Produced by Liza Finley, Taigi Smith, Lincoln Farr and Lisa Freed
Sherre Gilbert will never forget that cold gray day in December 2010, she got the devastating news. Her oldest sister, Shannan, had been missing for seven months when investigators found that first body — wrapped in burlap — on a secluded stretch of beach.
“The investigator from Suffolk County sits us down and says, ‘You know we found a body yesterday and we believe it’s your sister,” Sherre tells “48 Hours Mystery” correspondent Erin Moriarty. “My heart just dropped. I started crying. I couldn’t believe it.”
As Sherre waited for a positive ID the news got even worse. Three more bodies were found on the same beach; a total of four, all about 500 feet apart, all wrapped in burlap.
“And it’s just like an emotional roller coaster,” she says. “We keep on hearing, “Oh, could be your sister, it could be your sister. This body, this body. It’s really crazy.”
Someone was strangling young women and then dumping their bodies just feet from the road. Newspapers soon dubbed him the “Long Island Serial Killer.”
Photos: Searching for Shannan
“The whole name…the ‘Long Island Serial Killer’ — It just kind of seems like a movie,” Sherre continues. “Something that you watch on TV and, you know, it’s not something that would happen to you.”
Sherre didn’t know it, but the plot was about to take another bizarre twist: None of the four bodies were Shannan.
“My reaction was mixed,” she tells Moriarty. “I was happy but I was also sad because I’m like, ‘Well, gee, where is she then?'”
Now, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer had two mysteries on his hands. Who were the four victims? And where was Shannan Gilbert?
“What do you believe happened to Shannan Gilbert?” Moriarty asked Commissioner Dormer.
“I don’t know,” he replies. “That’s the $64,000 question.”
The mystery of Shannan’s disappearance began on May 3, 2010. Sherre Gilbert got a phone call from her sister’s boyfriend reporting that Shannan hadn’t come home in two days.
“Immediately, I started to panic … I knew when he called me that it was something serious…” she says.”I could hear the fear in his voice.”
It was the call Sherre and her sister, Sarra, had been dreading ever since learning Shannan, diagnosed with a bipolar disorder and struggling with depression and mood swings, had turned to selling her services online as an escort.
“Were you worried about her just going out on these dates, not knowing anything about the guys?” Moriarty asks Sarra.
“Yeah,” she replies. “That’s very scary, you know.”
“What would she tell you when you would say you were worried about it?”
“She would just say, ‘Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.’ And she pretty much thought that, you know, it would never happen to her.”
The Gilberts say they immediately filed a missing persons report, but with no news, they drove 140 miles from their home in upstate New York to Oak Beach, Long Island, to look for Shannan themselves. By then, she had been missing for eight days.
“We went to all the houses around the area to knock on their doors and just say, ‘Hey listen, did you see my sister?'” Sherre says. “We gave them flyers. We went everywhere.”
They spoke to a dozen witnesses and homeowners in the area trying to piece together a timeline. They learned that Shannan and her driver had left New York City shortly after midnight on May 1, 2010, and headed to a gated community in Oak Beach, Long Island.
“My sister met the client through Craigslist and went to his house around 2:00 a.m.,” Sherre explains. “Her driver dropped her off and she was there for quite a while and then — the client told her to leave, and for some reason, she started to panic.”
Shannan’s sister believes something awful happened in that house to terrify her. Hysterical and incoherent, phone records show that Shannan made a panicked 23-minute call to 911.
“She told 911 that she was in fear, that they were going to get her, they were going to kill her,” according to Robin Sax, an attorney hired by the family to help with their investigation. “They is the big question. Who are they. Was it someone that was in the home, was it someone that was coming after her. She was undoubtedly in fear for her life and safety.
“She ran … down the road … it’s a very dark, dark area … and she went to the first place where there seemed to be lights and help,” Sax continues. “And that was Colletti’s house.”
