Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Long Island Ripper

Investigation: A Serial Killer?

 

Gilgo Beach
Gilgo Beach
Within days of finding the four bodies, the Suffolk County Police Department named William Neubauer as the case's spokesperson. But there wasn't much for him to say at first. Police were reluctant to announce even what seemed obvious: that a serial killer was behind the string of dead prostitutes on the beach.

Police said that the four women they found in December had each been killed in a similar manner, but they didn't release specific information regarding the means of death. The first four bodies were discovered within a quarter mile of each other, each about 50 feet from Ocean Parkway, and each about 500 feet from the nearest fellow victim.

Other than Waterman, who was 5'5 and 150 pounds, the first four victims discovered were very small women.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said that each of the four had been killed elsewhere and dumped on the beach, and that all four had been prostitutes who had used the Internet to arrange clients. His office suggested that the killer might be a Suffolk County or Nassau County resident, perhaps a neighbor living near Gilgo or someone who commuted through the area, though it could be someone who had grown up there and moved to the city.

Investigators at Gilgo Beach crime scene
Investigators at Gilgo Beach crime scene
Police said in December that they didn't expect to find more victims on the beach but promised to search again when the weather warmed up. For months there was nothing. The investigation was hampered as much by a budget crackdown on overtime hours as by the weather. In the absence of further developments, speculation swirled.

Because the four bodies were each wrapped in burlap sacks, some commentators conjectured that this might be a clue to the killer's profession: someone in landscape or construction would have had access to a steady supply of these.

Others suggested that this might be the work of an already-recognized serial killer. In 2003, three bodies, including that of Washington prostitute Jessica Taylor, had been found alongside Halsey Manor Road near Manorville, not too far away in Long Island's Pine Barrens. In 2006, four prostitutes had been found in a drainage ditch outside Atlantic City, N.J. Perhaps all these were the work of a single serial killer who liked New York area beach vacations; perhaps it was not a coincidence that Kim Raffo, one of the New Jersey victims, had spent a month with her husband Hugh Auslander at a Jericho, N.Y., motel in 2006. Authorities discount these links.

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