Updates on the Long Island Serial Killer Case

The Long Island serial killer (also referred to as LISK, the Gilgo Beach Killer or the Craigslist Ripper) is an unidentified suspected serial killer who is believed to have murdered 10 to 16 people over a period of nearly 20 years, mostly women who were associated with being sex workers, and left their bodies in areas on the South Shore of Long Island, New York.

The victims were found along the Ocean Parkway, near the remote beach towns of Gilgo and Oak Beach in Suffolk County, and the area of Jones Beach State Park in Nassau County. The remains of four victims were found in December 2010, while six more sets of remains were found in March and April 2011.

On November 29, 2011, the police stated their belief that one person is responsible for all 10 deaths although previously they said it might be the work of multiple suspects.

The attention to the area began when Shannon Gilbert went missing in May 2020 but as of now, despite all efforts by her family, the police claims that she isn’t the victim of the same murderer, rather she just ran into the marshlands.

Table of content

May 2020,
Identifying Jane Doe #6 – Valerie Mack

Jane Doe #6’s remains were found in two areas of Long Island, more than 40 miles and a decade apart. In 2000 in Manorville they found parts of her body, and in 2011 near Gilgo Beach where they found her head, right foot and hands. The police haven’t released the identity of the victim yet but expected to do so soon.

Her remains aren’t the only ones which were found in two locations – Manorville and Gilgo Beach. Police found the skull of Jessica Taylor, a 20-year-old who disappeared in 2003, near Gilgo Beach and most of the rest of her body in a wooded area of Manorville.

Last year the FBI started to run familiar DNA analysis which led to identifying Jane Doe #6 and also released photographs of a monogrammed belt which can lead to identifying the suspect using the same technic, just as it happened in the case of the Golden State Killer.

The police kept the identity a secret after the announcement, but it’s been revealed that the victim’s name is Valerie Mack. (Pictured below.)

Mack was 24 when she was last seen; she was working as an escort in the Philadelphia area at the time of her disappearance. Family members last saw her in the spring/summer of 2000 near Port Republic, New Jersey. Mack, who also used the name Melissa Taylor, was never reported missing.

Identified Victims of the Long Island Serial Killer

There are 5 identified and 5 unidentified victims in this case, including a man and a baby. There are 6 more victimswho can possibly linked to the same suspect, but the police aren’t officially treating them as part of the same case.

Jessica Taylor

Last seen: July 2003.

On July 26, 2003, her naked and dismembered torso, missing its head and hands, was discovered 45 miles east of Gilgo Beach in Manorville, New York. A tattoo on her body had been cut and she was identified through DNA later in 2003.

On March 29, 2011 on Gilgo beach a skull, a pair of hands and a forearm was found and matched to Taylor.

Maureen Brainard-Barnes

Last seen: July 9, 2007.

Maureen was a struggling mother who worked as a paid escort via Craigslist to pay the mortgage on her house. She had been out of the sex industry for seven months, but she returned to the work in order to pay her bills after receiving an eviction notice. Her body was found in December 2010.

Melissa Barthélemy

Last seen: July 10, 2009.

She had been living in the Bronx and working as an escort through Craigslist. On the night she went missing, she met with a client, deposited $900 in her bank account, and attempted to call an old boyfriend, but did not get through.

A week later, and lasting for five weeks, her teenage sister, Amanda, received a series of “vulgar, mocking and insulting” calls from a man, who may have been the killer using Melissa’s cell phone. The calls became increasingly disturbing, and eventually culminated in the caller telling Amanda that Melissa was dead, and that he was going to “watch her rot.”

Police traced some of the calls to Madison Square Garden, midtown Manhattan, and Massapequa, but were unable to determine who was making the calls. Melissa’s mother noted that there were “a lot of calls to Manorville” from Melissa’s phone around the time of her disappearance.