Colletti is Gus Colletti, a retired insurance fraud investigator and resident of Oak Beach for over 30 years.
“It was like 5:00 in the morning,” Colletti recalled. “I was in the bathroom shaving. …All of a sudden, I heard screaming out here and banging on that door. Yelling, ‘Help me, help me, help me.'”
He opened the door. Standing there was a young woman he would later learn was Shannan Gilbert.
“She jumped in and stopped right there,” he tells Moriarty. “And I said to her, ‘What’s the matter?’ She wouldn’t answer me. She just kept staring at me and going, ‘Help me, help me, help me.'”
Colletti says he reached for the phone and dialed 911.
“When I said to her, ‘I called the police. Sit down in that chair. They’re on their way.’ She just looked at me and she ran right out the door,” he said.
Colletti said it was then that he noticed an Asian man in his 30s driving a black SUV.
“I could see a car come and stopping, coming a little bit and stopping,” he said,
Asked if he thought Shannan was afraid of the man in the SUV, Colletti says, “She was afraid of somebody.”
Colletti said he then noticed that Shannan was hiding underneath the boat in his yard.
“All of a sudden, she took off, out from under the boat…And he took off after her. And I yelled to him to stop. And he didn’t and he followed her around that way.”
“She runs down the street and seems to vanish into thin air….” says Sax. She says that was around 5:30 a.m. “and police arrive at about 6:00 a.m.”
Police Commissioner Dormer disputes that time, but admits there was a delay. Shannan couldn’t tell the operator where she was. It took the 911 call from Colletti.
“Now we know where she is. An officer was dispatched,” says Dormer.
Gus Colletti was waiting at the gate for the officer when he arrived.
“Did the police seem concerned about the missing — ” Moriarty asks Colletti.
“Not at all.”
Asked if she thinks the fact that her sister was an escort influenced the investigation, Sarra tells Moriarty, “Yes, I do. I believe they judged her by her profession and not as a person. Not as the missing sister, the missing aunt. They’re just, ‘Oh, a missing prostitute.'”
“My sister had other dreams, you know,” Sherre says, “She wanted to be a singer, an actress. She was pursuing that. And she was also goin’ to school to be a writer.”
The Gilberts say they badgered the police for seven months before investigators started searching in earnest for the missing 23-year-old. It was a random sweep of a nearby beach in December that turned up the grisly grave site — four young women like Shannan who simply disappeared.
In December of 2010, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer downplayed it, but there was little doubt about what his department was confronting. Four bodies had been discovered. All were young women in their 20s. All were online escorts. And the similarities didn’t end there.
“All were wrapped in burlap very similarly — unburied,” according to Andrew Strickler, a crime reporter with Long Island’s Newsday. “They all worked as prostitutes. They all advertised on Craigslist. They all went missing — while going to meet clients…”
Newsday: Complete coverage
“What started off as just a missing persons case, a young woman who disappears, turned into what?” Moriarty asks Strickler. “What has it become now?”
“At this point,” he says, “I think it’s the biggest, most complicated, homicide investigation Long Island’s ever had … they don’t know how much bigger it might get, really.”
One by one, the bodies were identified, and with each name, came the story of a troubled life cut short.
MELISSA BARTHELEMY: Disappeared July 12, 2009
Lynn Barthelemy’s 24-year-old daughter, Melissa, had been missing for a year-and-a-half when the bodies were discovered.
“My fiancé and I were actually watching … but they were televising when — where they found the bodies…And we just looked at each other and we started cryin,'” Lynn recalls. “We had a sinking feeling that it was her. And then the next day when Suffolk’s County Police Department contacted us and said that they needed to come to Buffalo and speak to us, we just knew.”
After graduating from beauty school, Melissa moved from her small hometown near Buffalo to New York City to work as a hairdresser.
“I was terrified,” Lynn says. “I mean, a big city like that. I’m like, ‘they’re gonna eat you alive.’ But she was of age and all I could say was ‘be careful’ and call her all the time.”
