Gilgo Beach

LI Serial Killer Case: Newly Released Details Offer Fresh Insight Into the ‘Gilgo Four'

The 2010 disappearance of Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old escort from Jersey City, triggered a hunt that exposed a much larger mystery -- and the discovery of many more bodies on a remote stretch of Long Island

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Police have released new information about a group they have dubbed the "Gilgo Four," the four women in their 20s who were found dead, wrapped in burlap sacks, along a remote stretch of Long Island highway -- within a quarter of a mile from one another -- near the now notorious beach in 2010.

The so-called "Gilgo Four" -- Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Costella -- were discovered during the search for Shannan Gilbert, an escort, like the others, from Jersey City who vanished after meeting a client on nearby Oak Beach that spring. Her remains were found in a swampy marsh not far from away in 2011, 19 months after she disappeared.

Gilbert's cause of death has been disputed. But the Gilgo Four, officials say, were all murdered, possibly the work of a serial killer. No arrests have been made and no suspects have been identified. The new information release comes as new Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison seeks to restore public faith in the long-unsolved investigation, which has been skewered over lacking transparency.

“As the Homicide Squad continues its tireless work on this investigation, we believe now is the right time to disseminate this previously unreleased information in hopes of eliciting tips from the public and providing greater transparency about the victims," Harrison said in sharing the information Thursday.

While none of the details are particularly enlightening from an investigative perspective, they shed more light on the women behind Long Island's infamous case. Here are the latest details on the Gilgo Four as provided by Suffolk County:

Maureen Brainard-Barnes

Maureen Brainard Barnes

Suffolk police said that Brainard-Barnes, believed to be the first victim among the "Gilgo Four," was a 25-year-old living in Norwich, Connecticut, when she went missing. They said it is believed she took an Amtrak train from New London to New York City on July, 6, 2007

She spent her time in the city working as a prostitute, advertising on Craigslist, Backpage and other sites under names like Juliana or Marie as she stayed at a Super 8 Motel on West 46th Street, between 5th and 6th avenues. Brainard-Barnes, who stood just under 5 feet tall, would travel to Manhattan to work for a few nights before going back home to Connecticut, according to investigators.

While in the city, she also stayed at a Red Roof Inn on West 32nd Street, the Carter Hotel on West 43rd Street and the Manhattan Hotel on 8th Avenue. Sometimes she would be with another woman — a friend who worked out of a different hotel room — and a man, who both women referred to as their cousin, police said. That man would provide a level of security for the two sex workers.

Brainard-Barnes traveled with the other woman to the city the weekend she went missing, but the woman went back home early. On July 9, she called a friend back in Connecticut just minutes before midnight, telling them she was going to meet someone outside of the motel, which was not what her typical operating procedure, according to Suffolk police.

Five days later, a friend reported Brainard-Barnes missing to police in Connecticut, and soon the NYPD took over the investigation. More than three years later, on Dec. 13, 2010, her body was found on the north side of Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach, during police's search for Gilbert, who had gone missing from Oak Beach.

Melissa Barthelemy

Barthelemy, 24, went missing on July 12, 2009 after she was last seen at her basement apartment on Underhill Avenue in the Unionport section of the Bronx, investigators said.

The 4-foot-10-inch tall escort advertised on Adult Friend Finder and other sites, often using aliases Chloe and "VerySexyChloe," and had the words "Blaze" and "Focus" on her back, along with letters on her chest, according to police.

Barthelemy, who was said to meet her clients at bars, restaurants and hotels on Manhattan's West Side, told a friend the night she went missing that she was going to meet a man and would be back in the morning. The friend knew Barthelemy was an escort, but didn't know any other details about the meetup that night.

Melissa Barthelemy
Melissa Barthelemy

After not hearing from her or being able to reach her for a few days, Barthelemy's mother reported her missing to the NYPD on July 18.

