.

Police had been searching for a missing Craigslist escort when they found the first body off Ocean Parkway on December 11, 2010. The dead woman that a Canine Sector officer and his cadaver dog located would turn out not to be the woman they'd hoped to find. Shannan Gilbert had disappeared in May and was last seen at a client's house in nearby Oak Beach, prompting the search.

Map with Ocean Parkway locator
Map with Ocean Parkway locator
But forensics showed the remains belonged to another woman with links to online prostitution: Megan Waterman, a visitor from Maine.

Waterman's decomposing body had been by the side of the road for months. The state of the remains made it plain she'd been murdered. Family members hadn't seen or heard from her since just after Memorial Day, when she took a trip to Long Island with her boyfriend (and alleged pimp), Akeem Cruz, 21. Brooklyn-resident Cruz is currently at the Maine Correctional Center, serving a 20-month sentence for drug trafficking.

Waterman missing poster
Waterman missing poster
Three days after locating Waterman, police found three more bodies within 500 feet of her corpse, all women with a history of prostitution or escort work: Maureen Brainard-Barnes (25, from Norwich, Conn., last seen in Manhattan on July 9, 2007); Melissa Barthelemy (24, last seen in the Bronx on July 12, 2009); and Amber Lynn Costello (27, last seen nearby in North Babylon on September 2, 2010).

The spring thaw let investigators go back to work, and they found more bodies.

Medical examiners have certified that the first four bodies were victims of homicide; common sense suggests that the women were killed and dumped by the same murderer (or murderers). But District Attorney Thomas Spota won't reveal exactly how the women were killed, and authorities are reluctant to label this the work of a serial killer, as the media has suggested.

The cases remain unsolved.


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