Gilgo victims remembered on anniversary

Lorraine Ela is comforted by her friend, Carrie

Lorraine Ela is comforted by her friend, Carrie Laroche, as Ela grows emotional upon visiting the grave marker for her daughter, Megan Waterman, whose body was recovered two years ago this weekend. (Dec. 15, 2012) (Credit: Danielle Finkelstein)

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Family members and friends of the Gilgo Beach victims, whose remains were found in the thick brush along Ocean Parkway, paid homage Saturday on the discovery's second anniversary.

Lorraine Ela, 45, of South Portland, Maine, visited the markers, where the burlap-wrapped skeletal remains of her daughter Megan Waterman, 22, and the three others were found in December 2010. Ela and others left bouquets and balloons at the white crosses spread out along the mile stretch of parkway. Other crosses sit at the end of walkways blocked with dry brushes and fallen branches.

"It helps me because I am keeping my daughter and the other girls' names out there," said Ela, wearing a custom-made sweater bearing the names and photos of the victims and the dates they were found.

Among the victims found was Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of the Bronx, who was found Dec. 11, 2010. Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Conn., and Amber Lynn Costello, 27, of North Babylon, were found Dec. 13, 2010, along with Waterman, of Scarborough, Maine. Police and family said all worked as prostitutes.

"She was an escort, but she's still a human being," Ela said about her daughter. "Calling them prostitutes is disrespecting their family and they are not here to defend themselves."

Ela and about 10 others, who support the families' push to keep the Gilgo case in the spotlight, gathered at Oak Beach. They released colorful biodegradable heart-shaped lanterns into the air, floating across the parkway toward the site where the remains were found.

"Come on Amber," said Costello's sister Kimberly Overstreet, 35, while trying to release a yellow lantern. "You can do it. This is for you."

The four skeletal remains were discovered after Suffolk K-9 Police Officer Scott Mallia and dog Blue were conducting a search exercise, and looking for Shannan Gilbert, 24, of Jersey City, a prostitute who was found a year ago Thursday. The Suffolk medical examiner ruled her cause of death inconclusive.

A three-month search for Gilbert beginning in March 2011 yielded an additional six sets of human remains, including a toddler's. No arrests have been made in the Gilgo investigation.

"Eventually there will be justice, but do I wait for it? No," said Overstreet, who is pregnant with a girl due Feb. 10, her sister's birthday.

Ela, whose daughter left behind a 6-year-old daughter, said she plans to set up a fund to accept donations to hire a private investigator to look into the case.

"I am my daughter's voice" Ela said. "I will fight until the end."

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