Long Island Serial Killer: Portrait of Cunning Criminal Slowly Emerges

By Jonsson, Patrik | The Christian Science Monitor, April 15, 2011 | Go to article overview

Long Island Serial Killer: Portrait of Cunning Criminal Slowly Emerges


Jonsson, Patrik, The Christian Science Monitor


Up to 10 human remains have been found alongside a beach highway on Long Island. Four are so far tied to the same elusive killer. But the 'Long Island serial killer' may have been seen and heard.

As the manhunt for the so-called Long Island serial killer intensified this week, it's become clear that officials are searching for a crafty criminal who has carefully covered his tracks - but who felt invincible enough to reportedly taunt one victim's family using the missing woman's cellphone.

The remains of at least eight bodies have been discovered since December along beaches of New York's Long Island - at least four of them believed to be victims of one killer. FBI planes and hundreds of agents have joined the all-out hunt, but experts say progress is as likely to come from an unexpected break as from a piece of hard evidence.

So far, there are no actual crime scenes to scour. The victims were killed elsewhere and their bodies deposited along the coast afterward, discovered after extended periods of lying exposed in thick beach scrub. As a result, much of the physical evidence has eroded. Moreover, the murderer has displayed both cruelty and cunning, making it more difficult for police to crack the case, say criminologists.

"Why cases like this are so difficult to solve and why there are unsolved slayings of prostitutes all around the country is that police have very little to go on," says James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, in Boston. "What they have are some remains that they found at a beach, and they're having a hard time figuring out who the victim is, much less who the killer is. Generally in a case like this, police have to get lucky, and they haven't yet."

Since that initial discovery of four sets of human remains in New York's Suffolk County, investigators have found another four or five along similar stretches of beach highway in Suffolk and Nassau counties. The latest two sets of remains were found Monday.

So far, four victims have a unique tie: They were all female prostitutes who advertised on Craigslist. Moreover, they were all killed within the past two years. (Some of the bodies were deposited there earlier.)

The killer may have been seen. One witness on Long Island described seeing a frightened woman, later identified as Shannon Gilbert, scream for help outside his house before she disappeared last May, police say. …

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