What Lynn didn’t know at the time was that Melissa was actually working as an escort. In mid July 2009, after several days with no word from Melissa, Lynn panicked.
“Did she get hurt?” Lynn wondered. “We pull out the phone book, we get on the internet. We start callin’ hospitals.”
Lynn also contacted the NYPD to file a missing persons report, but she was in for a rude awakening.
“They didn’t wanna hear anything,” she says. “‘She’s 24. She’s not on any psych meds. She’s not missing. She’s where she wants to be.’ And that happened for three days consecutively.”
Even the family’s attorney, Steven Cohen, couldn’t get police to take notice.
“I contacted them,” he says. “And they said, ‘She’s a hooker. She’s a prostitute. She was — she’s an escort … We’re not going to assign a detective to this.”
About a week after Melissa disappeared, her 15-year-old sister, Amanda, got a call from Melissa’s phone.
“When Amanda answered the phone, you know, she was so excited,” Lynn says. “‘Oh my God, Melissa’s finally calling me.’ And then, there’s a guy on the other end.”
“And this voice is saying, ‘Oh, this isn’t Melissa,'” Cohen explains. “…he was soft-spoken and had — a very controlled and comfortable manner of speech, which made his horrific messages all the more devastating and he began to toy with her… And for the very first time, she heard the voice of the killer.”
Suffolk County police told “48 Hours” that they believe the caller was, in fact, Melissa’s killer.
And the calls didn’t stop coming. Eight in total, including one in which the likely killer spoke to Lynn. That time, he claimed he was with the NYPD and wanted to know if she had filed a missing persons report. But mainly he focused on Melissa’s little sister and called to terrify her.
“And the killer said some pretty horrible things to Amanda,” Cohen tells Moriarty. “Sexually explicit things as to what he had done to Melissa, sexually explicit things as to what he was going to do to Amanda.”
After the third call, police asked Verizon to tap Amanda’s phone.
Authorities were able to trace some of the calls to a handful of busy locations in midtown Manhattan; near the Port Authority, the Empire State Building and Times Square. The caller always hung up before he could be identified. But the police were learning a lot about him based on his voice.
“I believe that he is between — his late 20s and his late 30s,” Cohen says, “I’ve been led to believe by Amanda and by the data that I have that he is a white male.”
Much has been made about the caller’s familiarity with police investigative techniques. He knew what locations would be difficult to trace and how long he could stay on the phone.
“What about talk that this killer might even be part of law enforcement? Do you believe that?” Moriarty asks retired New York City homicide Commander Vernon Geberth, who has analyzed more than 300 serial murders in the U.S.
“No,” he replies. “Anybody who watches television — you’re bombarded by forensic programs — you can’t turn on the TV anymore without ‘CSI,’ ‘NCIS,’ ‘Law and Order,’ and ‘Law and Order: Special Victims, and ’48 Hours,’ OK? So people are watching and they’re learning.”
“Do you believe this person could be watching the interview right now and enjoying the attention?”
Which other serial killers does he resemble?
“Well, yes, because he’s not identified. In his position right now, he’s in a position of superiority,” Geberth replies. “He has beaten the police; no one knows who he is. He’s immune. It’s almost like feeling invulnerable.”
That sense of confidence may have driven the caller to reach out to Amanda one last time on August 26, 2009, with a chilling message.
“And he said, ‘Do you know what I did to your sister?’ And she said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Well, I killed Melissa,'” Cohen says. “And he also left one of the conversations with the threat that he knows where Amanda lives and might come after her.”
“What kind of person calls the little sister of a victim and says, you know, ‘You think you’re gonna see your sister again? ‘Cause I just killed her,’ Moriarty asks Geberth.
“A psychopathic, sexual sadist. They’re dangerous, a human predator,” he replies.
“All I can say is, he’s sick. And he’s gonna make a mistake. And we’re gonna catch him,” says Lynn.
