Island Of Secrets: Is The Hunt For The Long Island Serial Killer Over?

In 2010 a windswept and desolate stretch of beach in Long Island, New York, became the focus of an investigation into a suspect later known as the “Long Island Serial Killer.” The case would eventually stretch across multiple years and feature a group of women known as the “Gilgo Four.” For more than a decade, it would go unsolved, confounding police, locals, and true-crime aficionados in equal measure. But in 2022 a plausible suspect finally emerged from the gloom.

A fateful 911 call

On the morning of May 1, 2010, a New York State Police 911 operator received a haunting call. A panicked woman identified herself as Shannan Gilbert, and told the call handler, “Yeah, there’s somebody after me.” This was quickly followed by, “These people are trying to kill me!”

The operator saw the call was coming from the Gilgo Beach area, on Long Island. When they heard Gilbert banging on a door, clearly trying to get a homeowner’s attention, they asked, “Where are you, Shannan?” Suddenly, the young woman screamed, and then fell deathly silent.

Had someone been pursuing her?

This harrowing phone call was what pulled local police into a case which would soon turn out to be much bigger, and more disturbing, than they ever could have anticipated. It transpired that Gilbert had been a sex worker who sold her services on Craigslist.

She had been at a client’s house the previous night, and into the small hours. Several witnesses told the police that, far from seeing anyone pursuing her, they believed Gilbert had actually fled the house of her own accord.

A body is found

For a number of months, the Suffolk County Police Department searched high and low for Gilbert, but without luck. It took until December 2010 for there to be any movement on this missing person’s case.

That month, officer John Mallia was searching near Gilgo Beach with his police dog, a German Shepherd named Blue — and the animal found something. Blue had discovered buried human remains and, as Detective Dominick Varrone later told 48 Hours, “Everyone assumed it was Shannan Gilbert.”

But it’s not Gilbert

To the shock of everybody in the department, it turned out these weren’t her remains. Instead, they had found the skeleton of Melissa Barthelemy — a 24-year-old who had also worked as a Craigslist escort.

With one sex worker missing and another dead, the police knew something dark was afoot on Gilgo Beach, so they continued to scour the area. Only two days later they unearthed the remains of three more escorts — Amber Costello, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, and Megan Waterman.