If you’re unfamiliar with the ongoing LISK (Long Island Serial Killer) also known as the Gilgo Beach case, this post is created to catch you up. And the quickest way to do so, is with a timeline. Note that this is a work in progress, pieced together using various online sources and includes information gathered over the years by tireless individuals which helped to identify some of the nameless victims. Only cases that were officially linked to LISK have been included here (except Shannan Gilbert whom I’ve included for reasons related to my own theories).
Please let me know if there is anything missing or incorrect.
April 20, 1996
Two female legs discovered on Fire Island, west of Davis Park Beach wrapped in a plastic bag.
The victim’s skull would later be found on April 11, 2011 west of Tobay Beach in Nassau County, linked by DNA. “Jane Doe No. 7 / Fire Island Jane Doe.”
June 28, 1997
The dismembered torso of a young unidentified African-American female was found in Hempstead Lake State Park, New York. Dumped in a green plastic container, the torso was left next to a road. Both arms, head, and legs below the knee were severed and haven’t been located. The victim had a tattoo of a heart-shaped peach with a bite out of it on her left breast.
On April 11, 2011, police in Nassau County discovered dismembered skeletal human remains inside a plastic bag near Jones Beach State Park, nicknamed “Jane Doe No. 3“. DNA analysis later identified this victim as the mother of “Baby Doe.” She was found wearing gold jewelry similar to that of “Baby Doe.”
In December 2016, Peaches and Jane Doe No. 3 were positively identified as being the same person.
December 19, 2000
A female body is discovered by hikers on the Long Island Pine Barrens in Manorville, off of Halsey Manor Road. She was a white woman in her 30s with brown hair and had been dead for several weeks before her nude, headless body was found, cut into pieces and stuffed inside plastic bags.
April 4, 2011, her head, hands and right foot were found in a plastic bag in the vicinity of Ocean Parkway on Gilgo Beach.
On May 22, 2020 police in Long Island announced they had positively identified the “Manorville Jane Doe” and will be releasing her identity.
“Jane Doe No. 6 / Manorville Jane Doe.”
July 26, 2003
A naked and dismembered torso, (no head or hands), was discovered 45 miles east of Gilgo Beach in Manorville, New York. The victim was identified as Jessica Taylor (20), an escort from Washington, D.C. She was last seen days earlier at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. Taylor‘s torso was found on top of a pile of scrap wood at the end of a paved access road off of Halsey Manor Road, just north of the LIE. Plastic sheeting was found underneath the torso, and a tattoo on her body had been mutilated with a sharp instrument. Medical examiners determined the tattoo was a red heart with an angel wing that said, ‘‘Remy’s angel”.
On May 9, 2011, it was reported that the remains of a skull, a pair of hands, and a forearm found on March 29 at Gilgo Beach were matched to Jessica Taylor.
July 9, 2007
Maureen Brainard-Barnes (25) was last seen in her hotel room at the Super 8 in midtown Manhattan. Her last known call that night was to her sister, Missy, during which she says she is at Penn Station.
Shortly after her disappearance, a friend of Maureen‘s, Sara Karnes, received a call from a man on an unfamiliar number. The man claimed that he had just seen Maureen and that she was alive and staying at a “whorehouse in Queens”. He refused to identify himself and could not tell Karnes the location of the house. He told Karnes he would call back and give her the address, but he never called again. Karnes said that the man had no discernible New York or Boston accent (Amanda Barthelemy mentioned the same detail).
Maureen’s body was found in December 2010 located very close to three other victims.
July 12, 2009
Melissa Barthelemy (24) was last seen outside her apartment on Underhill Avenue in the Bronx. At some point, the security camera of her local bank recorded her depositing $1,000 into her account, believed to be money she’d received from a date she’d had earlier that night. She withdrew $100 before heading out the door. Her boyfriend/pimp, John “Blaze” Terry, would later say that he knew Melissa had lined up another $1,000 date the next night, somewhere on Long Island. She went by the working name “Chloe.”
Shortly afterwards, her sister, Amanda, received 6-7 phone calls from a man using Melissa‘s cell phone and claiming to be her killer. The first calls were on July 16, July 19, and July 23 and the final call was on August 26. The calls were placed from crowded locations in New York City, including Madison Square Garden and Times Square. In one instance, police determined that Barthelemy’s phone had been turned on near Massapequa, Long Island, and that someone had gained access to her voice mail.
Her body was discovered December 11, 2010 beside Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach.
May 1, 2010
Shannan Maria Gilbert (23) was a New Jersey woman who may have been a victim of the Long Island serial killer. Gilbert had been working as an escort. She left for a client’s house (Joseph Brewer) in Oak Beach after midnight on May 1, 2010. At 4:51 in the morning, 911 dispatchers received a panicked phone call from Gilbert who can be heard saying that there was someone “after her” and that “they” were trying to kill her. She was last seen a short time later banging on the front door of a nearby Oak Beach residence and screaming for help before running off into the night. Neighbors Gus Coletti and Barbara Brennan are among the last to see her.
