Experts: Victims' IDs can help solve case

Police comb sand dunes and marshland along Ocean

Police comb sand dunes and marshland along Ocean Parkway after four bodies were discovered between Oak Beach, Cedar Beach and Gilgo Beach. (Dec. 14, 2010) (Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin)

Finally knowing the identities of the Gilgo Beach victims could give investigators new insights into who killed them, according to law enforcement experts with experience in serial murder cases.

Just as importantly, they said, the IDs open new avenues for both traditional, shoe-leather detective work and the latest in forensic data collection.

Here's some of what police now know about the dead:

They were white women in their 20s. They worked as prostitutes, advertising on the Internet. They disappeared between July 2007 and September 2010. It's believed they went missing after going to meet clients and were killed in a similar fashion. Their bodies were wrapped in burlap and left in brush within a quarter-mile of each other.

"I would bet dollars to doughnuts that after he dumped the bodies there, he would go back to visit the location," said Joseph Pollini, a former New York City police cold case investigator who teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. "It's a control thing."

Pollini, like all the experts interviewed, imagined the killer as a man. There's a reason for that. Most serial killers are white men who work alone. Pollini said this man would be unable to form typical consensual sexual relationships with women, which made call girls likely victims.

Pollini figures the culprit is inept in social settings and alienated from his family. The use of burlap, he said, indicates blue-collar employment and the bodies' manner of disposal suggests familiarity with Gilgo Beach.

"I would say he's from close by," Pollini said. "He knows the area, he feels comfortable in the area, he keeps coming back to dump bodies there."

Capt. Nelson Andreu of the West Miami Police Department has tracked five serial killers in South Florida. Andreu said the identifications will help police determine basic information - such as a timeline of when the victims disappeared - and any connections that they may share.

Andreu said their Internet advertisements could be critical, and investigators may want to find out how they asked to be contacted - by cell phone or computer, for instance - to see whether electronic evidence points to them sharing a client.

Brent Turver, a forensic criminologist based in Alaska who consults for law enforcement worldwide, theorized that because the killer moved the bodies rather than simply leaving them at the crime scene, the victims must have been killed at a location associated in some way with the killer himself.

That could be the killer's home or a hotel room he used, but it's not likely his car, Turver said. Killers, he said, wrap bodies so that they don't leave evidence in vehicles when they drive victims from one spot to another.

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