Megan Waterman

Last seen: June 6, 2010

Megan also placed advertisements on Craiglist. The day before she went missing she had told her 20-year-old boyfriend that she was going out and would call him later. At the time of her disappearance, she was staying at a motel in Hauppauge, New York, 15 miles northeast of Gilgo Beach. Her body was recovered in December 2010.

Amber Lynn Costello

Last seen: Sept 2, 2010

Amber went missing from North Babylon, New York, a town ten miles north of Gilgo Beach. She was a sex worker and heroin user. She reportedly went to meet a stranger who had called her several times and offered $1,500 for her services.

Unidentified Victims of the Long Island Serial Killer

‘Jane Doe No.6’

Jane Doe was recently identified by the police through familiar DNA. Her identity isn’t released to the public yet.

Her body was found in two location – cloe to Manorville and Gilgo beach. Her foothave been cut – probably to conceal a tattoo. Her case is very similay to Jessica Taylor’s who was found nearby.

‘John Doe’

John Doe was also discovered on April 4, 2011 at Gilgo Beach. The body appeared to be a young Asian male who died from blunt-force trauma. The police stated that he had likely been working as a sex workerand was wearing women’s clothing at the time of his death.[18] 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 his gait.

Doe network file: http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/2864umny.html

‘Baby Doe’

The third body found on April 4, 2011, about 250 feet away from the partial remains of “Jane Doe No. 6,” was that of a female toddler between 16 and 24 months of age. The body was wrapped in a blanket and showed no visible signs of trauma. DNA tests determined that the child’s mother was “Jane Doe No. 3”, whose body was found 10 miles east, near Jones Beach State Park. The toddler was reported to be a person of color and was wearing gold earrings and a gold necklace.

Doe network file: http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/1323ufny.html

‘Peaches/Jane Doe No. 3’

On June 28, 1997, the dismembered torso of an unidentified young African-American female was found at Hempstead Lake State Park, in the town of Lakeview, New York. She had a tattoo of a heart-shaped peach with a bite out of it and two drips falling from its core on her left breast.

On April 11, 2011, police in Nassau County discovered dismembered skeletal human remains belonging to Jane Doe No.3 near Jones Beach State Park. DNA analysis identified this victim as the mother of “Baby Doe.” She was found wearing gold jewelry similar to that of “Baby Doe.”

Doe network file: http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/151ufny.html

‘Jane Doe No. 7.-Fire Island Jane Dow’

Also on April 11, 2011, at nearby Tobay Beach, a separate human skull and several teeth were recovered. These remains were linked by DNA testing to a set of severed legs found in a garbage bag on Fire Island on April 20, 1996. The victim had a surgical scar on her left leg.

Doe network file: http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/1019ufny.html

Suspects in the Long Island Serial Killer Case

James Burke

On December 15, 2016, the attorney for Gilbert’s family said that an escort who had conducted business with former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke claimed he was connected to the Long Island murders.

In November 2016, Burke had been sentenced to 46 months in federal prison, along with three years of supervised release, for beating a man who stole a duffel bag filled with sex toys and pornography from his vehicle. Gilbert’s attorney said in December that one escort claimed that she had had “rough sex” with Burke during an Oak Beach party and previously saw him dragging someone on the ground during a party.

Burke was reported to have blocked an FBI probe of the LISK case during his time as police chief.

John Bittrolff

On September 12, 2017, Suffolk County prosecutor Robert Biancavilla said that John Bittrolff, a Suffolk county resident, was a suspect in at least one of the LISK murders. Biancavilla stated that Bittrolff was likely responsible for the deaths of other women, and that there were similarities between the Gilgo Beach crime scenes and Bittrolff’s known murders, for which he was convicted in May 2017 and was sentenced to 25 years for both murders.

Bittrolff was arrested in 2014, linked by DNA found on two prostitute homicide victims, Rita Tangredi and Colleen McNamee, whose bodies were found in 1993 and 1994, respectively.

The Suffolk County police did not comment on the prosecutor’s statement, due to the active homicide investigation of the LISK murders.

