Where is the real Long Island Serial Killer now? The mysterious case of suspects and over 10 sex worker victims
'The Long Island Serial Killer' case is one of the most mind-bending cases of all time. Let's take a look at all the prime suspects and victims over the years
It’s been more than two decades that the unidentified Long Island serial killer (LISK) wreaked havoc on the streets of Long Island and it is one of the most nerve-wracking cases in the history of the United States. It is believed that the LISK murdered more than 15 women, mostly prostitutes, over the period of 20 years and left their bodies in areas on the South Shore of Long Island, New York.
In 2010, Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old sex worker, disappeared from one of her client’s houses in the Oak Beach area of Long Island. The police launched an investigation and to their horror, they found remains of four female victims that were buried there years ago. However, none of them was Shannan. From 2010 to 2011, the police officials found more than 10 more bodies in and around the Gilgo Beach and Oak Beach area.
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Over the years, there have been many prime suspects and persons of interest in the case. But the killer has not been identified even after 20 years. Let’s take a look at all the prime suspects and victims of the Long Island serial killer.
There were a lot of suspects that were interrogated by police. However, five of them were closely monitored by the law enforcement authorities as they were closely associated with the case.
Dr Peter Hackett
Hackett was the first person of interest in the case because of what he did after the disappearance of Shannan Gilbert. Hackett called Shannan’s mother Mari Gilbert and said “he ran a home for wayward girls” before hanging up. Shannan’s mother told about the call to the police and they investigated the call. After the investigation, it was found that Hackett indeed called Mari after her daughter’s disappearance. According to court records, Hackett’s full name is Charles Peter Hackett, and was previously employed as an emergency services doctor. He lived in the Oak Beach area.
However, there have many inconsistencies in what he told the investigators and what he told to media. While talking to the media, Hackett denied seeing Shannan and calling Mari. However, he completely changed his story when he told CBS News’ crime investigation show “48 Hours” that he indeed called Mari. In 2011, he changed his statement once again and he saw Shannan, called her inside the house, but denied giving her any kind of treatment.
Later that year, police officials said they are taking him as a suspect now because Hackett was called a “storyteller and an exaggerator.” A wrongful death suit was filed on him by Shannan’s family but was later dismissed because it couldn’t be proved that he treated Shannan.
Peter Hackett currently lives in Fort Myers, Florida with his family.
One of the most shocking names to come out in the investigation was James Burke. Burke was a police officer when the investigation started and was later promoted to the chief of police in 2011. The former chief of police was sent to prison for 46 months back in 2016 after pleading guilty to a civil rights violation arising out of an assault on a local man. Later that man, who was identified as Christopher Loeb, filed a lawsuit against Burke and revealed that he assaulted him inside the station.
However, things became more bizarre when a sex worker named Leanne claimed that she saw him for the second time in 2011 and decided to hook up with him. She described that he violently yanked her head during oral sex to the point where she started tearing up. The instance made everyone believed that he might have drugs on him or doing some illegal business.
According to The New York Times, Burke was also busted for “having sex in his patrol car while in his uniform.” Meanwhile, he was taken as a suspect because he tried to block the FBI investigation of the Long Island Serial Killer case during his time as police chief. Burke was released from prison in 2018 and transferred to a halfway house.
Bissett was one of the suspects of the case because he was the main supplier of “burlap” in the region of Long Island and the killer used burlap to strangle women whose remains were found in the area during the investigation. However, Bissett could not be interrogated as he took his own life while in his car at Mattituck park.
The only man to be convicted under the investigation was John Bittrolff. But he was not taken into custody for the LISK case. On September 12, 2017, Suffolk County prosecutor Robert Biancavilla said that John Bittrolff, a Suffolk County resident convicted of murdering two prostitutes and suspected of the murder of a third.
A carpenter by profession, Bittfolff was arrested when his DNA was found on the bodies of two homicide victims, Coleen McNamee and Rita Tangredi, whose bodies were found in 1993 and 1994, respectively. Later, it was revealed that he was also a suspect in at least one of the Long Island Serial Killer murders.
In 2017, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison for killing two women and pleaded not guilty in the LISK case. Currently, he is serving his sentence in the Downstate Correctional Facility in Hudson Valley, New York.
A total of 10 bodies or sets of remains have been found since 2010. The four discovered in December 2010 have been identified as missing prostitutes who all advertised their services on Craigslist. The first four victims to be identified were: Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Lynn Costello.
All the aforementioned names worked as sex workers due to personal reasons and placing advertisements on Craigslist.
More bodies were found in 2011 and only two of them were identified by police. Women named Jessica Taylor, 20, and Valerie Mack, 24, were identified by DNA analysis. Jessica and Valerie also worked as prostitutes in their respective places. Meanwhile, many of the killer’s victims could not be identified.
Where is the Long Island killer now?
In January 2020, police from Suffolk County introduced a piece of new evidence in the case. The police released a photograph of a black leather belt that was found at a crime scene. The law enforcement agents believe that the evidence is linked to the LISK case.
Speaking about the evidence, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said: “We are hopeful that this photograph will bring somebody forward with information about the origin of that article.”
The whereabouts of the LISK are unknown and nobody knows if he is still alive or not. Even if he is, it is still to be seen if the unidentified killer is still operating in the area. Catch the horrendous tale depicted in Lifetime's 'The Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother’s Hunt for Justice' that tells the story of Mari Gilbert’s search for the truth behind what happened to her daughter Shannan, a sometime escort who disappeared after a ‘date’ on Long Island.