It was just about a year ago that Suffolk County investigators discovered a gruesome scene at Gilgo Beach. In December 2010, a police officer and his dog were conducting a routine training exercise. The officer discovered the remains of a woman in burlap sack. Investigators scoured the scene and discovered four more bodies in the same area.
But as the months dragged on there were few leads. Police eventually discovered six more bodies in other areas off Ocean Parkway, bringing the total count of of murdered victims to ten.
Police officials believe they are dealing with a single serial killer. One who will murder again. There is urgency to catch this individual, but police have not been able to find a suspect. Without a physical description or any reliable leads, it has become difficult for police to make headway in the case.
In situations like these, police officials turn to criminal profilers to answer questions and to spin a picture that borders on art as much as science. Who is this murderer? ask the police. Who are we looking for and what is going on in the mind of this lurking serial killer, hidden in plain sight among the rest of us?
A Killer Among Us
He exhibits very normal behavior, Dr. Mary Ellen O'Toole told International Business Times' Crimes of New York. I think that's pretty remarkable. Dr. O'Toole is a former FBI Special Agent and criminal profiler. She has studied serial killers and their crimes for nearly three decades. Through interviews and investigations, Dr. O'Toole has an accomplished track record and has worked on some of the most high profile crimes in the country.
They are not looking for some insane crazy, she said. They are looking for someone who blends in. But blending in is far from remotely normal. Dr. O'Toole believes the killer is an extremely disturbed individual with disturbed sexual tendencies. Based on her expertise, it is Dr. O'Toole's assertion that the serial is a male. In fact she said almost 99 percent of serial killers are males.
Facts about the case show that the killer has allegedly killed only prostitutes. Reports indicate that he has used Craigslist in order to prey upon his victims.
If you are a serial sexual killer, it is easy to abduct a prostitute, Dr. Louis Schlesinger, a professor of forensic psychology at John Jay College in Manhattan, told IBTimes. The expert in forensic psychology, who has worked as a co-principal investigator for joint research projects between John Jay College and FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, says the reason the killer is purposely choosing prostitutes is because he doesn't have to force a young woman into his car or basement. Says Schlesinger, A prostitute will absolutely go with you.
The problem with the abduction is eliminated with a prostitute, he adds. That's why, It is not uncommon for serial sexual killers to pick prostitutes.
Because of the killer's fluency with the Internet , Dr. O'Toole believes he is in his mid- to late twenties, possibly early thirties. Someone, she suggests, who is confident and younger.
Dr. Schlesinger maintains that the killer is acting out disturbed sexual fantasies that are hardwired into his psyche. Fantasies, he explains, that actually define his sexual identity. The number of people with these disturbed fantasies is far greater than the number of people that act out, he said.
The killer, he thinks willfully chooses to act out his sexual killing fantasies and his killing to satisfy deep-seated urges. These people can control it, but they choose not to, said Dr. Schlesinger. Would he have attacked that woman if there was a police officer around?
Evolution of a Murderer
Both doctors believe that the killer developed his murdering techniques over time. He did not just wake up one day and decide to murder ten innocent victims. It is something that evolved over time as he practiced killing. In fact, Dr. O'Toole believes there are more bodies out there yet to be discovered.
This guy's killing could have gone back two or three years, she said. His killing could have started in his late teens.
The doctors also mentioned that there is a misconception that serial killers perform similar rituals on their victims.
Real serials don't behave that way. They don't engage in exact ritual behavior, said Dr. Schlesinger. You aren't going to get the same exact thing. You are going see an evolution of it. For example, the Long Island serial may have appeared to deviate from his usual murders by killing an Asian male prostitute and a two-year-old girl, but the doctors say this is part of the evolution process of a murderer.
Dr. Schlesinger was involved in a team of researchers that analyzed data from serial killers and their victims. They found that serial killers, most likely including the Long Island serial killer, tend to experiment with each victim in order to see what will fulfill their sexual urges.
Such crime scene behaviors, which more often than not are repetitive, have been found to be an outgrowth of the perpetrator's deviant sexual fantasies, wherein the murder and the repetitive acts are parts of the offender's sexual-arousal pattern, according to Schlesinger's study, Ritual and Signature In Serial Sexual Homicide.
One of its conclusions: Twenty-six (70.3%) of 37 offenders displayed behavior during one homicide that met our criteria for uniqueness. In other words, these offenders experimented at a crime scene. They behaved with only one victim in a way that they had not behaved with any of their other victims.
Carefully Choosing the Victims
There are no leads, at this time, as to who the killer may be. And catching this killer could be one of the hardest tasks the investigators face during their entire careers. But to identify the killer and stop his murderous rampage, they must take a time-honored approach of trained investigators, advises O'Toole: look at each in three parts: the pre-offense, the crime itself and the post-offense.
O'Toole explained that based on her analysis, the killer is spending most his time carefully choosing and passively engaging his victims--the pre-offense. Both doctors believe the killer is spending time talking with his victims and analyzing them before ending their lives. Says O'Toole, This is someone who really enjoys the hunt. Concurs Schlesinger, There is some level in planning here.
Catching a Killer
In order to identify the suspect, the police must encourage people to come forward. This is specially true because, Dr. O'Toole believes, during the evolution of his killings, there are prostitutes who may have escaped and know something.
People who have interaction with him need to be reminded to come forward, she said. She is convinced that somewhere, someone knows something about the identity of the killer.
Police must also put high emphasis on forensics at the dump sites. Forensic technology is continuously developing and allows investigators to learn more about killers than ever before. Dr. O'Toole believes the serial killer must have left something incriminating at the crime scene. Based on her experience, she is confident he must have made a mistake somewhere along the line.
These guys are good, but that doesn't mean all their decisions are smart, she said.
A Warning to the General Public and the Media
I wouldn't expect for him to stop, said Dr. O'Toole. This is a grim outlook, but it underscores the urgency behind the race to catch the killer. Dr. Schlesinger agrees that he may kill again. Could he strike again? asks Schlesinger, Sure he could.
However, no new bodies have turned up...yet. The doctors believe that the media attention could have potentially driven the serial slayer underground for the time being. We do have cases where they can stop, says O'Toole. He may be doing different things right now, but I think all the media attention has caused him to lay low, she cautions, adding, He will resurface.
O'Toole also gave a warning to the members of the media who report on the killer. She said it is not uncommon for a killer to contact a reporter who writes articles about the murders. We have had cases when the killer contacts the journalists, she said.
And she adds, I can almost 100 percent guarantee that he is going to read this article.