Cellphone records show that Barthelemy went from the Bronx to Manhattan, likely in a taxi, on the night of July 12. An investigation then revealed that her cellphone signal was picked up in the Long Island towns of Freeport, Massapequa and Lindenhurst.

Suffolk police said that Barthelemy's sister got a series of taunting phone calls from an individual using her cell after she went missing, and the calls are believed to have come from the killer. The calls were made from an area near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, and near Penn Station.

Authorities looked into the areas, but were unable to establish any leads due to heavy car and foot traffic nearby.

Barthelemy's body was found almost a year and a half later, on Dec. 11, 2010. While she was the first victim found, police believe she was actually the second one killed, after Brainard-Barnes.

Police are looking for help identifying a woman whose torso washed up on a Mamaroneck beach in 2007, and legs washed up on the north shore of Long Island not long after. The only identifying feature: a tattoo of cherries on her chest — a clue that could potentially link her to the Gilgo Beach Killer. NBC New York’s Ida Siegal reports.

Megan Waterman

The 22-year-old Waterman, a resident of Scarborough, Maine, was a sex worker who also utilized the same websites as the other victims, according to police, using the names "Lexxy "and "Sexy Lexi." Her family watched her board a New York-bound bus in Maine, not knowing that would be the last time they would see her, with a man who may have been her pimp.

While she was known to stay at a variety of hotels and motels on Long Island, including the Extended Stay America in Bethpage, Waterman was staying at a Holiday Inn Express in Hauppauge on June 6, 2010, an investigation found.

She left around 1:30 a.m. that day to meet a client, according to police — but told her pimp, who was in Brooklyn at the time, that she was going to a convenience store near the hotel.

megan waterman1

Family reported her missing to police in Maine on June 8, after they said it was unlike her to not call and check in on her then-3-year-old daughter. The Scarborough police contacted the Suffolk Police Department to assist in the investigation, and her body was found on Dec. 13 later that year.

Investigators believe she was the third of the "Gilgo Four" victims. Her pimp was later arrested and convicted on interstate trafficking charges, spending three years in federal prison in Jan. 2013. However, there is no indication he had any knowledge or in any way participated in Waterman's death, police said.

Suffolk County police on Tuesday released surveillance video of Gilgo Beach murder victim Megan Waterman's last moments at the Holiday Inn Express, Hauppauge in June 2010. Commissioner Rodney Harrison says investigators believe Waterman left her hotel room to meet her would-be killer.

In April 2022, Harrison released the last known surveillance video of Waterman, at the Holiday Inn Express in Happauge. The footage shows multiple angles from the lobby on June 4, 5 and 6 of that year. She was wearing a yellow sweater and is shown both arriving and leaving the hotel.

Harrison said investigators believe Waterman left the Holiday Inn the night of June 6, 2010, to meet her killer. He also shared an image of jewelry discovered on the remains of a toddler whose bones were recovered during the investigation (see below).

gilgo toddler investigation
On April 4, 2011 a gold necklace and earrings were discovered on the unidentified female toddler.

Amber Lynn Costello

The oldest of the "Gilgo Four" victims, Costello was 27 when she went missing in September 2010, having last been seen by acquaintances, the investigation has found.

She had multiple tattoos, including "Kaos" on her neck, a butterfly on her lower back and the name "Margeret" on her leg.

Costello, a heroin addict at the time, was living in West Babylon on Long Island with another woman and two men, each of whom was similarly addicted to drugs. In order to support their collective addictions, Costello and the other woman advertised as sex workers on Craigslist and Backpage; Costello used the names Carolina or Mia, police said.

She had moved to New York from Clearwater, Florida, and completed 28-day drug rehab, but police believe she had relapsed before going missing.

amber lynn costello
Amber Lynn Costello

Sharing a cellphone with her roommates, Costello and the others would arrange dates with clients, doing both "in-calls" at the house and "out-calls" elsewhere. Police said that the roommates concocted a scam for the clients who came to the house, as after money had already been paid, one of the male roommates would say that Costello was his girlfriend, and the client would take off.

