Who were the Gilgo Beach murder victims?

The deaths of 11 people, whose remains were found in 2010 and 2011, have long stumped investigators. 

Most of the victims were young women who had been sex workers. Several of the bodies were found near the town of Gilgo Beach.

This morning, a suspect has been taken into custody in connection with a long-unsolved string of killings, known as the Gilgo Beach murders, according to a law enforcement official who spoke Friday to The Associated Press. The suspect was taken into custody in Massapequa Park late Thursday and investigators were at a home connected to the case Friday, the official said.

Determining who killed them, and why, has vexed seasoned homicide detectives through several changes in police leadership. 

Image 1 of 2

Graphic via Suffolk County Police Dept.

The 'Gilgo Four'

The bodies of the "Gilgo Four" were located within a quarter-mile of one another near Gilgo Beach in December 2010.

In 2022, Suffolk County Police released new information on victims Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Lynn Costello including personal information and their last known whereabouts.

Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old sex worker, vanished on May 1, 2010. A police officer and his cadaver dog were looking for her body in the thicket along nearby Ocean Parkway when they happened upon the remains of a different woman. Within days, three other bodies were found, all within a short walk of one another.

Gilbert's disappearance and search is what ultimately led to the discovery of several remains in the area.

Who was Shannan Gilbert?

A picture of Shannan Gilbert, who disappeared in 2010 along Gilgo Beach on Long Island.

Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old sex worker, vanished on May 1, 2010 after dialing 911 from the Oak Beach home of a client. 

She fled the house, banged on the door of a neighbor and was last seen by witnesses running down the street in the remote community.

Her disappearance prompted a search that turned up the other remains, leading to suspicion that a serial killer was involved.

Gilbert’s remains were found in December 2011 in marsh about a half-mile from where she was last seen. 

Officials at the time said evidence suggested she got lost in the tall reeds and accidentally drowned.

The two men who were with Gilbert that night told largely the same story to investigators: Gilbert had arrived at the client's home, but then refused to leave. She appeared to be in the grip of a paranoid episode, hid behind a couch, and then bolted into the early morning darkness.

Her driver said he tried following her, but lost her in the darkness and eventually gave up and drove home. Both men have cooperated with investigators and police have said neither is a suspect.

Gilbert's family has been skeptical of the police account. An independent autopsy performed for Gilbert’s family in 2016 concluded her death was "consistent with homicidal strangulation," family lawyer John Ray said.

Maureen Brainard-Barnes

Image 1 of 2

Courtesy of Maureen Brainard-Barnes's family

Maureen Brainard-Barnes was 25 years old when she went missing and was living at 180 Prospect St. in Norwich, Connecticut. She is believed to have taken an Amtrak train from New London, Connecticut to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan on July 6, 2007.

While in Manhattan, she was staying at the Super 8 Motel, located at 59 West 46th St. At the time, Brainard-Barnes, who was 4 feet 11 inches tall, was working as a sex worker, advertising on Craigslist, Backpage and other websites. She was known to advertise under the names Juliana or Marie. Her routine was to travel to Manhattan for a few days to work as an escort, and then return home to Connecticut. While in Manhattan, she was known to stay at The Super 8, The Red Roof Inn on West 32nd Street, the Carter Hotel on West 43rd St. and the Manhattan Hotel on 8th Avenue.

On occasion, Brainard-Barnes would travel with another female who worked out of a different room at the same location. They both may have used a male friend, who they would refer to as their cousin, to accompany them and offer a level of safety and protection. Brainard-Barnes traveled with her female friend the weekend she went missing, however her friend returned home early and Brainard-Barnes stayed behind. Brainard-Barnes was last heard from on July 9, 2007 at 11:43 p.m. when she called a friend in Connecticut. Although she was known to work out of motel rooms, on the night of July 9, 2007, she told her friend she would be going to meet someone outside of the motel on an "out-call."

Brainard-Barnes was reported missing by a friend to the Norwich Police Department on July 14, 2007. The NYPD assisted the Norwich Police Department in the missing person investigation, eventually taking it over. Brainard-Barnes was found on December 13, 2010 on the north side of Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach, during the search for Shannan Gilbert, who had gone missing from Oak Beach.

She is believed to be the first victim in what is known as the "Gilgo Four."

Law enforcement on the scene of a home in Massapequa Park, connected to the Gilgo Beach murders investigation on July 14, 2023.

Melissa Barthelemy

Image 1 of 2

Courtesy of Melissa Barthelemy's family

Melissa Barthelemy was last seen at her residence, a basement apartment at 1149 Underhill Ave. in the Unionport section of the Bronx on July 12, 2009. She was 4 feet 10 inches tall and was 24 years old when she was last seen.

Barthelemy was a sex worker who advertised on Adult Friend Finder as well as other sites. She used the aliases Chloe and VerySexyChloe. She had tattoos of the words "Blaze" and "Focus" on her back, and letters on her chest. She was also known to meet clients at bars, restaurants and hotels on the West Side of Manhattan.

On July 12, 2009, the night she was last seen, Barthelemy told a friend she was going to see a man and would be back in the morning. This friend was aware she was a sex worker, but Barthelemy offered no other details. Her cellphone records show she traveled from the Bronx to Manhattan, most likely via taxi.

Barthelemy’s mother had not heard from her or been able to contact her for a few days so she reported her missing to the NYPD on July 18, 2009. The investigation showed cellphone activity in Manhattan, Freeport, Massapequa and Lindenhurst. Motels in and near these neighborhoods were investigated.

