A tearful vigil for family and friends of the Gilgo Beach victims went on as planned Tuesday despite another jolt of anguish triggered by the apparent discovery of Shannan Gilbert's remains.
Gilbert's mother, Mari Gilbert, drove to Oak Beach from her upstate Ellenville home and was quickly surrounded by Lorraine Ela, mother of victim Megan Waterman, and Melissa Cann, sister of victim Maureen Brainard-Barnes.
Ela said bitterly that the killer was likely watching on TV, enjoying the families' pain on the one-year anniversary of the discovery of three of the bodies.
"I'm certain the guy is getting the biggest thrill of his life seeing what he's done to these families," she said.
About a dozen family and friends attending the planned vigil clutched bouquets of flowers and bunches of pastel-colored balloons.
Gilbert and the other mourners stood in the Oak Beach parking lot, reciting a prayer before releasing the balloons.
"Thank you, God," Gilbert said.
First they stopped at Waterman's cross, then Brainard-Barnes', before reaching the sites where the remains of Melissa Barthelemy and Amber Lynn Costello were found.
At each stop, family and friends crouched in the clearings between the brambles, crying and laying down flowers before tying a bright red, heart-shaped balloon to each marker.
"Every time I lay flowers out for my sister, I'll be laying them out for Shannan," Kimberly Overstreet, Costello's sister, said, noting the strong bonds the disappearances and slayings had created among the victims' families.
The group then drove back to Oak Beach, where they lit long white candles, their flames shielded by plastic cups, and stood together near the water, gazing at a spectacular sunset.
Cann recited the names of the dead women and the many things they were -- mother, daughter, sister, friend -- to the solemn group who stood and remembered.