The TikTok Suitcase Murder Mystery

A fun adventure quickly turns into a grisly discovery on a Seattle beach.

Beach in West Seattle.

The Scene

It was a warm, sunny Friday in June near Alki Beach in West Seattle, when a group of teenagers thought it would be exciting to document their discovery after “Randonauting” in the area.

What they found…

Upon approaching the shoreline, one of the teenagers spots a small black suitcase balanced on the rocks. The tide is moving in, pulling the small item back with it into the ocean. At first the teens are seen joking, having no idea what they are about to uncover. The video then shows the young woman descend the rocks with a stick in hand. She proceeds to unzip, and peel open the case as her friends film her, only to be met with an overwhelming odor that quickly reveals something more sinister than they were expecting. After police arrived and searched the scene, more human remains were found, and the area was immediately closed off.

The Suitcase: Still shot from TikTok video.
Still shot from TikTok video and faces of victims found inside.

Wtf is Randonauting?

Randonauting is the act of using the Randonautica app to travel to random places near you based on a “quantum random number generator and mother nature”, which gives specific coordinates for you to follow.

When you open the app you start by setting a radius and the generator will spit out coordinates for you to travel to. The apps introduction video claims that these locations can be “influenced by the users thoughts and consciousness”.

This is why, while setting up the app, it asks whether you’d visit attractors (highly concentrated quantum-points), voids (sparse quantum-points), anomalies (reported patterns of areas influenced by thought) and urges you to “focus on your intent” while the app sets a location for you.

The New York Times described it as: “Think: The law of attraction meets geocaching.”

Image courtesy of The Atlantic.

Two weeks earlier…

A young woman arrived at a residence in Seattle on the late evening of June 9th to meet landlord, Michael Lee Dudley, about a room he’d advertised for rent. When he came to help her with her luggage, she noticed his glasses were broken, and he had scratches on his face.

Dudley proceeded to take her to the available unit called the “blue room.” She told police that after taking a shower, she opened the door to her new bedroom and saw “heaps of clothing” in the middle of the floor — and a hand sticking out from underneath.

She said Dudley told her later that night that he needed to “clean up the mess”, and asked if he could take her somewhere else; as they were leaving, she saw him laying out large sheets of plastic in the basement.

When she asked him about it, he told her: “Let’s put it this way, his gun misfired and mine didn’t,” the police report states.

Detectives interviewed neighbors who claimed that they’d called police earlier that same night after hearing gunfire (20 days before their bodies were found) and a male yelling from inside the residence, “please don’t do this, just let me leave.” Burien Police had responded to the call but got no response when they arrived at the residence.

Detectives obtained phone records of the victims and learned that their phones stopped transmitting or receiving data on June 9that approximately 1908 hrs (7:08 pm). One of the last calls from the victim’s phone was to Dudley at 1901 hrs and that call pinged off a cell tower within a mile of his residence at 16466 Ambaum Blvd.

Detectives learned from witnesses that Dudley had been renting a room to the victims but wanted them to leave and had been fighting with them since they couldn’t pay rent during the pandemic, and were — according to Dudley — engaging in criminal activity.

Detectives were able to gain a search warrant for 16466 Ambaum Blvd So. and it was served on August 19th. During the service of the warrant CSI detectives found bullet holes, bullet strikes, spent rounds and blood which was located in the “blue” room.” It was also apparent that the room had been recently cleaned and freshly painted. During the course of his interview with homicide, Dudley confirmed certain details but denied any involvement in the couple’s murder. When asked about the blood, he said Jessica had cut herself earlier that day but he could not explain the bullet holes and empty casings which matched his 9mm handgun.

The remains were later identified as Jessica Lewis, a 36-year-old mother of four, and her 27-year-old boyfriend, Austin Wenner. And according to police, Wenner died of a single gunshot, while Lewis was shot multiple times. They were then chopped up and dumped in the suitcases.

Booking document.

