Suffolk County police have named a new Homicide Squad commander to oversee the unit just as a team of its detectives is facing the department’s biggest case ever—the discovery of 10 sets of human remains dumped along Ocean Parkway.
Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick replaced retiring Det. Lt. Gerard Pelkofsky on March 1. Fitzpatrick had run the unit from 2002 to 2010, when former Commissioner Richard Dormer replaced him with Pelkofsky over an administrative flap. Now, Fitzpatrick is back and giving fresh perspective to the daunting task at hand.
“I’m still in the process of reviewing the mountain of materials that are involved in this case,” Fitzpatrick told the Press. “The people who were involved in the investigation are here, that won’t put us at a disadvantage at the end of the day.”
Fitzpatrick has said he believes there is more than one killer who used the remote stretch of barrier island east of Jones Beach as a dumping ground, counter to claims made by Dormer before he retired. Investigators still believe the first four victims found in Gilgo Beach in December 2010 were slain by a serial killer.
The veteran Homicide lieutenant returned to the post just as two sets of remains were found in Manorville, another remote region farther east where partial remains of two women and two men were found a decade prior. Partial remains of those women were also found last year along Ocean Parkway.
Like the beach, the eastern LI area of Manorville is also a dumping ground. The skeletal remains of an unidentified man were found near Wading River Road in Manorville on Feb. 17—two weeks before Fitzpatrick returned and at least five years after the man died. And a jogger found a dead woman in nearby Manorville Hills County Park on March 21.
Both recent cases sparked media speculation that the serial killer struck again, but Fitzpatrick cautioned against jumping to such conclusions. Two days after the most recent find, the dead woman’s boyfriend was arrested for allegedly dumping her body when she overdosed on drugs. Medical examiners are still trying to identify the man and determine his cause of death.
“The one common denominator there is they are both remote,” Fitzpatrick told reporters March 22, referring to Manorville and Gilgo. “If you’re going to dump a body, obviously you’re going to go to a remote area.”
But he said he has no plans to conduct a massive search of the Manorville area like the one conducted around this time last year on Jones Beach Island. It was a year ago April 4 when searchers on that assignment found three sets of remains.
The unidentified remains found that day included a female toddler, an Asian man dressed in women’s clothing and the head and dismembered limbs of a woman dubbed Jane Doe No. 6, whose mutilated body was found in Manorville on Nov. 19, 2000.
Those finds came after searchers discovered the head and limbs of 20-year-old Jessica Taylor on March 29, 2011. The rest of her body was originally found in Manorville July 26, 2003—three days after she went missing from Manhattan.
The Gilgo case has spawned several TV documentaries, including a 48 Hours report, a Long Island Serial Killer special on A&E and even a Law & Order: SVU episode. Discovery ID is set to air a special at 9 p.m. April 9 on Shannan Gilbert, the New Jersey woman whose disappearance from nearby Oak Beach in May 2010 sparked the initial Gilgo discoveries.
Despite the difficulty the known evidence suggests, Fitzpatrick remains confident that his detectives, who have formed a task force with state and federal investigators, will ultimately close the cases.
“It certainly presents a challenge,” he said. “I think the people here are certainly up to that challenge.”