Bittrolff was married and had lived in Manorville, three miles from where the torsos of LISK victims Jessica Taylor and “Jane Doe No. 6” were recovered.

The grown daughter of Rita Tangredi, one of Bittrolff’s known victims, was reported to be “best friends” with Melissa Barthelemy, one of the Gilgo Beach victims.Barthelemy’s mother said that her daughter Melissa “had a lot of calls to Manorville from her phone” before her death

Joseph Brewer

Joseph Brewer, an Oak Beach resident, was one of the last people known to have seen Shannan Gilbert alive. He hired her as an escort from Craigslist on the night of her disappearance. Brewer said that shortly after Gilbert arrived at his residence, she began acting erratically and fled into the night. Gilbert was reportedly seen running through Oak Beach, pounding on the doors of homes in Brewer’s neighborhood. Around this time, Gilbert called 9-1-1, saying that “they were trying to kill her”. However, police did not find any evidence of wrongdoing, and Brewer was quickly cleared as a suspect.

Dr. Peter Hackett

Two days after Gilbert’s disappearance, Dr. Peter Hackett, an Oak Beach resident and neighbor of Brewer, called the woman’s mother, Mari Gilbert. He said he was taking care of Gilbert, and that he “ran a home for wayward girls.” Three days later, he called the mother again, denying the phone call or ever being in contact with Gilbert.

The phone calls were confirmed later by the investigators and Gilbert’s remains were found in the marshy area near Hackett’s backyard. Later police revealed that Hackett had a history of inserting himself into, or exaggerating his role in, certain major events. According to records Hackett’s wife and two children were home on the night of Gilbert’s disappearance.

Police later ruled out Hackett as a suspect in the deaths of Gilbert and the LISK victims.

James Bissett

Two days after Shannan Gilbert’s remains were found James Bissett took his own life while in his car at Mattituck park. He ran a nursery which was the main supplier of burlap in the region (some of the victims were found wrapped in burlap)

The Zodiac Killer Updates

The Zodiac Killer is an unenditified American serial killer who operated in Northern California from at least the late 1960s to the early 1970s. The killer originated the name in a series of taunting letters and cards sent to the local Bay Area press. The letters included four cryptograms (or ciphers). Of the four cryptograms sent, only one has been definitively solved.

He murdered five known victims in Benicia, Vallejo, Napa County, and San Francisco respectively between December 1968 and October 1969. He targeted young couples, with two of the men surviving attempted murder. He also murdered a male cab driver. The Zodiac himself once claimed to have murdered 37 victims.

Suspects have been named by law enforcement and amateur investigators, but no conclusive evidence has surfaced. The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) marked the case “inactive” in April 2004, but re-opened it at some point prior to March 2007. The case also remains open in the city of Vallejo, as well as in Napa County and Solano County. The California Department of Justice has maintained an open case file on the Zodiac murders since 1969.

May 2018

In May 2018, the Vallejo Police Department announced their intention to attempt to collect the Zodiac Killer’s DNA from the back of stamps he used during his correspondence. The analysis, by a private laboratory, is expected to utilize an advanced new technique that is able to separate DNA from the glue present on the back of stamps. It is hoped the Zodiac Killer may be caught in a similar fashion to the Golden State Killer. In May 2018, a Vallejo police detective said that results were expected in several weeks. However as of December 2019 no results have been reported.

The Early 2000’s

The closest police have to Zodiac’s DNA are the stamps he used to post his letters and in the early 2000’s they developed a partial profile by testing that. Because the profile is incomplete, it cannot rule anyone in. But it did rule out long-time suspect Arthur Leigh Allen in 2002. Because of the incomplete profile it would be much harder to find a family match than it was in the case of the Golden State Killer.

1969-1970
The Murders

Although the Zodiac claimed to have committed 37 murders in letters to the newspapers, investigators agree on only seven confirmed victims, two of whom survived.

