For many years, she was simply known as “Jane Doe #6" after her body was found at Gilgo Beach — a death investigators linked to several other victims killed and dumped there.
Now she will be known forever as Valerie Mack, a 24-year-old woman who disappeared mysteriously 20 years ago.
“For two decades, Valerie Mack’s family and friends were left searching for answers, and while this is not the outcome they wanted, we hope this brings some sense of closure,” Suffolk police commissioner Geraldine Hart said Thursday during a news conference announcing the latest development in the notorious Long Island serial killings case.
Mack was living with a boyfriend in Port Republic, New Jersey when family members last saw her in 2000, Hart said. Mack had a young son — now in his late 20s — when she disappeared.
No one reported Mack missing, and investigators want to piece together her life before she disappeared.
“We are trying to rebuild her steps and her life back then,” Hart said.
Mack lost her parents when she was young, Hart said, and lived in foster homes before she was adopted as a young girl.
Like many of the other Gilgo Beach victims, Mack was a sex worker. Hart said she had been arrested three times on prostitution charges in Philadelphia. Mack had been working as an escort in Philadelphia under the name Melissa Taylor when she vanished. She had no apparent ties to Long Island, Hart said.
A woman who identified herself as Mack’s mother declined to comment on Thursday’s announcement. Hart said Mack’s adoptive family asked police to withhold their names to protect their privacy.
Mack’s torso was found in Manorville in 2000, and other body parts were discovered in April 2011 along Ocean Parkway.
Relatives of other Gilgo Beach victims said they are pleased Mack’s family has finally learned about her fate, and they expressed optimism that those responsible for the killing spree will be brought to justice.
“I think this [announcement] will give them hope and allows her family to give her a proper burial,” said Melissa Cann of Connecticut, sister of Gilgo Beach victim Maureen Brainard-Barnes. “I know how this feels.”
The remains of Brainard-Barnes, also of Connecticut, along with Megan Waterman, of Maine, and Amber Lynn Costello, of North Babylon, were found in December 2010 along Ocean Parkway.
“I feel encouraged,” Cann said. “I feel that progress is being made with the way they are using this technology. The fact that they were able to identify a woman who has been missing since 2000 is incredible.”
Lorraine Ela of Maine, Waterman’s mother, said she is optimistic the case will be solved soon.
“There will be justice,” Ela said. “Hopefully, this will help somebody remember something important and come forward.”