Gilgo Beach

Long Island Serial Killer Victim Identified 2 Decades Later

Valerie Mack's dismembered remains were located in separate locations over an 11-year span; in 2011, her head, hands and right foot were found near Gilgo Beach by investigators searching for another missing woman

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What to Know

  • Police have identified another victim in their years-long investigation into the bodies found along a stretch of highway near Gilgo Beach
  • Valerie Mack's dismembered remains were located in separate locations over an 11-year span; in 2011, her head, hands and right foot were found near Gilgo Beach by investigators searching for another missing woman
  • They had been searching for Shannan Gilbert, a missing sex worker from New Jersey. They ended up finding 10 separate sets of remains, most of whom also were believed to be sex workers

Suffolk County police have released the name of a previously unidentified victim linked to the notorious Gilgo Beach killings. Nearly a week after announcing they had unearthed the identity of the woman previously referred to as "Jane Doe #6," cops revealed her to the public as Valerie Mack.

Mack was 24 when she was last seen; she was working as an escort in the Philadelphia area at the time of her disappearance. Family members last saw her in the spring/summer of 2000 near Port Republic, New Jersey. Mack, who also used the name Melissa Taylor, was never reported missing. She is survived by family members, whose identity will be kept confidential, officials said.

Mack's dismembered remains were located in separate locations over an 11-year span. Her torso was found in Manorville in 2000, not long after she was last seen. In 2011, her head, hands and right foot were found by Gilgo Beach.

Valerie Mack
Handout
Suffolk police released a photo of the Gilgo victim identified as Valerie Mack.

"Valerie Mack’s identification is a giant leap forward in the investigation," Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said in a statement Thursday. "As detectives relentlessly pursue leads related to her murder, we ask members of the public, friends, family, and associates of Valerie Mack to provide whatever information they have about her and the circumstances leading to her death.

FBI New York Assistant Director in Charge William Sweeney said "Every set of new eyes, every fresh perspective from investigators and analysts, and every piece of new technology enhances the work already done on this investigation ... this new information demonstrates the work we continue to do together is getting us closer to answers, closer to the truth and closer to the closure and justice these victims' families deserve."

Mack's Gilgo remains were discovered by authorities investigating a separate case, the disappearance of Shannan Gilbert, a sex worker from New Jersey.

Gilbert vanished after going to meet a client on Long Island's Oak Beach in 2010. The search for her would yield the grisly discoveries of 10 bodies along a stretch of highway near Gilgo Beach; four of them were sex workers who were found strangled and dumped in burlap sacks less than a mile apart.

No arrests were made in any of their deaths. Gilbert was later found dead in a swampy marsh not far from where she had last been seen. The autopsy results were inconclusive, and Suffolk County officials maintain she drowned or succumbed to the elements. They have consistently refused to link her death to the other women, despite independent autopsy results commissioned by Gilbert's mother that experts said indicated she too may have been strangled.

Suffolk County Police Department map of locations of bodies and dates of discovery in Gilgo probe.

The investigation had been dormant for years, at least publicly. It wasn't until January of this year, nearly a decade after the bodies were found, that Suffolk County police launched a website dedicated to the ongoing investigation.

In mid-January, they held a press conference to share what they described as a "previously undisclosed piece of evidence" in their quest for answers -- and a new commitment to share information with the public on their continuing investigation into the years-long mystery of those finds on Ocean Parkway.

That new piece of evidence is a picture of a belt spotted at one of the crime scenes. Authorities declined to say where exactly it was recovered but said they believed the belt -- one made of black leather with the letters HM or WH embossed on it -- was handled by the killer and did not belong to a victim.

Police refused to elaborate any more on the belt at the time of their initial announcement, declining to answer a question about the size of it.

Photo recovered from Gilgo beach crime scene

Search for Missing Woman Leads to Hunt for a Possible Serial Killer

Gilbert's body was found in a swampy marsh about a year and a half after she disappeared. She had called 911 from Oak Beach and said someone was trying to kill her; that call lasted about 22 minutes. There were three other calls. Despite efforts from the attorney of her now-deceased mother Mari Gilbert to have the calls released -- and a court order to do so -- they have never been made public.

The search for the missing 24-year-old sex worker led law enforcement to the grisly discoveries of 10 separate sets of remains, most of whom were also believed to be sex workers.

On Dec. 11, 2010, an officer found the body of Melissa Barthelemy, a call girl who had vanished in 2007. Two days later, officers discovered the remains of three other missing prostitutes -- Megan Waterman, Amber Lynn Costello and Maureen Brainard-Barnes, all of whom advertised their sex services on Craigslist. Those four bodies had been dumped within a quarter-mile span, about 500 feet apart. All of the victims were in their 20s -- Brainard-Barnes from Connecticut, Waterman of Maine, Costello of North Babylon.

The following April, authorities found a partially dismembered woman, later identified as another prostitute, Jessica Taylor (no relation to the alias used by Valerie Mack), an unidentified Asian man, two unidentified women and an unidentified female toddler. The toddler was determined, through DNA testing, to be the daughter of the woman discovered about 7 miles away (see map above). They have not been identified.

Police revealed evidence in one of Suffolk County's most notorious criminal cases that they've been holding onto for nine years. Police believe initials were embossed on a black belt found at the crime scene, but offered no details on where it was found or how it may have been used. NBC New York’s Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

Authorities said they were the victims of homicides -- and of a possible serial killer. No suspects have ever been publicly named in any of the cases.

On Dec. 13, 2011, investigators eventually discovered Gilbert's body about a half-mile from where she was last seen. She was found in a swamp rampant with thorny brush and police said they believed Gilbert drowned by accident.

Later, an independent autopsy by the renowned forensic pathologist Michael Baden found Gilbert had suffered injuries “consistent with homicidal strangulation.” Police have said consistently they do not believe her death is linked to the others.

Gilbert's mother, Mari, refused to let the case drop out of the public eye and pressed law enforcement for a homicide investigation that never matured. Mari Gilbert died in July 2016, allegedly stabbed to death by her other daughter, Sarra, who suffers from schizophrenia.

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