The torso of a black or Hispanic woman, also with her head and hands cut off, was found by a hiker in Hempstead Lake State Park on June 28, 1997.
Nassau County Medical Examiner Eric Smith, who worked on the case, which is still active—cold cases are never closed in New York State until they are solved—says she is known among law enforcement as “Peaches” due to a tattoo of a peach above her left breast.
“Cut the fingers out, decapitate the head,” says Smith. “Those are two ways of preventing people from tracing that person.”
Her fingerprints and dental history gone, “Peaches” was wrapped in black plastic garbage bags and stuffed into a large green Rubbermaid container, along with a red towel and floral pillow sham.
On March 3, 2007, another woman’s torso, stabbed and stuffed inside a suitcase, washed ashore in Mamaroneck. One of her leg bones and her right foot with her toe nails half polished washed up from the Long Island Sound later on March 27 among the rocks in Cold Spring Harbor. On March 28, her severed leg bone washed up in a plastic bag a short distance away at the estate of Cablevision billionaire James Dolan. The rest of her has never been found.
Medical examiner records show this woman was either black or Hispanic, 5’10”, 180-200 pounds and had a tattoo of two cherries above her right breast.
The only clues are what was found with the body: a black Protégé suitcase manufactured by InGear—sold exclusively at Wal-Mart—a red, blood-soaked camisole with a Spanish brand label, lavender Champion sweatpants, a blue bra and a tan long-sleeved t-shirt, manufactured by Voice, and ripped up scraps of paper, possibly a page from a calendar, reading “cinco” and “begin to live.”
Police remain tight-lipped on these cases, partly because of a lack of information and partly, especially in the recent cases of the Gilgo Beach victims found in December 2010, to not compromise the investigation. How Megan Waterman, 22, Amber Lynn Costello, 27, Melissa Barthelemy, 24, and Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, were killed—and the condition of their bodies when they were found—has not been made public, only the fact that they had each advertised their sexual services on Craigslist and other websites. And another missing prostitute, Shannan Gilbert, 24, whom police were originally looking for when they found these four women, still has yet to be found.
On June 27, 2008, another dismembered woman was found stuffed in a suitcase near Newbridge Road in Bellmore off the Southern State Parkway. The woman was identified as Tanya Rush, a 39-year-old mother of three from Brooklyn, because her fingerprints were on file from a previous arrest, and because her hands were with her body.
“We’re working that case trying to find the person who put her out there and the person who murdered her,” says Hughes. “If she did not have a prior record, it would have been very difficult to figure out who she was.”
“You have to hope that somebody sees on the news that we found a body, and then has the wherewithal to say, ‘Could that be my mother, my sister?,’” continues Hughes. “But the problem is people in Brooklyn—are they really watching the LI news? From our investigations these people in the city, if they go two blocks, that’s far for them. They don’t even put two and two together that it could be a family member because in their head [Long Island] is just too far away.”
And not everyone has family advocating for them. For those who are alone, there is a whole other set of problems to contend with.