A Shady Past

It wasn’t Dudley’s first brush with the law, Back in 2016 he was arrested and charged for assault in a domestic violence dispute after beating up his then girlfriend, Marlys Gordon while holding a gun. She attests to his violent past and says, “He started to hit me and grabbed my hair and grabbed my head…threw me and my stuff out on his patio…hit my head again…with one hand while holding his gun in the other.”

Gina Jaschke, another witness and Jessica Lewis’s aunt, claims that her knowledge of Dudley more or less tracks with the allegations made by his own daughter. “Sometimes he would break their car so they couldn’t leave,” she said–describing him with various epithets. “He put trackers on people’s cars. Anytime he ever got in a dispute with anybody he would tell them to leave but try to lock them in the house.”

Dudley’s backstory also suggests a history of sexual abuse and incest; Dudley’s daughter filed a sexual assault restraining order against him in June 2018. Filed in Pierce County Superior Court, the document accused Dudley of sexually assaulting his daughter for nearly a decade.

“[Dudley] Sexually assaulted me for 9 years from age 10 until 18 (2007) by drugging and raping me,” she alleged. “Forcing me to share a bed with him from age 10, and making me watch him masturbate while he watched pornography.”

“I don’t feel safe in my home. Or leaving my home to work,” his daughter added–while also describing a disturbing tendency. Dudley allegedly frequently took out his gun and threatened to use it.

Dudley allegedly had another disturbing and typically telling tendency: cruelty toward animals.

“He killed the dog in front of them and left the carcass outside for three days to scare them,” Jaschke continued. “They had nowhere to go. That’s why they stayed there. He beat this dog to death with a hammer because it got one of his chickens…he just left it out there for the other dogs to look at and sniff. He’s a freaking psycho.”

62 year old, Michael Lee Dudley: Murderer.

Charged: Michael Lee Dudley

He was formally charged with two counts of murder in the second degree, for the death and dismemberment of Austin Wenner and Jessica Lewis, by the King County Prosecutor on September 8th 2020. He pleaded not guilty.

While no other suspects have been named, State forensic anthropologist Dr. Kathy Taylor told Seattle police she believed there were multiple people involved. Cuts on Lewis and Wenner’s bodies were ‘disorganized’ and appeared to be done in different manners with various devices.

The case setting hearing was initially scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 1st. Dudley remains in King County Jail on $5 million bail.

Details to follow as they develop.

Have you hired a psychopath?

Toxic corporate culture has been in the spotlight over the years with the more recent examples including Harvey Weinstein and the late, Jeffrey Epstein. The term, ‘Psychopath’ gets thrown around in the media with various books and academic articles exploring the subject. From popular TV shows like Dexter and Mindhunter, to documentaries like HBOs, The Jinx, society has become more familiar with the vernacular coined by health professionals to describe a person with an antisocial personality disorder. As a result, sociopaths and psychopaths often are identified as scary individuals who either look frightening or have other off-putting characteristics. In reality, they could be anyone—a neighbor, coworker, or even a family relation. Each of these seemingly harmless people may prey continually on others around them.

Antisocial personality disorder is described as an engrained behavioral pattern that consistently disregards and violates the rights of others. The most extreme examples of these are regarded as ‘sociopathic‘ or ‘psychopathic‘. According to Dr Robert Hare, 1% of the general male population are psychopaths, and 15 – 20% of the prison population are psychopathic. A clinical assessment of psychopathy is based on the person having the full cluster of psychopathic traits—at least to some degree—based on a pattern of lifetime behaviors.

This also means that there is a significant percent of the population that aren’t necessarily psychopathic but who do display some of the traits and still thrive in society. These types could be categorized as (BPD); Borderline Personality Disorder. Some of the traits include: narcissism, pathological lying, lack of empathy or guilt which, at worst, can still lead to violent crime or, at best, create a chaotic work environment. If you’ve ever been in the presence of someone with a borderline or full blown personality disorder, it’s easy to detect something is amiss without necessarily understanding the science behind their psyche. But what if you’ve ever been the target of such an individual?

Since moving to New York City in 2011, there were a few crimes that shocked me, however the shooting at the Empire State building in 2012 stood out from the rest. I was walking to my office building in Midtown Manhattan when I received an alert on my phone.

