Investigators said it was too early to say if the discoveries were related. Suffolk County police made the latest discovery after resuming the search for missing New Jersey prostitute Shannan Gilbert, who was last seen after meeting a client in nearby Oak Beach last May. Cops were searching for the same 24-year-old Jersey City woman when they initially discovered the four bodies in December—but Gilbert was ruled out as one of those victims.
“Obviously this is an unfortunate occurrence—now we have another body found in the same area,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said during a news conference Wednesday at police headquarters in Yaphank.
He said he expects to learn the identity “very shortly.” The commissioner declined to discuss the gender or condition of the body except to say the remains “have been there for some time.”
Dormer added that while tragic, the discovery might help the serial killer investigation, in which no suspects have been named.
“Somebody has lost their life and that’s a tragedy,” he said. “But also we look at it as an opportunity, that there may be clues available now with this body that will help the homicide investigation move forward. So there’s a possibility that we will garner some information that will be useful.”
Dormer said that an officer assigned to the Marine Bureau discovered the remains while simply driving down Ocean Parkway—a seaside roadway that is traveled countless times daily.
“The officer driving along Ocean Parkway noticed an item that caught his attention,” Dormer said. “He got out of the vehicle and then observed the remains and the investigation commenced.”
The discovery was made west of Cedar Beach, nearly a mile east from where the four victims were found late last year. Police combed all of Jones Beach Island days later but initially came back empty handed, vowing to return when the weather improved.
“It’s a rugged area,” Dormer said of the barrier island. “You’ve all been out there and you know how difficult it is, even for a canine, to traverse the bushes, the undergrowth, it’s very thick, it’s tough to get through, and so it is possible to miss something.”
While stressing that the search was never abandoned, he said investigators will soon redouble their search efforts.
“We’re going to go back on Monday, with another full scale search, starting at Oak Beach and heading west all the way up to the Nassau County line,” Dormer said.
He said detectives have been updating Gilbert’s family as the case develops. The remains were taken to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office in Hauppauge where forensic scientists will conduct an examination.
Police first identified 22-year-old single mother Megan Waterman, of Portland, Maine, who last seen at a Hauppauge hotel on June 6, 2010.
The family of one of the victims, 24-year-old Melissa Barthelemy, who was last seen on July 12, 2009 in the Bronx, said they had received taunting phone calls shortly after her disappearance.
The other two victims were identified as:
Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Conn., last seen on July 9, 2007 in Manhattan.
Amber Lynn Costello, 27, last seen on Sept. 2, 2010 in her hometown, North Babylon. She was never reported missing.
Police urge anyone who thinks they may have information to call 1-800-TIPS or the homicide unit at 631-852-6392.
-With Timothy Bolger