Asked if he believes this man will probably kill again, Cohen says, “Oh, there’s no question…he is getting better and better at it. He is very controlled, very calculating in what he does. And he’s on a mission.”
With each burlap-covered victim found on Gilgo Beach, the police learned more about the serial killer: his habits, his M.O. and his uncanny ability to avoid detection.
AMBER COSTELLO: Disappeared Sept. 2, 2010
“She used to say that she was better off dead…” says Dave Schaller, Amber Costello’s roommate and friend. In December 2010, detectives showed up at his door. “I was like, ‘You guys found Amber… You found her,” he says.
By then, Amber had been missing from their home on Long Island for three months. She lived just 10 miles from the killer’s dumping ground. Schaller says the last time he saw Amber she was on her way to meet a client who had responded to her online ad.
Photos: Crime scene and victims
“I walked out the front door with her,” Schaller recalls. “I was like, ‘Be safe.’ She gave me a hug and a kiss….and she left.”
But when Amber didn’t call or come home, says Schaller, no one in her family even looked for her.
“There’s something so sad that Amber lived 27 years, disappears, and nobody reports her missing,” remarks Moriarty.
“I think she lived her life as if like she didn’t even care about herself…” says Schaller.
Schaller says Amber hated the person she’d become — a drug addict who turned tricks to support her habit.
“She knew what she was doing was just like degrading, just despicable,” he says. “She absolutely hated it…”
“It strikes me right away David…predators prey on the weak,” says Moriarty.
“Exactly,” Schaller says, “like a lion smells a dying gazelle.”
Schaller says the client enticed Amber with the promise of big money. “If she was going to stay the night … she would have walked away with $1,500.”
“A lot of money for her,” says Moriarty.
“Yeah, that’s a lot of money for any of these girls,” says Schaller.
The amount was almost six times Amber’s going rate. According to Schaller, the man was persistent, repeatedly calling and cajoling Amber that day.
“It was probably around 3 or 4 times…but she was on the phone with him for a while each time,” he says.
Schaller says the caller was so persuasive, Amber — an experienced escort — walked out the door without her purse or even a cell phone.
“She had no cell phone with her that night?” asks Moriarty.
“No… She left it at home.”
“She didn’t even take her purse?”
“Nothing. This guy, whoever it is, he told these girls something they wanted to hear…” Schaller says. “For him to have gotten her to leave so recklessly… I think this guy got into her head somehow.”
Somehow he convinced her to meet him alone — an unusual move for Amber, who normally required clients to come to her.
“Do you think the person she went out with that night is the same person who killed her?” Moriarty asks Schaller.
“There’s no doubt in my mind…” he replies.”He wanted to kill her.”
MEGAN WATERMAN: Disappeared June 6, 2010
Megan Waterman was last seen leaving a Holiday Inn Express on Long Island in June 2010.
“Megan’s the youngest of the four victims. And I think maybe… the least experienced of all of them as well,” says Newsday crime reporter Andrew Strickler.
Newsday: Complete coveragePhotos: Crime scene and victims
Significantly, this is the same Holiday Inn where a client asked Amber Costello to meet him just few weeks before her death. She refused, but Megan, who usually had someone accompany her on calls, let down her guard and went out into the night alone.
“She sets up a client, she goes out, she gets into a car and is never seen again…” says Strickler.
Megan Waterman was just 22 when she was murdered, leaving behind a 4-year-old daughter.
“The world lost an awesome girl, a wonderful, wonderful mom, a friend…” says Megan’s mother, Lorraine Ela, who has a message for the killer:
“I want to know why you took my daughter….Why would you hurt a human being? You need to turn yourself in because you will be caught…and you will be caught soon.”
MAUREEN BRAINARD-BARNES: Disappeared July 9, 2007
“I believe my sister needs a voice…needs her pride back…needs the respect she had before this all happened,” says Melissa Cann. She wants people to know that her sister, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, may have worked as an escort, but she was much more than that.