She was last seen leaving the home on America Avenue on Sept. 2, 2010, going to meet a client picking her up at the house. Costello didn't have a cellphone on her at the time, and was never reported missing.

On Dec. 13, during the same search for Gilbert, Costello's body was found on the north side of Ocean Parkway.

Police revealed evidence in one of Suffolk County's most notorious criminal cases that they've been holding onto for nine years. Police believe initials were embossed on a black belt found at the crime scene, but offered no details on where it was found or how it may have been used. NBC New York’s Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

The bodies of the "Gilgo Four" had been dumped in burlap sacks within a quarter-mile span, about 500 feet apart on a desolate stretch of Ocean Parkway.

It was the disappearance of the 24-year-old Gilbert that led to the discovery of all the bodies, which were found in the days after the search for Gilbert launched in 2010. A total of 10 sets of human remains were found by spring 2011.

In April 2011, authorities found a partially dismembered woman, later identified as another prostitute, Jessica Taylor (no relation to the alias used by Valerie Mack), an unidentified Asian man, two unidentified women and an unidentified female toddler. The toddler was determined, through DNA testing, to be the daughter of a woman discovered about 7 miles away. They have not been identified.

Gilbert's remains were found later that year, on Dec. 13 2011, in a swampy Oak Beach marsh, about 18 months after she went missing. Investigators discovered Gilbert's body about a half-mile from where she was last seen. She was found in a swamp rampant with thorny brush and police said at the time they believed Gilbert drowned by accident.

Later, an independent autopsy by the renowned forensic pathologist Michael Baden found Gilbert had suffered injuries “consistent with homicidal strangulation.” Police have said consistently they do not believe her death is linked to the others.

Gilbert's mother, Mari, refused to let the case drop out of the public eye and pressed law enforcement for a homicide investigation that never matured. Mari Gilbert died in July 2016, allegedly stabbed to death by her other daughter, Sarra, who suffers from schizophrenia.

Police revealed evidence in one of Suffolk County's most notorious criminal cases that they've been holding onto for nine years. Police believe initials were embossed on a black belt found at the crime scene, but offered no details on where it was found or how it may have been used. NBC New York’s Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

What have yet to be released are 911 calls connected to Gilbert's case, which Suffolk County had been ordered to release years ago but refused, citing the ongoing investigation.

She had called 911 from Oak Beach and said someone was trying to kill her; that call lasted about 22 minutes. There were three other calls. Despite efforts from the attorney of her now-deceased mother Mari Gilbert to have the calls released -- and a court order to do so -- they have never been made public.

The delay from Suffolk County to release the calls has involved previous administrations, though, and Harrison had said earlier this year he would release the tapes if they didn't interfere with the ongoing investigation. It remains unclear when or if the 911 call release will happen.

Harrison, the fifth Suffolk police commissioner to oversee the case, previously said his office plans to review every piece of evidence in the case and that real progress was being made, though didn't elaborate on the latter point. He also pledged the release of additional data to come -- and more transparency.

Suffolk officials have long said they don't believe Gilbert's case is connected to the others, the families of other victims hope the 911 calls could shed at least some light on their own outstanding mysteries.

Suffolk County police on Tuesday released surveillance video of Gilgo Beach murder victim Megan Waterman's last moments at the Holiday Inn Express, Hauppauge in June 2010. Commissioner Rodney Harrison says investigators believe Waterman left her hotel room to meet her would-be killer.

Investigators haven’t been able to determine whether a lone serial killer or several suspects were involved, but they have said over the years they don't believe one person is responsible for all the deaths. No arrests have been made, and no suspects have ever been publicly named in any of the cases.

Harrison said that the reward in the case is now at $50,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with tips about the victims or a potential suspect or suspects is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).

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