Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

US 'serial killer' tally doubles

Police and fire department officers search for human remains in the brush near Oak Beach, New York (AP)

The number of victims of a suspected serial killer on New York's Long Island has doubled in the past week after the discovery of three more corpses along a remote beach highway.

The remains of eight victims have now been found just steps from Ocean Parkway, a highway leading to popular Jones Beach, about 45 miles east of New York City.

The bodies of four missing prostitutes were found in December while investigators were searching for another missing woman who worked as an escort and was last seen in the area nearly a year ago.

The disappearance of that woman, Shannan Gilbert of Jersey City, remains a mystery although Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said that because detectives have been conducting an ongoing search for her, they already have her DNA and other forensic information, which should accelerate the identification process.

Last week, investigators found a fifth body about a mile east of the first four. That prompted police to resume a widespread search of a seven-mile stretch of the north side of the highway on Monday, a search that yielded the remains of three more victims.

Mr Dormer said investigators are resuming their search, which includes police academy cadets, volunteer firefighters with extended ladder trucks and cadaver dogs. The marshy terrain features a 4ft-tall tangle of sea grass punctuated by scrubby pine trees. At least 20 police officers have come in to contact with poison ivy and the area is infested with deer ticks, officials said.

The identities of the most recent four victims have not been released and police have yet to even describe their gender. New York City medical examiner's office is assisting Suffolk County in helping determine the identities.

Ms Gilbert, 24, was last seen in Oak Beach on May 1, 2010, after apparently meeting a client she had booked through classified ads website Craigslist. The bodies of the four other women, who worked as Craigslist escorts and were in their 20s, were found along the same highway by police searching for Ms Gilbert.

The latest discovery was about a mile east of where the other four were found. The remains were strewn about 500 yards apart.

Authorities have identified the four victims found in December as Amber Lynn Costello, 27, originally of Wilmington, North Carolina; Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Maine; Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 28, of Norwich, Connecticut; and Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of Buffalo, New York. All were last seen planning to meet clients for sex booked through Craigslist, police have said.

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