“She was a human being…she was a mother…she was a loved sister…she was everything to us,” Cann says. “If you came up and asked her for her last penny in her pocket, she would give it to you…”
In July 2007, Maureen left her home in Norwich, Conn., and boarded a train to New York City. She went to set up appointments with men on Craigslist. At the time, Maureen was a desperate, single mother of two.
“She was getting evicted from her house. …She needed to get some money .It was her last resort…
“These are all the jobs she called and applied for… call center, data entry…and the list goes on and on,” Cann says, showing off a list. “She didn’t turn to Craigslist [because] she wanted to… she turned to Craigslist because she felt like there was no way out. No one would give her a job.”
Maureen checked into a Super 8 Hotel in Manhattan, and like the other young women, the 25-year-old seemed to vanish in the night.
“When I finally told myself Maureen was actually missing, that she wasn’t coming back, I couldn’t breathe. It was hard to breathe,” says Cann.
Fearing the worst, Maureen’s family went to the Norwich Police Department, submitted her name to the missing persons database, and told police she was an online escort.
“We said that Maureen went to New York and she never came back. The cop basically told us, ‘Maybe your sister just ran away. Maybe she doesn’t care about her kids…'” Cann says, her eyes welling with tears.
Melissa Cann says no one at the local police department took her fears seriously and the family went to look for Maureen themselves.
“My husband and my brother got on their motorcycles and actually took Maureen’s picture with them and drove down to Manhattan….walked around the whole area asking people if they’d ever seen her,” she says. “No one saw her, no one knew her… My brother came back and was like, ‘It’s a different world out there. No one wants to know you. No one cares.”
On Dec. 13, 2010, Maureen’s body was found alongside the others. She was the first woman to disappear back in 2007. Melissa Cann simply wishes police had worked harder to find Maureen.
“I feel like they failed me and they failed my sister. They failed these other women that were found with my sister…I feel like if the right things were done maybe these girls would still be alive to this day,” she says. “We could’ve saved those other girls.”
In March 2011, three months after finding the bodies of Melissa, Amber, Megan and Maureen, police start finding more bodies and more body parts along a once pristine beach playground; Six new sets of human remains in all.
So far, police can’t connect these latest remains to the original four. In fact, only one has even been identified:
Victim No. 5: Jessica Taylor, an escort missing since 2003; dismembered
Victim No. 6: Jane Doe; dismembered.
Victim No. 7: Baby girl wrapped in a blanket
Victim No. 8: Asian man in his 20s
Victim 9 [and maybe 10]: A skull and a bag of human bones
As many as 10 bodies found in the scrub brush on Long Island and none of them belongs to Shannon Gilbert. So where is she?
“Do you think the clue to the serial killer is in Shannan Gilbert’s disappearance or is it just a coincidence?” Erin Moriarty asks Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer.
“We don’t know. She doesn’t fit the pattern,” he replies. “But it’s still part of the investigation and we’re certainly open to every possibility.”
The search for Shannan began in the last place she was seen: the gated community of Oak beach, just three miles from the dumping ground.
The police started looking at three men: the man who hired her, the man who drove her, and a doctor who put himself in the middle of the investigation.
Their stories are bizarre and confusing, starting with Joseph Brewer’s — the john.
“When the bodies were found, obviously, he was somebody they wanted to speak with,” Newsday crime reporter Andrew Strickler explains. “They searched his house…they searched his car.”
Although Brewer refused to go on camera, he did meet with “48 Hours.” He admitted soliciting Shannan online, but he said not for sex.
“Do you find that credible?” Moriarty asks Robin Sax, the Gilbert family’s attorney. “That Joseph Brewer says that he just wanted companionship and…that he never intended to pay her? He just had her come over to his house?”
