The Investigation

Since 2010, eleven sets of human remains have been found in and around Gilgo Beach, Long Island. Some are linked to bodies found further east in Manorville, New York, dating as far back as 1996. At least four, and maybe more, have been understood to be the work of one killer.  

This map is interactive. Click or roll over each discovery to learn more.

On the Trail of the Long Island Serial Killer
Click or roll over names to reveal information about the findings

Adapted from cartography by Nick Springer (http://www.SpringerCartographics.com)

Unidentified Skull Unidentified Human Bones Amber Lynn Costello, et al Megan Waterman Maureen Brainard-Barnes Melissa Barthelemy Skull, hands, forearm of Jessica Taylor John Doe Unidentified Remains Unidentified Child Shannan Gilbert Unidentified Female Torso of Jessica Taylor Female Torso

This skull—most likely a woman’s— was located four hours after another set of remains in a wildlife sanctuary west of Tobay Beach, Long Island. The head was later discovered to be from the same victim as a pair of severed legs discovered in a black plastic bag in April 1996, along Blue Point Beach on the bay side of Fire Island, about a mile west of Davis Park. Her torso and hands remain missing. She is believed to be Caucasian, between 18–50 years old, and had surgery on her left ankle.

Just a mile and a half from Jones Beach, police found human bones in a plastic bag. The head, hands, and right foot were determined to be that of a Jane Doe—the same Jane Doe linked to a female torso discovered in Manorville in 2000.

"Amber felt entitled to everything of Kim’s—her clothes, her perfume, anything sitting around her room. Kim would tell her she couldn’t, and Amber would act like Kim hadn’t said a thing. Their lives were symbiotic. What was Kim’s, Amber always thought, was rightfully hers."

Amber Lynn Costello grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she followed Kim as an employee of a local escort service. Lost Girls traces Amber’s journey from Wilmington to a devout Christian life in Clearwater, Florida, and finally to Long Island, where she became the most recent verified victim—last seen on September 2, 2010. In Lost Girls, Kim offers firsthand insight into the world of escorting—its attractions and its risks—and her tempestuous relationship with her sister.

"The staff of the roller rink marveled at the way Megan could pivot from rage to charm in an instant, working her deep brown eyes to make anyone forgive whatever she’d done. And they always thought fondly of her nana, Muriel, who stood out from all the other parents in how passionately she’d defend Megan on charges of misbehavior—appealing any ejection while standing right beside her, acting like her chief counsel. Good for her nana, everyone thought, for going the extra mile for her granddaughter."

Megan Waterman's mother Lorraine lost custody of her when she was a baby, and her grandmother Muriel raised her, creating an estrangement that formed the backdrop of her entire childhood. The birth of her own daughter brought a new chance for Megan to reconnect with her mother, but not long after the baby was born, Megan met Vybe, a drug dealer from New York who some say became Megan’s pimp. She was last seen leaving a Holiday Inn in Hauppauge, Long Island, late at night on June 6, 2010. In Lost Girls, Megan’s mother, grandmother, brother, and friends all provide insight into Megan’s relationship with Vybe and the role he might have played in her disappearance.

"Maureen felt somehow anointed, in touch with things that others couldn’t see. Maureen believed that the answers to most of life’s mysteries were attainable to anyone who sought them out. She told her sister and brother about what she read and learned, lecturing and making connections right before their eyes. Sometimes they believed, too."

Maureen Brainard-Barnes grew up in the industrial port town of Groton, Connecticut. She and her sister Missy and brother Will were inseparable, taking care of one another while their mother worked. Last seen on in Manhattan on July 9, 2007, she left behind a daughter and a son to take trips to New York to support them. In Lost Girls, a close friend who traveled and worked alongside Maureen provides unique insight into Maureen’s life as an escort: the circumstances surrounding her final trip to New York, and why she decided to stay behind by herself when her traveling companions all went home.

Melissa wasn’t acting like herself. Something was bothering her. She just was not happy.

She lay down on the couch, resting her head against Jeff, and he tried again.

“Come home,” he said. His sister-in-law ran a cosmetology school. He could get her a job there.

“Not yet,” Melissa said. “I’m almost ready, though.”

Melissa Barthelemy graduated high school and earned a certificate from beauty school in Buffalo, New York, and worked briefly in the area before heading to New York with a friend. Her family learned later that she had become an escort, first on the streets with a pimp, and later on Craigslist. She was last seen leaving her apartment in the Bronx on July 12, 2009.

Lost Girls features the first ever detailed look at Melissa’s life in New York. Readers will meet a close friend with whom she worked late at night in Times Square, and her boyfriend, whom police believe was her pimp. Through Melissa’s family in Buffalo, readers will also learn of the world she left behind, and of the strange phone calls Melissa’s sister received from the man police believe to be her killer.