Lake Herman Road murders

The first murders widely attributed to the Zodiac Killer were the shootings of high school students Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday on December 20, 1968, on Lake Herman Road. The couple were on their first date, they visited a friend before stopping at a local restaurant and then driving out on Lake Herman Road a known lover’s lane.

Quite possibly another car pulled into the turnout, just prior to 11:00 pm and parked beside the couple. The killer apparently exited the second car and walked toward the couple and possibly ordering them out of the car. Jensen appeared to have exited the car first, yet when Faraday was halfway out, the killer shot him in the head. The killer then shot Jensen five times in the back as she fled; her body was found 28 feet from the car.

Blue Rock Springs murder

Just before midnight on July 4, 1969, Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau drove into the Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo, four miles (6.4 km) from the Lake Herman Road murder site, and parked. While the couple sat in Ferrin’s car, a second car drove into the lot and parked alongside them but almost immediately drove away. Returning about 10 minutes later, this second car parked behind them. The driver of the second car then exited the vehicle, approaching the passenger side door of Ferrin’s car, carrying a flashlight and a 9 mm Luger. The killer directed the flashlight into Mageau’s and Ferrin’s eyes before shooting at them, firing five times. Both victims were hit, and several bullets had passed through Mageau and into Ferrin. The killer walked away from the car but upon hearing Mageau’s moaning, returned and shot each victim twice more before driving off.

Ferrin was pronounced dead at the hospital. Mageau survived the attack despite being shot in the face, neck and chest. Mageau described his attacker as a 26-to-30-year-old, 195-to-200-pound (88 to 91 kg) or possibly even more, 5-foot-8-inch (1.73 m) white male with short, light brown curly hair.

First letters from the Zodiac

“I like killing people because it is so much fun it is more fun than killing wild game in the forrest because man is the most dangeroue anamal of all to kill something gives me the most thrilling experence it is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl the best part of it is thae when I die I will be reborn in paradice and the I have killed will become my slaves I will not give you my name because you will try to sloi down or atop my collectiog of slaves for my afterlife ebeorietemethhpiti”

The Solution to Zodiac’s 408-symbol cipher

On August 1, 1969, three letters prepared by the killer were received at the Vallejo Times Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The San Francisco Examiner. The nearly identical letters took credit for the shootings at Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs. Each letter also included one-third of a 408-symbol cryptogram which the killer claimed contained his identity. The killer demanded they be printed on each paper’s front page or he would “cruse [sic] around all weekend killing lone people in the night then move on to kill again, until I end up with a dozen people over the weekend.”

The Chronicle published its third of the cryptogram on page four of the next day’s edition. The threatened murders did not happen, and all three parts were eventually published.

On August 7, 1969, another letter was received at The San Francisco Examiner with the salutation “Dear Editor This is the Zodiac speaking.” The Zodiac included details about the Faraday, Jensen and Ferrin murders.which had not yet been released to the public.

On August 8, 1969, Donald and Bettye Harden of Salinas, California, cracked the 408-symbol cryptogram. It contained a misspelled message in which the killer seemed to reference The Most Dangerous Game. He also said he was collecting slaves for the afterlife. No name appears in the decoded text, and the killer said that he would not give away his identity because it would slow down or stop his slave collection.

Lake Berryessa murder

On September 27, 1969, Pacific Union College students Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard were picnicking at Lake Berryessa on a small island connected by a sand spit to Twin Oak Ridge. A white man approached them wearing a black executioner’s-type hood with clip-on sunglasses over the eye-holes and a bib-like device on his chest that had a white three-by-three-inch (7.6 cm × 7.6 cm) cross-circle symbol on it. He approached them with a gun and the hooded man claimed to be an escaped convict where he had killed a guard and subsequently stolen a car, explaining that he now needed their car and money to go to Mexico,

He had brought precut lengths of plastic clothesline and told Shepard to tie up Hartnell, before he tied her up. The killer checked, and tightened Hartnell’s bonds after discovering Shepard had bound Hartnell’s hands loosely. Hartnell initially believed this event to be a weird robbery, but the man drew a knife and stabbed them both repeatedly, Hartnell suffering six and Shepard ten wounds in the process. The killer then hiked 500 yards (460 m) back up to Knoxville Road, drew the cross-circle symbol on Hartnell’s car door with a black felt-tip pen, and wrote beneath it: “Vallejo/12-20-68/7-4-69/Sept 27–69–6:30/by knife.”