“You don’t need someone to come [at] 1:00 in the morning to your home…and not expect to have some sort of sex act, and not to pay at the end,” sax says. “It’s ludicrous.”
Especially since Shannan was booked for two hours but stayed an hour longer.
“So presumably she was trying to make more money. She was trying to make more out of her time on Long Island,” says Sax.
But Brewer himself admits he refused to pay what she asked for and they got into an argument. And shortly afterwards, she made that panicked call to 911 from inside his house.
Sax is convinced Shannan felt threatened. “The fact is she called 911. She said, ‘They’re going to kill me.’ She was scared for her life…and she’s never been seen since.”
Brewer insists he never harmed Shannan. He just wanted her to leave. In fact, he brought her driver in to get her out of there. He says the last time he saw her, she was running out of his house towards his neighbor’s.
That neighbor, Gus Colletti is the one who tried to help Shannan and noticed that black SUV following her.
“I could see a car coming down the road very slowly [and] would stop and then go a little bit. Stop, go a little bit,” says Colletti.
It turns out she seemed to be running from the man who was supposed to be protecting her, the second man police wanted to talk to: her driver, Michael Pak.
“I ran up to his car and I said to him, ‘Where do you think you’re going?'” says Colletti.
Pak told Colletti he was looking for Shannan.
‘I said, ‘Well, I called the police… they are on their way to bring her back,” Colletti says.
“He said, ‘You shouldn’t have done that.’ I said, ‘Well, I did.'”
Pak, who also wouldn’t go on camera, told “48 Hours” he drove around looking for Shannan for about an hour. He couldn’t find her, he says. So he left.
“If you are the driver and you are responsible for this girl’s transportation back home, you would think you’d give it a little more than an hour. At least to wait until the police came to force them to start looking together to be able to find her,” says Sax.
Michael Pak is another odd character in this strange story. He’s a dog owner — obsessed with his pet Chihuahuas, dressing them up in YouTube videos.
But Michael Pak is also a convicted felon, having served time in federal prison for conspiracy to misuse a passport.
“Michael Pak has his own checkered history,” Sax explains. “He was arrested…for bringing in a Chinese lady to the United States.”
Pak told “48 Hours” he had nothing to do with Shannan’s disappearance and claimed he passed a polygraph “with flying colors.” Police wouldn’t confirm or deny that.
And then there’s the third man, a total wildcard: A neighbor and retired emergency services doctor named Peter Hackett.
“Dr. Hackett is a curious character,” Sax says. “He’s someone whose involvement, while we can’t necessarily understand, is bizarre enough that makes you wonder, what is his connection to the case?”
Just days after Shannan went missing, her sister, Sherre, says their mother got a strange call from a man they had never heard of — Dr. Hackett — who, she says, claimed he found Shannan roaming around Oak Beach the night she disappeared and brought her into his home.
“So he called my mom and he said that he saw Shannan, he held her at his house and following morning, the driver came back to pick her up and that was it,” says Sherre Gilbert.
But when the sisters made their trip to Oak Beach to find out more, Dr. Hackett denied that he ever met Shannan.
“And at that point, we were just really upset,” Sherre says. “We didn’t know what to believe.”
In press reports, Hackett denied making any call.
“Do you believe that he called her mom? Moriarty asks Commissioner Dormer.
“Yeah. Our information is that he did,” he replies.
And in fact, in a letter to “48 Hours” dated June 28 2011, Dr. Hackett admits he made not one phone call — but two — to Shannan’s family.
Hackett writes: “These calls were over a year ago now and exact content is difficult to remember, but, at no time…did I suggest I had ever met her or render medical care of any sort to her.”
Read Dr. Hackett’s letters to “48 Hours”
Hackett says he got the telephone numbers from Shannan’s friend, who was searching for her in Oak Beach, and says he called just to see if he could help in any way.
The police tell “48 Hours” that Hackett and the other two men cooperated fully and are not suspects. They also said they are not closing any doors and the investigation remains wide open.
