YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — All four bodies found near a desolate stretch of barrier island have been identified as prostitutes who advertised online, and county officials have returned to their theory that the deaths were the work of a serial killer. Officials would not say Monday whether they had identified any suspects.
Officials say with the police and the district attorney’s office identified the woman as 25-year-old Maureen Brainard-Barnes, of Norwich, Conn.; 24-year-old Melissa Barthelemey, originally from Buffalo and 27-year-old Amber Lynn Costello, of North Babylon.
“They were all murdered,” District Attorney Thomas Spota said. “The actual cause of their deaths appear to be substantially similar.”
Barthelemey was last seen in the Bronx and her mother, who reported her missing from Buffalo, said she always warned her daughter to “be careful.”
“I said ‘you know if get in trouble, it’s not like you’re around the block,’” she said.
Barthelemey’s former landlord, who did not want to be identified, spoke with CBS 2 Monday.
“I’m very sad. Oh my gosh. She was like my daughter too,” she told CBS 2′s Jennifer McLogan.
Last week, authorities identified the first of the four women as Megan Waterman, of Maine, a 22-year-old Craigslist escort who disappeared June 6. Waterman was last seen at a Holiday Inn Express in Hauppauge. She disappeared after traveling to New York on Memorial Day weekend with Akeem Cruz, a 21-year-old Brooklyn man described as her boyfriend. Cruz is now serving a 20-month sentence at the Maine Correctional Center for drug trafficking.
District Attorney Thomas Spota believes they are victims of a serial killer, and that the women were killed elsewhere and dumped at the site. The bodies “were probably were in that location for some period of time,” he said.
“I believe it fits within the known definition of what a serial killer would be,” Spota said.
Police Commissioner Richard Dormer had initially said a serial killer may be to blame, but authorities later backed away from that assertion, saying all possibilities were being investigated.
“These were very young women whose lives were cut tragically short,” Dormer said.
Police found the first body Dec. 11 just steps from Ocean Parkway, which leads to the popular Jones Beach State Park. The other three bodies, including that of the missing Maine woman, were found two days later during a follow-up investigation.
Police were looking for another missing Craigslist escort, Shonnan Gilbert, 24, of Jersey City, who disappeared in May when they happened upon the bodies near the beach. They have since said that Gilbert was not among the dead. Authorities said Monday that case is still under investigation.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)