Jeffrey T. Johnson deceased at the crime scene in front of the Empire State building in NYC, 2012.

August 24th, 2012: the day of the shooting

Steven Ercolino was headed to his office inside the Empire State building where he worked as vice president of Sales at Hazan Imports. What he didn’t know was that his former colleague, Jeffrey Johnson, was hiding behind a white truck with a handgun, waiting for him.

Johnson fired the first shot at Ercolino’s head and the helpless victim crumpled to the sidewalk. Johnson then stood over the dying man and shot him four more times. Witnesses described the shooter as eerily calm, as he then walked east on 33rd Street and turned north onto the bustling Fifth Avenue.

Johnson, who was carrying a black canvas tote-bag, pulled out his .45 as he spotted two cops — who were posted outside the Empire State Building. The officers ordered him to “freeze” and drop his weapon, but Johnson raised his gun instead. The cops opened fire — hitting Johnson seven times. Johnson — who was dead at the scene — had no arrest record or history of psychiatric problems. He legally purchased his .45-caliber pistol in 1991 in Florida, while he was living there but never registered it in New York.

Before the carnage, an office grudge festered

Following the bloodshed, there was only one question on everyone’s mind: what was Johnson’s motive for killing his former boss? With no arrest record or history of mental illness, it’s difficult to understand or to have predicted his actions. The two worked together at Hazan Imports, which sells bags and belts, up until two years before the shooting, when Johnson was laid off. According to several people at the company, Johnson was a “meticulous” and “eccentric” designer who never got along with Ercolino, a “laid-back” salesman. Another Hazan employee who was standing next to Ercolino when he was killed, stated, “There was bad blood between Steve and Jeff, for no particular reason. Jeff just did not like Steve.” Said another, “You chalk it up to two guys being around each other too much.” Johnson and Ercolino’s bad relationship had gotten physical in the past, with the two regularly shoving and elbowing each other in the office hallways. Later, a few months after Johnson lost his job, he returned to the building and the two had a physical confrontation, with Ercolino grabbing Johnson by the throat and threatening, “If you ever do anything like this again, I’m going to kill you,” according to an eye witness.

His building’s superintendent and neighbors described him as a quiet and polite man who was seen every morning wearing a suit, greeting his neighbors and getting takeout from a nearby McDonald’s, then usually remaining in his apartment for the rest of the day. On the morning of the shooting, Mr. Johnson reportedly emerged from his building at the usual time and in the usual attire, said his superintendent, Guillermo Suarez, 72, whom everyone calls Bill. “He said, ‘How you doing, Bill?’ and he never came back to the building,” Mr. Suarez said.

Theories of crime, including Strain theory could be applied to this case; read (Merton, 1968), (Agnew, 1992), and (Blau and Blau, 1982), who describe various social-psychological factors which can trigger criminal behavior.

Was Johnson pushed over the edge? After feuding with Ercolino and eventually being fired by him, Johnson’s ego was bruised. His mother described conversations she’d had with her son in the year or so leading up to the shooting that illustrates a depleted man who was disappointed at how his life had turned out; he wanted to support his parents ‘as a son should’ and was unable to do so. He also mourned the loss of his favorite pet within the same year, and received an eviction notice after he couldn’t afford to pay rent. All of these factors, more than likely, contributed to his actions that fateful day.

It’s also probable that Johnson had a borderline personality disorder that went unnoticed throughout his life and during his interview process at Hazan Imports. Instead, he was dismissed as ‘eccentric’ by his colleagues. But his particular set of personality traits, coupled with a hostile work environment ultimately caused him to react with violence. After considering the testimonies of former colleagues and acquaintances, police determined that revenge may have been Johnson’s primary motive.

Fahim Saleh: beheaded and dismembered

After a chilling crime was committed in July this year, the words ‘reserved’ and ‘non-violent’ were used to describe 21 year old murderer, Tyrese Devon Haspil. His aunt expressed he was “sometimes troublesome but never having shown any inclination toward brutality,” after he tased, stabbed, beheaded, and dismembered his employer, Fahim Saleh, in his Manhattan apartment.