After Barthelemy had been reported missing, her younger sister received a series of taunting phone calls from someone using Barthelemy’s phone. These calls are believed to have come from the killer and were made from the area near the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 8th Avenue, and also from near Penn Station. These areas were thoroughly canvassed immediately following the calls, however, due to the large amount of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, no leads were developed.

On December 11, 2010, Barthelemy’s body was found on the north side of Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach, during the search for Shannan Gilbert.

Although she was the first victim found, she is believed to be the second of the "Gilgo Four" to be killed.

Megan Waterman

Megan Waterman

Megan Waterman was 22 years old when she was last seen on June 6, 2010. Waterman was a resident of Scarborough, Maine and was a sex worker who advertised on Craigslist and Backpage. She used the names Lexxy and Sexy Lexi. She was last seen by her family boarding a New York-bound Concord Trailways bus in Maine, possibly with her pimp.

Waterman was staying at the Holiday Inn Express, located at 2050 Express Drive South in Hauppauge. Waterman was known to stay at other hotels and motels on Long Island, including the Extended Stay America in Bethpage. Waterman left the Holiday Inn Express at 1:30 a.m. on June 6, 2010 to meet a client. Waterman called her pimp, who was in Brooklyn at the time, to tell him she was going to a convenience store near the hotel.

Waterman was reported missing to the Scarborough Maine Police Department on June 8, 2010. Family members felt it was unlike her not to call them to check on her then-3-year-old daughter. The Scarborough Maine Police Department contacted the Suffolk County Police to assist in the missing person investigation.

Waterman’s body was found on December 13, 2010 on the north side of Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach, during the search for missing person Shannan Gilbert.

She is believed to be the third victim in what is known as the "Gilgo Four."

Waterman’s pimp was arrested on federal charges of Interstate Trafficking of Prostitutes on April 11, 2012 and was sentenced to three years in federal prison in January 2013. There is no information to suggest he had any knowledge or participated in any way in Waterman's murder.

Law enforcement on the scene of a home in Massapequa Park, connected to the Gilgo Beach murders investigation on July 14, 2023.

Amber Lynn Costello

Image 1 of 3

Courtesy of Amber Lynn Costello's family

Amber Lynn Costello was 27 years old and lived at 1112 America Ave. in West Babylon when she was last seen by acquaintances. Costello was a heroin addict who lived at the house with another female and two men, who were also heroin addicts. Costello, who was 4 feet 11 inches tall, and was a sex worker who advertised on Craigslist and Backpage to support her and her roommates’ heroin addiction. Costello used the names Carolina or Mia and had tattoos of "Kaos" on her neck, a butterfly on her lower back and the word "Margeret" on her leg.

Costello had moved to New York from Clearwater Florida and had completed a 28-day drug rehab, but had relapsed not long before her disappearance.

Costello and her roommates shared a cellphone. The other female roommate was also a sex worker supporting a heroin addiction and the two male roommates would arrange dates with clients for the women. Costello did "in-calls" at her home, as well as "out-calls."

When Costello would meet clients at her home, the two male roommates would often arrange a scam, during which, once a client had paid money, and before any sex acts occurred, they would confront the client saying Costello was their girlfriend and the client would flee.  

Costello was last seen leaving her residence on foot on September 2, 2010, to meet a client who was picking her up at her house. Costello did not have her cellphone with her at the time and she was never reported missing.

Costello was found on December 13, 2010, on the north side of Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach, during the search for missing person Shannan Gilbert.

She is believed to be the fourth victim in what is known as the "Gilgo Four."

Jessica Taylor

Courtesy of Jessica Taylor’s family

Partial remains of Taylor who was an escort working in New York City, were located in a wooded area in Manorville on July 26, 2003.

Additional remains of Taylor were discovered on March 29, 2011 along Ocean Parkway during the search for Shannan Gilbert.

Valerie Mack

Image 1 of 3


Partial skeleton remains of Mack were found in a wooded area in Manorville in September 2000. 

Additional remains of Mack were discovered on April 4, 2011 on Ocean Parkway during the search for Shannan Gilbert.

Valerie Mack, was 24 years old when she went missing with a last known address in Philadelphia. 

Mack worked as an escort, using the alias Melissa Taylor. There is no relationship between Mack and Jessica Taylor.

Family members last saw Mack in the spring or summer of 2000 in Port Republic, New Jersey but she was never reported missing.

With advances in DNA technology and  help of the FBI, a positive identification confirmed the remains of Manorville Jane Doe were that of Valerie Mack.

Asian Male

SCPD composite sketch of unidentified Asian male

The skeletal remains of an Asian male were discovered on Ocean Parkway on April 4, 2011.

The male is believed to be between the ages of 17 and 23 years old at the time of his death.

He was approximately 5 feet 6 inches tall with poor dental health. The timing of his death is believed to be approximately 5 to 10 years prior to the discovery. 

Unidentified Toddler

The skeletal remains of a female toddler were discovered along Ocean Parkway in close proximity to Valerie Mack on April 4, 2011.

It is believed that the toddler was approximately 2 years old at the time of her death and likely non-Caucasian.

Related: New series re-examines Gilgo Beach murders

"As the Homicide Squad continues its tireless work on this investigation, we believe now is the right time to disseminate this previously unreleased information in hopes of eliciting tips from the public and providing greater transparency about the victims," Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison said. "Through our recent partnership with Crime Stoppers increasing the reward in this case to $50,000, our hope is that the public will review this information and come forward with any additional tips about the victims or a potential suspect or suspects."

Associated Press contributed to this report.