“This case has turned into a case that’s tangled with lies where I still believe there are many secrets that are yet to be uncovered at Oak Beach,” says Sax.
“This is a difficult case,” says retired NYPD Commander Vernon Geberth. “This is not a ‘CSI,’ ‘Criminal Minds’ drama. This is the real deal.”
And Geberth says the stakes couldn’t be higher: Catch the serial killer before he catches another victim and kills again.
Asked what stops a serial killer, Geberth tells Erin Moriarty, “Incarceration or death.”
Despite a massive joint effort with the FBI and state police, the killer continues to elude authorities.
“An arrest is not imminent but we’re making progress,” says Dormer.
The already difficult investigation is made even harder by the profession of the victims,” says Gilbert family attorney Robin Sax.
“The nature of prostitution…is that there are people who are not using their real names. Most of these people use disposable telephones so that they don’t even have those phones for very long,” Sax explains.
In most of these cases, police sat on missing persons reports losing not only time, but valuable evidence. In Shannan Gilbert’s case, security video at the Oak Beach gate that could have provided important clues was apparently recorded over. Shannan’s jacket, which Joe Brewer says sat in his driveway for days, may have been lost.
And police may have missed another clue. A week after she disappeared, Shannan’s sisters made a discovery on the steps outside Joe Brewer’s house: their sister’s earring.
“Her boyfriend confirmed it was the set of earrings she was wearing that night,” says Sarra.
The earring has since been turned in to police.
“Shannan Gilbert was clearly not even close to a priority,” Sax says. “It’s an atrocious miscarriage of justice, frankly.”
“This is a tough question Commissioner, but, if that had been a wife of a resident there who had made this panicked 911 call and then suddenly disappears, wouldn’t there have been much more of a search than there was for Shannan Gilbert?” Moriarty asks.
“No, I disagree with you — strongly,” Dormer replies. “Number one, when the officer responded, he didn’t know that that was a sex worker. …he conducted a search in that area. … this was a normal — if there is such a thing — normal missing case of an adult. And the officer responded.”
“This wasn’t normal,” Moriarty says. “She was hysterical. She said, ‘they’re trying to kill me’ on the phone. This wasn’t a normal missing case.”
“I don’t want to, in any way, say that we didn’t do the right thing that morning,” Dormer responds. “The officer — we looked at his actions and he searched that area that morning, which was appropriate. …our missing persons unit conducted searches over the summer and into the winter, in that area. And so it wasn’t taken lightly by the police department or the detectives involved.”
With little info about the killer, the families have turned to each other for support — first online and then in person.
“It’s good to meet someone in person that you have this emotional bond with,” Melissa McCann, the sister of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, says as she meets Megan Waterman’s mom, Lorraine Ela, for the first time.
“I don’t think anybody can ever tear us apart,” says Melissa as she hugs Lorraine. “She’s an incredible girl.”
On June 11, 2011, all the families came together in Oak Beach clutching balloons and vowing to never forget.
“We’re celebrating the lives of the girls,” says Lynn Barthelemy. “They were mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins. It doesn’t matter what they did for their profession. They were victims.”
Although Shannan Gilbert is still categorized as missing and her case may have nothing to do with the serial killer, the families have embraced her as one of their own.
“We’re not gonna stop until Shannan Gilbert is brought home,” says Lorraine.
Shannan’s sisters say they fear they may never find what happened to her.
“That’s one of my biggest fears. That it’s gonna turn into a cold case,” says Sherre.
Shannan Gilbert led a troubled life but left an important legacy. Without her, the remains of Amber Costello, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Megan Waterman and Melissa Barthelemy would still be heartlessly discarded in the brush along Ocean Parkway. Now, at least, their families have them home… finally laid to rest.
Suffolk County Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to an arrest in the Long Island Serial Killer case.
Anyone with information is urged to call 1-800-220-TIPS (8477). Tips can also be submitted online.