LEFT: Personal assistant, Tyrese Devon Haspil. RIGHT: Entrepreneur and Tech CEO, Fahim Saleh.

According to Paul Babiak and Robert Hare’s book ‘Snakes in Suits‘, and mentioned in a 2019 Forbes article, it is estimated that the rate of psychopathy in the executive suite is 3.9%. Since the release of the book there has been much disagreement over the extent of the presence of psychopaths in corporate America with most other estimates landing between 8% and 12%. People with these traits are good at “impression management” and know how to get people to like them. Studies show that some are quick to anger, though when climbing the corporate ladder they are more likely to use charm and flattery on superiors in order to propel their careers.

Haspil’s background revealed that his family history includes mental illness. And after his mother died, he was passed around family members until finally being placed in foster care as a young teen, after which, his father passed away. Haspil is described as, “never showing his emotions,” and it’s noted by his aunt that, “His behavior, the way he was, he acted nonchalantly. He would do whatever he wanted.” Travis Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory states that persons who have strong and abiding attachments to conventional society (in the form of attachments, involvement, invest- ment, and belief) are less likely to deviate than persons who have weak or shallow bonds. The theory provides some insight behind Haspil’s extreme decision since, as a child and adolescent, he failed to form these these bonds which are imperative for building relationships and understanding consequences of one’s actions.

Ryan Andres, a classmate of Haspil at Valley Stream Central High School on Long Island, said he never saw any flashes of violence or anger in his former friend. “As far as I can recall, he was always pretty friendly with everyone,” Andres, 22, recalled.

The day of the crime

Police believe that 21 year old Tyrese Devon Haspil murdered his boss, 33 year old Fahim Saleh on Monday, July 13th after following the tech CEO to his Lower East Side penthouse in New York City, immobilizing him with a taser, and stabbing him to death. Surveilance footage revealed that he returned the next day, August 14th, to conceal the crime. But not before using the victim’s credit card to rent a car, and purchase an electric saw and cleaning supplies. His plan was interrupted that same day when the victim’s sister visited the apartment to check up on her brother, and Haspil ran off. The electric saw used to dismember Saleh was still plugged into an outlet, and some of the remains had been stuffed in bags, according to NYPD officials.

So what was Haspil’s motive? After investigators read text messages exchanged between Haspil and his employer, Fahim Saleh, it was revealed that he had embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the former tech CEO. And to their surprise, Saleh offered Haspil an out, stating that if the money was paid back in full he would not report him to the police.

This detail, investigators believe, was the deciding factor in Saleh’s death. Haspil most likely determined that murder was his best course of action in a twisted version of what economists call a cost-benefit analysis. In his situation, he believed that committing a violent crime was easier than paying back the money he stole. Unfortunately, it’s clear that Saleh hired and trusted the wrong person; a stone cold psychopath.

Haspil being led out by detectives in NYC after killing his boss.

Conclusion

How can we predict anti-social behaviors in society and, in this case, the workplace? Are there specific markers identifiable early in childhood or adolescence? Awareness and education is where it needs to stem from, particularly if and when children are not receiving the mental nourishment and positive stimuli required for healthy thought and decision-making processes. The sad reality is that the system is broken, and people who truly need help are not receiving it. It should be a societal and individual requirement to understand or better yet, possess a certain level of emotional intelligence in order to maintain a peaceful existence. After all, aren’t emotions what make us human?

Where do we start? By developing and introducing in-depth EQ tests into schools, beginning at nursery level and continuing into elementary as a way of identifying EQ (emotional quotient) levels. These should transpire into adolescence as a continued form of measurement in order to positively assess and improve areas of cognitive development into adulthood. Higher education should require students to study behavioral sciences, just as they’re required to study english and math, in order to learn the importance of hypothetical reasoning and hone the skills needed in key decision making.

Mental health awareness and support networks need to be considered ‘essential’ in the workplace. Therapists or in office counselors should be available to provide a safe space for employees when needed with regular in-person check ups during key personal/career oriented transitions. Upper management must be carefully selected and educated in these areas including a wide range of sensitivity training.