At 7:40 p.m., the killer called the Napa County Sheriff’s office from a pay telephone. The caller first stated to the operator that he wished to “report a murder – no, a double murder,” before stating that he had been the perpetrator of the crime. The phone was found, still off the hook, only a few blocks from the sheriff’s office, yet 27 miles (43 km) from the crime scene. Detectives were able to lift a still-wet palm print from the telephone but were never able to match it to any suspect.

Cecelia Shepard was conscious when Sheriff deputy Collins arrived, providing him with a detailed description of the attacker. Shepard lapsed into a coma during transport to the hospital and never regained consciousness. She died two days later, but Hartnell survived to recount his tale to the press.

Murder of Paul Stine

Two weeks later on October 11, 1969, a white male passenger entered the cab driven by Paul Stine at the intersection of Mason and Geary Streets (one block west from Union Square) in San Francisco requesting to be taken to Washington and Maple Streets in Presidio Heights. For reasons unknown, Stine drove one block past Maple to Cherry Street; the passenger then shot Stine once in the head, took Stine’s wallet and car keys, and tore away a section of Stine’s bloodstained shirt tail. This passenger was observed by three teenagers across the street at 9:55 p.m., who called the police while the crime was in progress. They observed a man wiping the cab down before walking away.

The Stine murder was initially thought to be a routine cabbie-killing, a robbery that has escalated. However quickly, on October 13, the San Francisco Chronicle received a new letter from Zodiac containing a piece of bloody shirt and taking credit for the killing.

This was the last officially confirmed kill by the Zodiac Killer.

More Reading Material about the Zodiac Killer Case

Robert Greysmith: Zodiac

“This is the Zodiac speaking. I like killing people because it is so much fun…the most thrilling experience…”

The Zodiac terrorised Northern California and taunted the police for years with his mocking notes. It is still one of the biggest mysteries in the true crime world and any book or movie on the topic is an inerest of mine, so obviously it had tobe on the list.

The Zodiac Killer was never caught. Author Robert Graysmith tells the inside story of the hunt for the hooded killer, and finally reveals his possible true identity. It’s an essential book for all true crime junkies.

Price: It’s FREE on Audobook and the paperback is £7.99

Zodiac Killer FBI Files

Joseph James DeAngelo, The Golden State Killer Case Updates

I was listening to an old My Favourite Murder episode (Episode 111 – Figure It Out Kevin) where they were discussing the Golden State Killer It’s Not Over documentary and the book “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” by Michelle McNamara.

I remembered to something reading on him being caught a few years back but my true crime obsession didn’t reach the current levels yet so I thought it is time I do my research and check up on the case. You could imagine my surprise when I read that there were significant developments in the case of Joseph DeAngelo.

Aug 21, 2020
DeAngelo Sentenced to Life in Prison

The life sentence came after 3 days of hearings where the survivors and family members of the victims were subjected to relive the horrific crimes committed between 1975 and 1986 by DeAngelo.

“When a person commits monstrous acts, they need to be locked away so they can never harm an innocent person,”

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman

DeAngelo also admitted to dozens more sexual assaults for which the statute of limitations had expired. Prosecutors called the scale of the violence “simply staggering,” encompassing 87 victims at 53 crime scenes spanning 11 California counties.

Before sentencing, DeAngelo rose from a wheelchair, took off his mask and said to the court: “I listened to all your statements, each one of them, and I’m truly sorry for everyone I’ve hurt.”

Applause erupted when DeAngelo was remanded to the custody of sheriff’s officials for transfer to the state prison system.

“The defendant deserves no mercy,” the judge said.

