New York investigators and the FBI have identified the remains of four women whose bodies were found in early December of last year, bodies apparently dumped on a remote Long Island, NY beach sometime before. The remains of the four victims were in various stages of decomposition, suggesting they had been placed there at different times, i.e., a working body disposal site, one possibly used by a serial killer.
The four known victims to date have been identified as Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Conn, last seen on July 9, 2007; Melissa Barthelemey, 27, of New York City, last seen on July 6, 2009, at a motel in Hauppauge, NY. New York where she allegedly traveled to meet someone she had met on an Internet web site; Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Maine, last seen June 6, 2010, allegedly on her way to meet a client she met on Craigslist; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27, of Long Island, NY, who was last seen on September 2, 2010. Most if not all of the four victims have been identified as female escorts who advertised their services on the Internet site Craigslist. Two or more of the sets of human remains were found wrapped in burlap bags, and all of the victims appear to have been unceremoniously dumped or buried along the roadside, probably after they were assaulted and murdered at another location.
In cases like this, with the victims all suspected to have been escorts or call girls, they likely traveled some distance to meet someone who called or wrote them in response to their Internet escort ads. For a potential serial killer, such a list would be a fantasy come true, giving him the ability to basically “shop at home” via the Internet for his next perfect victim, in this case perhaps a white female in her early to mid 20’s who could be enticed to leave the relatively safety of her own home to travel to meet someone seeking her services.
The Kensington Strangler
Antonio Rodriquez, recently arrested as Philadelphia’s so-called “Kensington Strangler,” is suspected in the strangulation murder of at least three prostitutes he encountered on the back streets of that city, women he is alleged to have had “rough fantasy sex” with, first choking his victims into unconsciousness, then allowing them to slowly come back to life, only to again strangle the life out of them. Such a serial killer may be fulfilling a personal sexual fantasy, sadistically controlling his victims suffering, deciding, like some type of mythical god, who, when and where someone should die, and doing this in an up-close and very personal manner. “The Kensington Strangler,” however, had to venture out onto the streets to find his victims, exposing himself to identification and arrest, especially when you note that at least three other similar female victims somehow survived an attack by the believed same assailant.
The Body Disposal Site
The Long Island killer apparently just sat at home and trolled the Internet looking for his victims, not at all needing to expose himself to the heat or cold of the outdoors, taking his time to set his deadly snare for his next victim, luring his next victim to come to him, perhaps with the promise of money, drugs, or something else of value that would compel these four women to apparently travel to him. It appears that the remains of all four known victims were dropped within one quarter mile of each other along the lonely beach front. But if at least one of the victims, 25-year-old Maureen Brainard-Barnes of Connecticut had been missing for the past three and one-half years, could this assumed killer, or killers since some serial killers have been known to operate in pairs, have begun his killing spree that long ago? And if so, could the bodies of these four women have gone undetected for between 42 months to 3 months?
Some killers have been known to rebury the bodies of their victims, i.e., if Brainard-Barnes was murdered that long ago, could her killer have moved her remains to this new common body disposal site, or was her body buried so well that it went undetected for almost four years? Many questions but few answers at this time.
What the Victims had in Common
What we do know is what these four women had in common: they were all white and serial killers tend to kill within their own racial group (but the Kensington Strangler didn’t…); they were all in their early to mid 20’s, probably their killer’s preferential age for his victims (but the ages of the murdered Atlantic City prostitutes ranged between 20 and 42 – victims of chance or opportunity vs. evidence of planning on the part of their killer?); they all appeared to have advertised their services via the Internet and were not all immediately missed, with few knowing the destination to which they traveled. But there is uniquely something else that all four women are believed to have had in common: they all apparently came into contact with the same suspected same serial killer or killers. The believed murderer(s) of these victims had to have had some common means of contact with these women; via the Internet, by telephone, even by snail mail, but it’s highly likely that their killer left his electronic fingerprints behind; likely preserved in some data bank just waiting to be discovered, compared and identified. Investigators will look at the path of each woman’s life at the time of their disappearance and try to determine if there is one web site, one Internet or e-mail address, or one cell phone number common to all four. This was the case with Philip Markoff, the so-called “Craigslist Killer” who allegedly found his victims via that Internet site.
The suspected killer or killers of these four women may well have lived, worked, or traveled through the general area where their remains were found. He would need some reason to explain his being in the general area in someone observed and reported him, perhaps a license number of a vehicle parked alongside the beach late at night. He might even know that another notorious New York area serial killer, Joel Rifkin, responsible for the death of at least 17, was stopped by two New York State Troopers for a routine vehicle infraction; routine that is until they found the decomposing body of a 22-year-old woman wrapped in plastic and bound with rope in the rear of his truck. No, this current killer would likely know his way in and out of the local area and would likely have a cover story to explain his presence if stopped by police. Meanwhile investigators in Atlantic City, NJ, must still consider if this killer or these killers could be responsible for the murder of four known prostitutes in that area in 2006, women whose bodies were found, like those on the Long Island beach, in what was believed to be a pre-designated body disposal area, in that case a lonely drainage ditch.
The Hunt for the Killer
And while the electronic and physical hunt for the presumed killer of the four Long Island victims continues, authorities must also consider these questions: Has this assumed serial killer struck before, and will he strike again? The proverbial hunt is on and law enforcement will once again count on every resource they can muster, to include any member of the public who believes they have a shred of information about this case. Lives are once again, as they say, on the line and the clock is ticking…
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