Six months ago, when Megan Waterman left a Hauppauge hotel and never came back in June, her disappearance barely made news. Hardly anyone on Long Island knew her name.
Now that four bodies were found on Ocean Parkway in a quaint, beautiful beachside community and Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer has said those bodies may be the work of a serial killer—and that they were found while police were searching for another missing prostitute, Shannon Gilbert, who received even less media attention than Waterman when she disappeared back in May—Waterman’s and Gilbert’s names are suddenly everywhere you look.
Lorraine Ela, Waterman’s mother, said Wednesday that Det. Don Blatchford, lead detective on the Waterman’s case, said he was “leaning toward one of the four victims being Megan, but he’s not 100 percent guaranteed.”
The four bodies found on Ocean Parkway are located a 20-30 minute car ride away from the Holiday Inn Express just off the Long Island Expressway in Hauppauge where Waterman was last seen. Investigators have taken DNA samples from Ela to compare with the remains found at the beach.
Meanwhile, the FBI is now involved with the investigation, since the case may now involve a serial killer. Ela’s DNA was taken on Wednesday and will be shipped to New York in an effort to determine whether one of the bodies found is that of her daughter, said Robert Moulton, chief of the Scarborough, Maine, Police Department.
“There’s definitely a possibility, but we’re on hold at this point,” Moulton said .
Gilbert, the New Jersey prostitute who met a client in Oak Beach on May 1, disappeared just down the road from where the four bodies were discovered.
Suffolk County police discovered the first body on Saturday and the other three on Monday while following up on a missing-persons report for Gilbert. A Long Island resident recalled seeing the woman believed to be Gilbert briefly at his door around 4:45 a.m. May 1.
“I heard screaming at my front door,” said Gustav Coletti, who lives in Oak Beach, a secluded residential community about three miles down the parkway from where the bodies were found in Gilgo Beach. “She was saying, ‘I need help, I need help, they’re after me.’” He told the woman he was calling the police, but she immediately turned around and fled.
A few moments later, a man in a sport-utility vehicle drove past the house and told Coletti he was looking for the woman. Coletti said the driver told him they had been at a party and the woman had become upset.
“He took off after and I waited for the police,” he said. That was the last he saw of either the driver or woman, said Coletti, who could not offer details on the SUV or the man.
Juan Cosme, who lived across the hall from Gilbert and her boyfriend in Jersey City, said he often heard the couple fighting loudly through a shared wall.
“They were always arguing, like curdling screams sometimes,” Cosme said. “I called the police a few times when they went at it at three in the morning and there was like a loud banging on the walls; I don’t know if the police ever came.”
Cosme said that when he saw Gilbert alone she rarely made eye contact and would only occasionally mumble “hello.”
Police did not search along the highway on Wednesday, but a spokeswoman said it was likely investigators would return there in the coming days.
Detectives believe the four were killed elsewhere and then taken to Ocean Parkway.
New reports are surfacing that the remains found could be too old to be those of Gilbert, which would mean they would also be too old to be those of Waterman.
Different scenarios are being tossed around by the public and the names Megan Waterman and Shannon Gilbert–names practically unknown on Long Island until this week–have gone national. Even the UK Daily Mail is reporting the story.
But if it is either of these women, or both, who were tossed out of a car and left among the sandy dunes and brush at Gilgo Beach, all this attention won’t help either of them now.
If it’s not, maybe the media hoopla will help find them. Or help find their killer or killers, if the worst-case scenario comes to be.
But if there was this much attention given to either of these women back in May and June when they first disappeared, if their faces and their families’ pleas for information were everywhere you looked back then, maybe the end result could have been different.