On December 13, 2011, Gilbert‘s remains are found in a marsh, half a mile from where she was last seen. In May 2012, the Suffolk County medical examiners ruled that Gilbert accidentally drowned after entering the marsh. They believe that she was in a drug induced panic, and have concluded that her cause of death was “undetermined.” Her family believes she was murdered.
June 6, 2010
Her body is discovered on December 13, 2010, alongside the bodies of Maureen Brainard-Barnes and Amber Lynn Costello.
On April 16, 2011, police seized the laptop of Waterman‘s boyfriend/pimp, Akeem Cruz, to search for records of clients that could lead them to the killer. In April, 2012, Cruz pled guilty to federal charges of transporting women across state lines to meet clients for sex. In 2013 he was sentenced to three years in prison.
September 2, 2010
Amber Lynn Costello (27) leaves her home in North Babylon to meet a client, and is never seen alive again.
Her body is discovered on December 13, 2010, alongside the bodies of Maureen Brainard-Barnes and Megan Waterman.
December 11, 2010
A Suffolk County Police canine unit investigating missing escort Shannan Gilbert discover human skeletal remains at Gilgo Beach, three miles west of Robert Moses bridge, at 2:45 p.m. Police discover a full skeleton, wrapped in burlap, in the bramble beside Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach, three miles from Oak Beach. The remains are later identified as Melissa Barthelemy (24).
December 13, 2010
Near Melissa Barthelemy‘s (24) grave was found, police discover three more sets of remains, also skeletal and wrapped in burlap, later identified as Megan Waterman (22), Maureen Brainard-Barnes (25), and Amber Lynn Costello (27). The bodies are found in the same location, within 500 feet of each of other.
December 15, 2010
The FBI offers up its forensic and investigative services in the case. Police seize a white SUV from the client’s Oak Beach residence as part of the investigation.
December 16, 2010
The Suffolk County Medical Examiner reports the remains are all female victims and that Gilbert is not one of the four female bodies discovered. The ME’s office holds a press conference to explain forensic investigation approach.
December 17, 2010
Police hold a press conference to provide an updates on the investigation. They state that they had completed a comprehensive search of the beach area in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties along Ocean Parkway.
January 19, 2011
Police identify one victim found as Megan Waterman (22), a woman from Maine who was reported missing in June 2010 from Hauppauge, NY. Remaining three victim identities still unknown.
January 25, 2011
Police reveal the identities of three remaining victims, and Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota declares the victims are the work of a serial killer. He also reveals all four worked as escorts using Craigslist ads. Police state the women were all killed at different times, possibly a year apart in one case, and disposed of at different times.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer says beach search would resume once weather conditions improve in spring.
March 29, 2011
Police search teams resume search for Shannan Gilbert on Gilgo Beach, LI.
March 30, 2011
During their search they find a skull, hands, and a forearm, all later verified to be additional remains of Jessica Taylor, whose torso was previously discovered in Manorville in 2003. These remains are also found along Ocean Parkway, three quarters of a mile from where the first four bodies were recovered.
March 31, 2011
Police rule out that the fifth set of remains discovered a mile east of the first four sets are not those of Shannan Gilbert (24), the missing New Jersey woman.
April 4, 2011
Police find three more sets of human remains along Ocean Parkway between Oak Beach and Gilgo Beach, bringing the body count to eight. An unidentified Asian male victim is found dressed in women’s clothing; the skull, hands, and foot of the first Manorville Jane Doe (discovered in 2000); and an unidentified girl between sixteen and thirty-two months old described as “Baby Doe“.
Police later released a sketch of the Asian male. The cause of death was blunt-force trauma. He likely been working as an escort and was wearing women’s clothing at the time of his death. He was between 17 and 23 years of age, 5′ 6″ in height, and missing four teeth. He had been dead for between 5 and 10 years. He had some kind of musculoskeletal disorder which would have affected the way he walked/carried himself.
DNA analysis identified Baby Doe to be the child of “Jane Doe No. 3 / Peaches.
April 5, 2011
Police say missing woman Shannan Gilbert (24), last seen in Oak Beach on May 1, 2010 is not one of the three bodies discovered on April 4.
April 11, 2011
Police uncover two more sets of remains in two separate locations.
The first discovery: female bones and jewelry found near the Jones Beach water tower. Described as “Jane Doe No. 3“. DNA testing determines this is the same victim as Peaches and that she is the mother of the child (Baby Doe) found the week prior along Ocean Parkway.
The second: a skull discovered west of Tobay Beach in Nassau County is later determined to be that of the Jane Doe No. 7 remains found in 1996 on Fire Island.
