Search for bodies on LI moves west

Police examine the area between Oak Beach and

Police examine the area between Oak Beach and West Gilgo Beach where the remains of five people were found within days of each other in early 2011. Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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Four months. Eight decomposed bodies. And Monday the search goes on.

As they seek clues, evidence and perhaps more bodies in their hunt for a suspected serial killer, investigators this morning move their search into Nassau County. They will focus along Ocean Parkway immediately west of the Nassau-Suffolk county border.

Amid brush along the parkway in Suffolk, investigators have found eight bodies since Dec. 11. Authorities have only identified the first four, women who advertised as prostitutes on Craigslist.

Officials have not linked the deaths of those women and the human remains found on March 29 and the three bodies found last Monday.

Police have said that none of the eight, however, is Shannan Gilbert, a prostitute whose disappearance on May 1 led them to begin a search in the area. Gilbert, 24, of Jersey City, went missing from Oak Beach after visiting a client. Her fate remains unknown.

Investigators are still looking for Gilbert and waiting for critical new clues, including the identities of the four most recently found remains. Their link to the first four is uncertain.

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A source with knowledge of the case told Newsday on Friday that the four bodies in the second cluster show significant differences from the four found in December. A police spokeswoman, meanwhile, said that no suspects have been identified in any of the eight deaths.

On Dec. 11, police found the first body. A Suffolk police officer working with a cadaver dog uncovered a skeleton off Ocean Parkway in Gilgo Beach, about 4 miles from Oak Beach. Officials initially believed it was Gilbert.

Two days later, police located three more sets of remains nearby. Like the first, they were wrapped in burlap and left unburied in thick brush. Police indicated at the time that the four were probably victims of a serial killer.

After Gilbert was ruled out as being among those found, authorities launched an expanded search on Dec. 16 and 17 using more than a dozen cadaver dogs. That effort turned up no more remains or significant clues.

There were no major developments in the case until Jan. 24, when officials identified the victims as Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Conn.; Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of the Bronx; Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Maine; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27, of North Babylon.

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Also in January, a law enforcement source told Newsday that in the days after Barthelemy went missing on July 12, 2009, a man made six calls from her cell phone to her teenage sister.

New York City police monitoring the phone determined the calls were coming from midtown Manhattan, but the caller didn't stay on long enough for police to find him, the source said.

In March, after the snow had melted, Suffolk police said they had returned periodically to Ocean Parkway to search. On March 29, a fifth set of remains was discovered off the parkway, east of the previous finds. Then on April 4, three more sets of decomposed remains were recovered, bringing the total to eight.

While the Suffolk search was still in progress, state and Nassau police announced they will search west into Nassau County beginning Monday.

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