Jessica Taylor was a twenty-year-old escort who was last seen working the streets of Manhattan, near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, in 2003 — four years before the first disappearance chronicled in Lost Girls. Estranged from her family, Taylor had a prostitution arrest record in Atlantic City, New York and Washington, D.C. Her naked torso was found in the Manorville Pine Barrens on a plastic sheet a month after she disappeared, with her head and hands cut off. A tattoo on her hip was carved with dozens of gashes, which a detective in Washington, D.C., recognized from a previous arrest. Taylor’s case went cold until 2011, when her skull, hands and forearm were found on Ocean Parkway just east of where the bodies of Megan, Maureen, Melissa and Amber were found.

Found a quarter-mile from where Megan, Maureen, Amber, and Melissa were discovered, this man is believed to have been dead for at least five years. Police believe he was between 17 and 23 years old, Asian, about five-feet-six inches tall, and missing several teeth for some time before he was killed. The man was also found wearing women’s clothing. In Lost Girls, police sources suggest the man was a prostitute just like Megan, Maureen, Melissa and Amber.

This woman’s head, hands and leg were found along Ocean Parkway in plastic bags, about 1.5 miles east of Jessica Taylor’s remains. Her nose had been fractured and healed prior to her death. Like Taylor’s remains, these remains were later linked by DNA to a torso found years earlier in Manorville—leading some to believe the same killer took their lives and the lives of Megan, Maureen, Melissa and Amber.

"She was too old to run home. She had something more ambitious in mind, a new role. She would audition for singing jobs, do whatever she could to make money. She would build a life that her sisters and her mother could only dream about. She would become an entrepreneur, a self-made woman. She would have the best of everything. She would become their benefactor. And they would be grateful to her. And they would love her."

Shannan Gilbert grew up in Ellenville, New York, the oldest of four sisters, and yet from the age of seven she lived apart from her family in a series of foster homes. Lost Girls provides an unprecedented look at Shannan’s childhood and family life, as well as her life as an escort in Jersey City, New Jersey, in the years preceding her disappearance in the gated community of Oak Beach, Long Island, on May 1, 2010.

Without Shannan, there quite possibly would be no Long Island serial killer case. Her disappearance sparked the search that led to the discovery of all the other remains along Ocean Parkway. And yet the circumstances of her disappearance in Oak Beach remain mysterious. Lost Girls offers the most comprehensive analysis yet of all the evidence, including the first detailed interviews with neighbors, family members, police, and the neighborhood doctor whom Shannan’s family believes played a role in the events leading to her death.

Along with another set of remains found on February 17, 2012, these remains were found in pine barrens of Manorville, a short distance from where two of the Gilgo Beach victims’ body parts had been found years earlier. Each set of remains had been left in two distinct areas, both remote and densely wooded, the perfect spots to dispose of a body.

This Jane Doe was found nude, in pieces, and wrapped in plastic bags in 2000 by hikers off Halsey Manor Road in Manorville. Her head, hands and leg were cut off. She was between 18­ and 40 years old, around five-feet-two-inches tall, and white, with brown hair. Police believe she was a prostitute. Her head, hands and leg were found in 2011 on Ocean Parkway in plastic bags, about 1.5 miles east of Jessica Taylor.                    

Jessica Taylor was a twenty-year-old escort who was last seen working the streets of Manhattan, near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, in 2000—four years before the first disappearance chronicled in Lost Girls. Estranged from her family, Taylor had a prostitution arrest record in Atlantic City, New York and Washington, D.C. Her naked torso was found in the Manorville Pine Barrens on a plastic sheet a month after she disappeared, with her head and hands cut off. A tattoo on her hip was carved with dozens of gashes, which a detective in Washington, D.C., recognized from a previous arrest. Taylor’s case went cold until 2011, when her skull, hands and forearm were found on Ocean Parkway just east of where the bodies of Megan, Maureen, Melissa and Amber were found.

Taylor’s murder remains unsolved, and in Lost Girls, police commissioner Richard Dormer posits that she was killed by the same man who killed Megan, Maureen, Melissa and Amber.

The remains of a girl believed to be 16 to 32 months old were found wrapped in a blanket east of Cedar Beach Park. Police said the body displayed no signs of trauma. She was later connected by DNA to the woman’s remains discovered seven miles to the west, a miles and a half from Jones Beach (see: Unidentified Human Bones).

 

Copyright ©2013 Robert Kolker. Lost Girls published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins. Site design by Thomas Seltzer of Seltzer Studio Graphics.