Gilgo Beach is a little sandier since Lorriane Ela and Kimberly Overstreet were here last.
Weeks after super storm Sandy swept through the area, sand and debris still block the eastbound lanes of Ocean Parkway, just across the street from where the bodies of Megan Waterman, Ela’s daughter, and Amber Lynn Costello, Overstreet’s sister, were found in the brush two years ago this month, near nine others, along the same beachfront road.
Ela walks past the roadside cross with Megan’s name and birthday painted on it and walks yards deep into the brush between two trees. She kneels down in front of a smaller, wooden cross.
“This is actually where she was found,” she says. “Right here.”
The sun is going down and it’s getting cold as Ela climbs back up to leave a balloon and bouquet of flowers at the roadside cross, a ritual she will repeat, along with Overstreet, as they continue walking to each of the sites where Amber, Maureen Brainard-Barnes and Melissa Barthelemy were found within yards of one another.
“I wait every day, it’s a struggle every day, I pray every day,” says Ela. “I wake up and I say ‘Is today going to be the day that I get that phone call that they have a person of interest or they’ve arrested somebody?”
Ela thought that day had come a week ago, when 60-year-old ex-con Lucius Crawford was apprehended Dec. 4 by authorities for his suspected involvement in the murders of three women, and media reports began flying that he was a person of interest in the Gilgo murders.
“I read it on Facebook, from Newsday, so I was pissed,” Ela told the Press,
Suffolk police told the Press that while Homicide Squad detectives still intended to investigate whether Crawford has any connection to the case, there did not appear to be any reason to suspect Crawford had any involvement in the Gilgo murders, especially since Crawford was incarcerated when one of the girls went missing.
“I’m way beyond frustrated,” Ela says. “This guy was in jail till 2009, Maureen went missing in 2007 so there’s no way that was remotely possible. Why they put that in the paper, I have no clue. Because all they did was get the families’ hopes up thinking, yes, finally justice is going to be served, they have this person.”
And this wasn’t the first time false information made its way to the families. In 2011, when LI Aquarium owner James Bissett was found in what police called an apparent suicide, rumors that he was a person of interest spread like wildfire, until investigators confirmed that Bisset had no connection to the Gilgo women.
“I felt so sorry for Bisset’s family when all that mess happened,” said Overstreet. “Because not only did they have to deal with a suicide, but then they had to deal with all of this, and it just pissed me off that people jump to conclusions like that without any evidence. “
And with a mountain of questions, and so few answers, false information makes an already difficult situation even more so. Suffolk police would not comment on the ongoing investigation, but told the Press last week that the case is active, but no information related to the case would be made public unless it would help move the case along.
“We are not commenting further at this time on the Gilgo investigation until/unless we have some additional information pertaining to the investigation that serves the investigation or the public by its release,” the department said in a statement to the Press.
And Overstreet says that includes the victims’ families, too. She says police recently came to her with mug shots and asked her if any of them looked familiar, but told her nothing else.
“I don’t know why and they didn’t say,” Overstreet tells the Press. “They just said that they had some pictures that they wanted me to look at and if they looked familiar, which they didn’t.”
While Overstreet says she’s happy to know that police are still working on her sister’s case, the lack of information is frustrating.
“Until the guy is caught they’re not going to give away anything,” she says. “They’re asking me, ‘What do you got?’ Literally sometimes it’s just like a tug of war. I mean they are trying, they are. They don’t want to make it any worse than it is and I don’t blame them for that I just wish there was some type of direction, where you knew this was going. Unfortunately you don’t.”
Ela says she has had little communication from authorities and is in the process of setting up a PayPal account to try to get donations to help raise money to hire a private investigator.
“Honestly, the Suffolk County Police Department have not talked to me,” said Ela, adding that she’d like the FBI to take over the Gilgo case. “It’s a cold case. They’re not out there looking for anybody. It’s sitting on their back burner because of the lifestyle that the girls were living.”
Overstreet wonders why there wasn’t a bigger deal made about the other women’s disappearances before Amber went missing.
“It’s just a shame, I never even heard of Shannan Gilbert or any of them,” she says. “Me or my sister, we never heard anything. We didn’t even know girls were missing.”
And neither Ela nor Overstreet have received any of the belongings of Megan’s or Amber’s back from police. Ela says she has never even seen the last footage of her daughter leaving the Holiday Inn Express in Hauppauge the night she disappeared.
“They won’t let me because it’s part of the investigation—all the stuff they had that they took out of Megan’s hotel room, they won’t tell me what’s in there because it’s part of the investigation,” says Ela. “I have no clue what they have of my daughter’s, they tell me they can’t give it to me until the investigation is over. So 20 years from now if they still haven’t got the person, I still don’t have my daughter’s stuff, and that’s just not right.”
Overstreet says she’s learned to let go of whatever possessions were found with her sister because she believes she may never get them.
“Nothing will be returned till this case is solved, period,” she says. “And to be honest, we got minimal information about my sister, what was found at the scene. I may never see answers in my lifetime. That’s just the way it is.”
But the families continue to wait and hope. Megan left behind a daughter, who is now six years old, and lives with Megan’s grandparents.
“She knows somebody hurt her mom but she doesn’t know the extent of it,” says Ela. “She lives every day–every day—knowing that her mom is never going to be home, so we don’t want to traumatize her more than that, she’s been traumatized enough.”
And Ela hopes by the time her granddaughter starts asking questions, the person who killed Megan is behind bars. But until that day comes, she says she’ll keep fighting to get justice for all the victims.
“I’m my daughter’s voice, I’m not going to let myself sit there and not do anything, I can’t.” She says. “And I’m the other victims’ voices. I need to keep them out there. Hopefully before my time they catch him. If not, then I know I fought till the end.
“I can now just get through a day without crying,” says Overstreet. “It’s hard. You don’t have answers and you want them. I just want to know what happened, what she went through, and that’s probably something that I’ll never get.”
“I need people to realize that justice hasn’t been served,” says Ela. “Whoever knows anything, whoever’s seen anything, just come forward. My daughter needs justice. She needs to be put to rest. The other victims need to be put to rest.”
Just a few feet from Amber’s memorial, litter, broken branches and debris mark the farthest point reached by the waves that overtook and damaged Ocean Parkway during Sandy’s storm surge. All four memorials were left untouched.
“Look at that,” said one of the memorial attendees. “It’s like a little gift from God.”
If you have any information related to this case, please call Homicide Squad detectives at 631-852-6396, call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-220-8477, text tips anonymously by texting “SCPD” to “CRIMES” (274637) or email information via www.tipsubmit.com
There is a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.