Source: Family taunted from victim's phone

At left, Melissa Barthelemy, who was identified as

At left, Melissa Barthelemy, who was identified as one of the bodies found at Gilgo Beach in December. (Dec. 21, 2011) Photo Credit: Handout / Kevin P. Coughlin

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A suspect in the disappearance of one of the Gilgo Beach victims taunted the woman's family and eluded police who were monitoring calls from her cell phone, a law enforcement source said.

In the days after Melissa Barthelemy disappeared on July 12, 2009, a man made calls from her cell phone on July 16, 19, and 23 to her teenage sister. The caller referred to Barthelemy as "a whore," according to the source, who asked not to be identified.

New York City police monitoring the phone determined the calls were coming from midtown Manhattan - near Penn Station and Madison Square Garden and by Times Square. But the caller didn't stay on the line long enough for police to find him.

The trail went cold, and it wasn't until 17 months later that Barthelemy's remains were found as one of four bodies wrapped in burlap off a beachfront road. Suffolk police disclosed Monday that Barthelemy, a Buffalo native living in the Bronx, was one of the victims.

The four were believed to have died at the hands of a serial killer or killers preying on young women who advertised sexual services on Craigslist and other Internet sites.

Not long after Barthelemy's disappearance, someone also accessed her voice mail. Using a court subpoena, police got phone records that showed the call was made from Massapequa, about a 20-mile drive from where the skeletons were eventually found.

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In August 2009, police canvassed two hotels there - the Budget Inn (now the Rodeway Inn) and The Best Western - and reviewed surveillance video, but found nothing of interest.

The law enforcement source said officials knew of other calls made from a second phone belonging to Barthelemy. The phone was traced to an ex-convict who told police he picked it up after two girls fought on the street.

Barthelemy was attacked by the other girl after Barthelemy's pimp, who also has been interviewed by the NYPD, said he was angry at her for freelancing as an escort on Craigslist. Barthelemy was arrested on a midtown Manhattan street on suspicion of prostitution in September 2008 and made a plea deal.

Her family last April hired a psychic who told them that Barthelemy was in a shallow grave overlooking a body of water near a sign with the letter "G." The family relayed this information to the NYPD before the discovery of the remains at Gilgo Beach, according to the source.

Suffolk police declined to comment on the investigation.

As the manhunt continues, the loved ones of Barthelemy and another victim, Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Maine, made plans for their final goodbyes.

The Barthelemy family expected to receive today the cremated remains, said their attorney, Steven Cohen of Buffalo. The family's last contact with her was a text message between Barthelemy and her younger sister on July 9, 2009, he said.

The sister of a third victim, Amber Lynn Costello, Tuesday called her "a great sister" and "a best friend to a lot of people." Costello, 27, was last seen alive Sept. 2, 2010, in North Babylon, where she lived shortly before her death.

"She was just a good girl lost," said Kim Overstreet, 33, of Lindenhurst. "It's sad."

Overstreet said she was still waiting for Costello's body to be released.

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"I'm thinking of having the two services," she said, "One here because people who need closure, family and friends who didn't say goodbye to her. The other might be in North Carolina [where Costello grew up]. I just don't have the date or times yet."

Waterman's family prepared this week for two ceremonies: The first, her 23rd birthday party at a Maine roller rink, a party and fundraiser that had been planned when the family believed she was not among the bodies. On Sunday, they will gather for a memorial service at a local funeral home.

"We're going to hold a celebration of her life," said Waterman's aunt, Elizabeth Meserve. The family expects to receive her cremated remains Wednesday.

The other victim, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Conn., was last seen alive in Manhattan on July 9, 2007, police said. Police believe the killer left her body in Gilgo Beach shortly afterward.

With Sophia Chang and Chau Lam

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