April 12, 2011
The first news reports air about Mari Gilbert’s claim that she spoke with Oak Beach resident Peter Hackett in the days after her daughter Shannan’s disappearance. Hackett and his wife deny all allegations.
May 9, 2011
In light of the six latest discoveries, DA Thomas Spota revises his theory of the case, announcing, “There is no evidence that all of these remains are the work of a single killer.”
July 12, 2011
Peter Hackett tells CBS News he did speak with Mari Gilbert on the phone days after Shannan disappeared.
November 29, 2011
Commissioner Dormer revises the case theory yet again, announcing he believes a single serial killer is to blame for all ten victims, and that Shannan’s disappearance is a separate case, perhaps not even a murder.
November 30, 2011
The Suffolk County police announce they will reopen the search for Shannan.
December 6, 2011
Day two of the search for Gilbert and the police move from Ocean Parkway to Oak Beach marsh. That same day they discover her personal items mere feet away from where she first disappeared on Anchor Way.
December 13, 2011
Shannan Gilbert’s remains are found on the far side of the Oak Beach marsh, a quarter mile from where her belongings were found five days earlier. Before an autopsy is performed, Commissioner Dormer refers to her death as an accident.
December 15, 2011
DA Thomas Spota decries Commissioner Dormer’s single-killer theory. The same day, County Executive—elect Steve Bellone names Dormer’s replacement as police commissioner, effective January 1.
January 3, 2012
Suffolk County Interim Commissioner Edward Webber announces “There’s no fixed theories at the moment” about the Gilbert case or any of the Ocean Parkway cases.
May 1, 2012
Shannan’s autopsy results are shared with her family. The cause of death is “undetermined.”
November 15, 2012
A lawsuit was filed by her mother, Mari Gilbert, against the Suffolk County Police Department in the hopes of getting more answers about what happened to her daughter the night she went missing.
Due to the controversy about Shannan Gilbert‘s death, forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden agreed to conduct an independent autopsy of her remains in hopes of determining a clear cause of death.
Upon examination of Gilbert‘s remains, Baden found damage to her hyoid bone, suggesting that strangulation may have occurred. Baden also noted that her body was found face-up, which is not common for drowning victims. Despite this, her death is still officially listed by police as an accident.
December 10, 2015
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini announced that the FBI had officially joined the investigation. The day before, former Police Commissioner James Burke, who resigned in October, had been indicted for alleged police brutality and other issues. He was said to have blocked FBI involvement in the LISK cases for years.
A spokesperson for the FBI confirmed their official involvement. The FBI had previously assisted in the search for victims, but was never officially part of the investigation.
December 15, 2016
An escort comes forward and claims that James Burke, the disgraced ex-Suffolk police chief, is linked to prostitution on Oak Beach. She gave a press conference with John Ray, the attorney for the family of Shannan Gilbert.
State Senator Phil Boyle Boyle introduced a bill in the State Senate to encourage the Commission on Forensic Science to explore use of genetic genealogy. The commission discussed the issue and that of DNA phenotyping at its June 7 meeting.
January 16, 2020
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart released images of a belt found at the crime scene with the letters “HM” or “WH” (depending on which way the belt was looked at) embossed in the black leather. The belt was found during the initial investigation near Ocean Parkway in Gilgo Beach. Police believe the belt was handled by the perpetrator and did not belong to any of the victims.
Hart stated that forensic genealogy was being used to help identify other victims, but would not comment on other DNA or forensic questions.
A website was announced, GilgoNews.com, enabling the police to share news and receive tips regarding the investigation.
Attorney John Ray, who represents the family of Shannon Gilbert, also gave a press conference urging LE to release her 911 call.
May 6, 2020
A judge overturned the appeal of the Suffolk County Police Department and ordered them to release the long-sealed 911 recording of a call made by Shannan Gilbert the night she died.
Shannan Gilbert estate attorney John Ray says he has heard the 911 tapes and calls them ‘extremely valuable’.
May 22, 2020
The Suffolk County Police Department said in a statement they had positively identified the “Manorville Jane Doe,” also referred to as “Jane Doe #6,” whose remains were located in Manorville in 2000 and Gilgo Beach in 2011. They have not yet released her identity.
May 28, 2020
SCPD updated their website regarding the Manorville Jane Doe. She was identified as Valerie Mack, born 07-02-76.
Valerie Mack was a white female described as being 5 feet tall with brown hair and hazel eyes weighing ~100 pounds. Family members last saw her in the Spring/Summer of 2000 in the area of Port Republic, New Jersey. She was 24 years old when she was last seen. Mack was never listed as a missing person.
Mack‘s last known address was in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area where she had been working as an escort. She used the name “Melissa Taylor”. There is no familial relationship between her and Jessica Taylor.
Detectives are asking members of the public, friends, family, and associates of Valerie Mack to provide whatever information they have about her and the circumstances leading to her death.
Copyright © Sarah F. Prescott 2020