If we can achieve these positive societal steps hopefully, the stigma surrounding mental health will lift and eventually fade once it’s recognized as a serious issue and tackled accordingly. Increasing awareness through continued education at all stages of life is the best way to enact positive change.

A Crime Archive

I’ve always been drawn to death; I know how that sounds. A lot of people have asked me over the years how I can stomach delving into the darker side of life, and the only reason I can think of is, perhaps there’s a little darkness in me too. Throughout my life I’ve come to accept the fact that not everyone will understand that side of me. And whatever reason(s) are behind this insatiable thirst for truth, it’s always kept me on the straight and narrow; seeking justice where there is none and asking questions many are scared to.

My years growing up are bookmarked by whichever grisly crime I followed at the time and whenever I meet new people and they tell me where they’re from I can often relate it back to a crime I’ve obsessively researched. I have an unusually detailed memory and can still recall the first murder case that sparked my interest when I was eight years old. It was the most gruesome crime committed by juveniles the United Kingdom had seen in over 250 years. A crime that still haunts me to this day. And if you ask anyone living in the UK who was old enough at the time, they’ll remember the James Bulger case.

It was a typically frigid February morning in Edinburgh, Scotland and I was sitting cross-legged by the fireplace, eating breakfast before school. We’d been living back in the UK for two years since leaving California and I was still adapting to the change in climate. The morning headline flashed on the TV screen and I stared at the faces of two boys not much older than myself. Their expressions solemn and somewhat innocent as they followed instructions of officers off camera, and held up mugshot placards with their names written in black marker. I squinted in disbelief, my expression twisted as I turned up the volume to learn more.

Courtesy of Getty Images

“Baby Killers” the newspapers pegged them. Two ten year old boys from Merseyside, Liverpool were found guilty of abducting two year old, James Bulger from the New Strand shopping centre, and leading him to a railway embankment nearby where they tortured him to death.

I felt an adrenaline surge as I tried to digest the information. But the chilling image of two boys caught in surveillance footage leading a toddler through a crowd of unsuspecting shoppers burned behind my eyes. I was stunned. How could two children be responsible for killing another child? I’d always pictured killers as adults; faceless maniacs that lurked in the shadows waiting to pounce on unsuspecting victims as they walked past. They replayed the footage, freezing on the last image ever caught of the boys leading a two year old away from his mother. And a knot tugged at the pit of my stomach as I realized I’d stood in the exact same spot as the killers the year previous while visiting my grandparents.

Courtesy of Google Images

If you’re curious regarding details of the crime, I’ve included a link to the case in the second paragraph. After 27 years, psychiatrists who worked closely with the two boys during their time in rehabilitation still cannot fathom a motive to the murder they committed in February of ’93. Detective Phil Roberts, from the local forces serious crime squad stated to reporters, “As far as I’m concerned, I looked evil in the face that day…They were a match made in Hell. A freak of nature.”

Since being released in 2001, both killers have lead very different lives: Jon Venables continuing his life as a repeat offender, and Robert Thompson living a crime free life of anonymity. It’s been nineteen years since their initial release, which sparked fury amongst the public and even though I now live in a different country and had no personal connection to the case, I still check in on them from time to time. That’s in my nature.

And so began my life-long fascination with true crime and the psychology behind it. I have followed many disturbing cases over the years, researching and compiling notes which, more recently, I turned into a novel. It wasn’t until finishing that project that I decided my notes could be put to better use and compiled as a blog rather than a personal journal. Cold and breaking cases will be the focus of my continued discussions here. If you’re interested in true crime or have any additional information about specific cases, you can reach out to me via email or contact the tip links I post at the end of each blog post.

Copyright © Sarah F. Prescott 2020

LISK: A Timeline

Image Courtesy of Pexels.com

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

    Megan Waterman (22) was last seen on June 6, 2010 heading toward a nearby convenience store on foot after leaving the Hauppauge Holiday Inn Express.

    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.

  • September 2014

    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.

  • January 2019

    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