murder mystery

Police Hope Tattoo Helps Solve Cold Case Murder — Possibly Tied To Gilgo Beach Killer

Thirteen years later, police are still trying to solve the mystery killing of "Cherries Doe," and may be able to connect the case to a Gilgo Beach victim with a similar tattoo and manner of death

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It’s been nearly 13 years since a body washed ashore at Westchester County's Harbor Island Beach in Mamaroneck. A woman’s torso with no limbs and no head found in a suitcase by a mother and child walking by.

Police couldn’t figure out who she was or who killed her. All they had to work with was a faded tattoo of two cherries found above her right breast. The case went cold and she became known simply as “Cherries Doe.”

"Without the identity we really had nothing," said Mark Gatta, a Detective Sergeant with the Mamaroneck Police. "The cherries tattoo was our best shot at an identity just because obviously there was nothing no face, no mixture we can show people."

The town's police department has not stopped hunting for the woman's killer, with Gatta still combing through evidence — including the bra and nightgown that the woman was believed to have been wearing the night of her death.

Now they are trying to breathe new life into the case, releasing an image of the tattoo in hopes of someone recognizing it. They have enough DNA to figure out who she might be, but they need a family member to compare the genetic information to.

"She's been victimized twice. Somebody ... murdered her, and then they stole her identity, which is almost worse," said Gatta, referring to the killer eliminating chances of identifying the victim by dismembering her.

As for who did this, Sergeant Gatta says it’s likely someone who has done something similar before. One possibility they’ve considered: the Gilgo Beach serial killer on Long Island. 

The legs of "Cherries Doe" washed up on a beach along the north shore of Long Island three weeks after her torso was found. Additionally, one of the Gilgo Beach victims known as "Peaches" was killed in a similar manner in 1997 — with her torso found in a container, and she had a tattoo of a peach.

"The violence that was done to these women was very similar," Gatta said. "Are they related? It's possible. It's possible because this sort of thing is not an every day occurrence."

The police department in Suffolk County who investigated the Gilgo Beach case told NBC New York they were aware of the "Cherries Doe" case, but stopped short of considering whether she could be another potential victim of the infamous serial killer on Long Island.

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