Long Island Killer, Gilgo Beach Killer, Craigslist Ripper – these are the names, given to the unidentified American serial killer, responsible for murders of 10 to 17 people over a period of almost 20 years.
The killer had been stalking and slaughtering his prey for almost two decades. All the victims had been strangled, wedged into a burlap sack and dumped near the New York beaches.
Some of them had been hacked up and scattered across the area.
His “career” officially started in December 2010, when a police dog discovered the skeletal remains of a woman’s body inside the burlap sack. It was exposed underbrush off Ocean Parkway in Gilgo Beach.
As it turned out, it was a 24-year-old Bronx prostitute Melissa Barthelemy, who had vanished a year and a half earlier.
Within a few days, police scoured an area of Gilgo Beach in Long Island and found three more bodies. All of them were missing prostitutes.
Investigators found a link between the victims – women advertised their services on “Craigslist.” That’s where the nickname “Craigslist Ripper” came from.
The second discovery occurred in March 2011, when a severed head, hands, and forearms were found in another area off the parkway.
The victim was a prostitute named Jessica Taylor, whose torso had been found in 2003.
Within a few weeks, police had found five more bodies. None of them have ever been identified. The killer’s profile changed a little one of the victims was a 12-year-old girl. DNA testing later proved that she was the daughter of one of the unidentified women.
Another strange discovery was the body of an Asian man dressed in women’s clothing, who had been dead for more than five years. The cause of the male prostitute’s death was a severe beating that knocked out several of his teeth.
Within a short period of time, the time frame of killings expanded to almost 20 years. The earliest murder took place in 1996 and police believed that they were hunting more than one killer.
But the Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer denied this theory:
“The theory now is that one person is responsible for these killings, one serial killer. That’s what we’re leaning towards, although there are other people in the police business, and even in the department, that have other theories. It appears that one person, comfortable with the area, comfortable with Long Island is involved in these crimes,” he said.
“The body parts have been spread over an area of great distance. There’s a connection that indicates that this person feels comfortable enough to drive with remains in his vehicle.”
It’s possible that be stored or buried some bodies before dumping them. He probably visited the area seasonally and abducted all of his victims. But it’s unclear if the killer put them there all at once or over time.
The killer is most likely a white male in his mid-205 to mid-405. Married or has a girlfriend, well educated and well spoken.
Financially secure, has a job and owns an expensive car or truck to transport his victims’ bodies. He possibly sought treatment at a hospital for poison ivy infection. As part of his job or interest, he has access to burlap sacks. The killer is familiar with the South Shore of Long Island, lives or used to live on or near Ocean Parkway.
As the serial killer researcher and a professor of sociology Scott Bonn said, “This is someone who can walk into a room and seem like your average Joe. He has to be persuasive enough and rational enough that he is able to convince these women to meet him on these terms. He has demonstrated social skills. He may even be charming.”
Former FBI profiler Jim Clemente said that “He did not stumble upon that location; he has some familiarity with it. The summertime disappearances suggest several characteristics.
There may be a seasonal nature to his connection to the area, or to his fantasy and ritual. It may be the time his wife or kids or parents are away for the summer. There are many possibilities.”
Clemente thinks that the burlap sacks the killer used can be a useful clue too.
“He could be using them either because they are part of his killing ritual or because they are the easiest cover he can find. Burlap, however, is no longer common, and it might be easier to trace than a plastic bag.
“To me, it takes away from his forensic sophistication and criminal sophistication and adds to the possibility that he is more interested in this ritual aspect. He likes the suffering of others.”
Because of the killer’s knowledge of police work and the ability to kill without leaving any trace, some investigators think the killer might be an active or former law enforcement officer.
His phone calls to the victims’ relatives didn’t last long enough to pinpoint his location. He made his calls from Times Square and other crowded places, which makes it hard for authorities to pick him out using surveillance cameras.
Experts say that the killer’s desire to call the victim’s relatives from her own cell phone shows that he’s driven by sadistic purposes. In Jim Clemente’s opinion, “That would be reflected in his relationship and jobs. He is the one who laughs when a cat gets run over or a kid falls off his bike. He likes the suffering of others, and he really likes it when he can cause it or witness it.”
Long Island Ripper Joel Rifkin, responsible for killing 17 or more women, shared his own opinion and insights about the case:
“The killer could be a local resident who works in a job in which no one would be suspicious if he carried burlap bags. My guess is it would be someone like a landscaper, contractor or a fisherman.”
On December 15, 2016, the attorney for the family of victim Shannan Gilbert said there’s a connection between Suffolk County’s former Police Chief James Burke and the murders. Burke was sentenced in November 2016 to 46 months in federal prison, along with three years of supervised release. The sentence came after Burke attempted to conceal his revenge beating of a man who stole a duffel bag filled with sex toys and pornography from his vehicle. Burke pleaded guilty in February to a civil rights violation and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
With all this evidence, will we ever know the real identity of the Long Island serial killer? According to Dr. Scott Bonn, the killer will absolutely not stop killing until he is apprehended.