June 29, 2020
DeAngelo Pleads Guilty in Court

The Golden State Killer admitted to his crimes and in unusual fashion 87 of his living victims will be speaking on his sentencing.

DeAngelo pleaded guilty in Sacramento County Superior Court last week to the 26 crimes he was formally charged with. He also admitted to 161 offenses he was never formally accused of because the deadline to prosecute them had long since passed, Temple said. 

Including the admissions, the guilty pleas guarantee the 87 people have the opportunity to give a victim impact statement at the August sentencing hearing, she said. This includes Jennifer Carole, the daughter of prominent Ventura attorney Lyman Smith. 

Katharine Tinto, a clinical law professor at UC Irvine School of Law, said typically there’s no incentive for defendants to plead to additional crimes because it tends to carry a longer sentence. DeAngelo was already facing the harshest punishment in the criminal justice system. In his case, his defense attorneys were likely trying to spare DeAngelo’s life.

There were other practical considerations to agree to DeAngelo’s guilty plea. The crimes occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, an era when DNA forensic evidence did not yet exist. DNA testing done years later in the case offered investigators a major break. However, by the time an arrest was made in 2018, many of the witnesses were older, and some had died.

The case could have taken 10 years to get to trial, and the remaining witnesses are in their 90s. Plus, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly stalled the courts. 

June 16, 2020
DeAngelo to Plead Guilty to 88 Charges to Avoid the Death Penalty

In court, DeAngelo currently faces 26 counts in Sacramento Superior Court, including 13 murder counts, with one tied to Tulare County.

A new expected plea deal which would help DeAngelo avoid the death penalty requires him to admit responsibility for another 62 crimes attributed over the years to assailants variously known in California as the Visalia Ransacker, Original Nightstalker and Diamond Knot Killer, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Details of the agreement, which has not been formalized in court documents filed in the case, still are being worked out, as is the final decision on where the hearing will take place on the 29th June.

But with hundreds of spectators expected officials are looking for a setting large enough to allow for social distancing because of COVID-19 concerns.

April 22, 2020
Preliminary Hearing for Suspected Golden State Killer Delayed by Coronavirus

According to an article on Noozhawk the Coronavirus has delayed a preliminary hearing for the prime suspect in the Golden State Killer case.

The probable cause hearing for Joseph DeAngelo, 74, has still not occurred nearly two years after he was arrested on April 24, 2018. DeAngelo was scheduled to appear in Sacramento County Superior Court to argue about several motions filed by the defense team.

Joseph Deangelo is facing is facing 26 felony charges— 13 of which include murder— for crimes allegedly committed in Ventura, Santa Barbara, Orange, Sacramento, Contra Costa and Tulare counties.

The charges stem from crimes reported in the 1970s and 80s by suspects known at the time as the East Area Rapist, Original Nightstalker, Visalia Ransacker and Golden State Killer. Authorities have decided to seek the death penalty.

The case will contunue on June 29.

April 24, 2018
72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo is arrested and charged in relation to the unsolved Golden State Killer cases

Of course after that episode I had to go and listen to the MFM Episode 118 – Golden State Serial Killer Caught to catch the excitement of when this was happening live.

James DeAngelo was arrested after months of investigation based on DNA evidence. Detectives got a hit when they uploaded an udentified sample to a genomics website and they found relating matches to it. From then on they worked on the family to trace back the matches to DeAngelo. On April 18, a DNA sample was surreptitiously collected from the door handle of a car DeAngelo had been driving at the Roseville Hobby Lobby. Soon after, a sample was collected from a tissue found in DeAngelo’s curbside garbage can. Both samples were consistent with the Orange and Ventura County suspect profiles.

The 72-year-old U.S. Navy veteran and former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo was charged with eight counts of murder with special circumstancesin Sacramento County and with four counts of first degree murder in Santa Barbara. He is also facing 13 counts of kidnapping and abduction attempts.

Books about the Golden State Killer:

Films about the Golden State Killer