Suffolk County police Wednesday downplayed the possibility that a Westchester County man who confessed to fatally stabbing three women, including two in the early 1990s, could be the person responsible for the Gilgo Beach murders on Long Island.
The arrest of parolee Lucius Crawford, 60, of Mount Vernon, thrust Long Island's serial killer case into the spotlight Wednesday when New York City police said they had notified Suffolk detectives about Crawford, who was accused of killing a Bronx woman in 1993, and had an "extensive history" of violent attacks on women.
Suffolk homicide officials said in a statement, "There does not appear to be any reason to suspect that Crawford has any involvement with the homicides that occurred in the last several years where bodies were discovered in the vicinity of Gilgo Beach."
But the police said they would "conduct a further investigation to rule Crawford out as a possible suspect."
A law enforcement official familiar with the Gilgo Beach investigation said that no evidence links Crawford to the Long Island cases, "other than he has killed women."
Between 1995 and 2008, Crawford was in prison after being convicted of attempted murder. In the Gilgo Beach murders, some of the remains of women that were found along Ocean Parkway were linked to remains found in 1996, 2000 and 2003, police said. At least three of the murders occurred after Crawford was released from prison.
The NYPD said Wednesday that on Tuesday afternoon, detectives from the 50th Precinct, the Bronx Homicide Squad and Yonkers police joined a State Police officer in a visit to Crawford's Mount Vernon home.
Officers suspected Crawford might have been involved in two 19-year-old murders, one in Yonkers in September 1993, and another in the Bronx in October 1993, police said. Once inside Crawford's home, officers found the body of a 41-year-old Mount Vernon woman who had been stabbed nine times in the chest under a bed sheet. The unidentified woman is believed to have been a girlfriend of Crawford's, police said.
Police also found that Crawford's ankle bracelet, used to track his whereabouts, had been removed. He was found three hours later in Mount Vernon.
Crawford was arrested through a combination of chance and modern CSI techniques, officials said. In March, NYPD Det. Christopher Boerke was investigating a Bronx homicide when a retired colleague mentioned in passing the October 1993 murder of Nella West, 38.
West's partially clad body was dumped in the Bronx. The probe into West's murder, which had turned into a cold case, was revived when Boerke was reminded of the killing by the retired detective. Teaming up with detective Malcolm Reiman of the Bronx homicide unit, Boerke this summer ran a DNA analysis of human tissue found under the fingernails of West when she died.
The DNA matched that of Crawford.
Working on the assumption that Crawford was a suspect in West's killing, the NYPD learned police in Yonkers also were looking at him in the killing of Loranda Shealy, who was stabbed to death Sept. 13, 1993.
Sarah Marquis, a close friend of Gilgo victim Amber Lynn Costello, said she just wants police to solve the puzzle of the Long Island serial killer. "I don't want it to go without ever being solved, which for a long time I thought that was what was going to happen," Marquis said.
Lorraine Waterman Ela, mother of Gilgo victim Megan Waterman, said she was disappointed the new potential lead apparently did not pan out. "It's kind of heartbreaking, but I'm still relieved that another psycho is off the street," she said.
Between December 2010 and April 2011, the decomposed remains of eight women, one man and a female toddler were found off Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach, Oak Beach and extending west toward Jones Beach. The first body was discovered Dec. 11, 2010. The Gilgo Beach remains were discovered as police searched for sex worker Shannan Gilbert, 24, of Jersey City, who disappeared May 1, 2010.
She was last seen running from a house in Oak Beach. Police found her remains on Dec. 13, 2011. No arrest has been made.
With Tania Lopez
and Bart Jones