11 Horrifying Facts about the Unidentified Long Island Serial Killer

It’s terrifying enough to think there are serial killers still on the loose. One who is sure to send chills down your spine is the Long Island Serial Killer. Though he has yet to be found, he is responsible for some of the most horrific murders in New York. What was his methodology? Why hasn’t he been found? Here are 11 horrifying facts about the unidentified killer.

The Long Island Serial Killer, the Gilgo Beach Killer, the Craigslist Ripper. Each of these alternate names has been used to point to a suspect, or more than one, who remain unidentified. Beginning operations in 1996, and spanning over almost 20 years, this unknown murderer claimed at least 10 victims from the sex work industry. Although the killer’s identity is unknown, here’s what is known about his horrific crime style, and victims.

1. The Killer Was Active in the Early ’90s

While the true beginnings of the Long Island Serial Killer go back to the early ’90s, it wasn’t until 2010 that law enforcement became aware of his work. The shocking truth was discovered while officers were in search of a young escort, by the name of Shannan Gilbert, who went missing. While searching for her in this unrelated case, police found at least 10 bodies. As for Gilbert, she was found in December 2011, behind the houses that lined Gilgo Beach.

2. 10 Bodies Were Found

While searching for Gilbert in December 2010, a police dog found another woman’s remains off Ocean Parkway. Three more bodies were found in the same way, in the same area, just two days later. These four victims were identified as the following:

  • Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, disappeared July 9, 2007
  • Melissa Barthelemy, 24, disappeared July 10, 2009
  • Megan Waterman, 22, disappeared June 6, 2010
  • Amber Lynn Costello, 27, disappeared September 2, 2010.

It quickly became clear that this was the work of a serial killer. By April 2011, six more bodies were discovered, and police suspected they were related even though they were disposed of differently from the initial bodies. Out of these, only one was identified, as 20-year-old Jessica Taylor, who went missing in 2003. Some of her remains were found that same year, including her forearms, hands, and skull. All the victims were strangled to death.

3. The Killer Used Craigslist to Hunt

Upon identification of five of the 10 known victims, police disclosed that all of them were sex workers who placed ads for their services on Craigslist and similar websites. Each woman told others they were going to meet a client on the nights they were taken. While five were identified, the remaining five victims have yet to be. It is also possible that there may be more victims, yet to be discovered.

Craiglist Killer

Flickr.com/Gary Denham

4. The Killer Left Some Bodies in Burlap Sacks

A trademark M.O. of the Long Island Serial Killer was to wrap the bodies in burlap sacks when they were discarded. This was the case in the first set of discoveries, but the latter bodies found were not treated the same. Even so, police believe all the victims were murdered by the same suspect.

5. Some Victims Were Found in Parts

In 1996, two legs washed up on Fire Island. In April, 2010, partial remains were discovered that matched those legs. Some of a victim’s body parts found in 2011 were connected to remains discovered years before. Another victim’s remains were found to match remains discovered in November 2000. In 2003, body parts of Jessica Taylor were discovered 45 miles away from Gilgo Beach.

Fire Island

Flickr.com/TheTurducken

6. One of the Victims Was a Toddler

In 2011, a toddler’s body was found wrapped in a blanket. The child was about 16 to 24 months old. It was discovered that the child belonged to a woman who was murdered in 1997. In 1997, a woman’s torso was found close to Gilgo Beach. On the torso was a fruit tattoo, earning the victim the nickname, “Peaches.” In 2010, as part of the full Gilgo Beach investigation, part of a dismembered skeleton was found in a plastic bag. After analyzing the DNA, it was found that the remains belonged to “Peaches.” When the infant’s body was later found, testing revealed she was “Peaches’” daughter. Experts hypothesize that the scattering of these two bodies was a deliberate attempt to confuse authorities.

Gilgo Beach

Search Continues In Long Island Serial Murders on Gilgo Beach (Photo: Getty Images/Spencer Platt/Staff)

7. The Killer Manipulated His Victims

Little is known about the Long Island Serial Killer, but there have been studies that show certain characteristics of serial killers like these. Most serial killers tend to be predatory individuals, who hunt human beings, ultimately to murder them. This killer used the computer and phone to contact his victims and gain their trust enough for them to meet up. This is risky behavior, as one of these women could easily become suspicious. He was able to find out information about each of the women, to be sure it was safe to pick them up.

8. The Killer Taunted His Victims’ Relatives

The Long Island Serial Killer did more than destroy the lives of his victims —he also taunted their friends and families through phone calls. A friend of Brainard-Barnes said she received a strange phone call a few days after she went missing. Sarah Karnes, the friend, said the man didn’t have a New York, Boston, or Maine accent, but he spoke properly and accentuated his s’s and t’s. In 2009, upon the disappearance of Barthelemy, calls came in from her cell phone to her younger sister, Amanda. Barthelemy’s mother, Lynn, said the man tormented Amanda, and on his last call said he killed her. The caller did not remain on the line long enough to be traced, leading authorities to believe he had police operations knowledge.

9. The Killer May Have Police Background

Since the killer was able to hide his tracks, police suspect he had solid knowledge of police procedure. As far as the public’s knowledge, no more evidence has been found in this case since the initial discoveries. However, police do not consider this a cold case, and investigations are ongoing. Many hope that the remaining victims will be identified, and the killer brought to justice.

Forensic Investigation

Flickr.com/Andrew Mason

10. Some Speculate There Are Multiple Killers

Since there are multiple connections between the bodies found during this investigation, many would assume it was done at the work of a single killer. However, there is still a possibility that there were more than one working in the area. The first four bodies were found under the same M.O.: Wrapped in burlap, killed in a similar way, and found on the same beach. The following bodies were found without the burlap wrap, they were killed differently, and some were dismembered. These later bodies were found on Gilgo Beach, and near Jones Beach. Because of this, it is possible there are multiple killers at large.

11. No Evidence Was Left Behind

One of the main reasons why the killer was never found, was because he left virtually no trace of evidence on the victims. To the public’s knowledge, all that is known is that profilers suspect the killer is a white male, as that is typically the case with murders like these.


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