The one-year anniversary is approaching: on Dec. 11, 2010, Suffolk County police discovered the first of what turned out to be eight bodies of women sex workers along Ocean Parkway in Gilgo Beach, Cedar Beach and Oak Beach.
Body parts of other women were found separately on Fire Island as well as in Manorville. After a probe, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said as many as 10 people had been murdered since 1996.
Meanwhile, the body of Shannan Gilbert, 24, a sex worker, whose family reported her missing--sparking the entire investigation--is still missing.
A year later, the Long Island question is: Where is the Gilgo Beach killer?
Nassau County and FBI detectives have also gotten involved. During the summer, Black Hawk helicopters flew near the beaches in a fruitless search for more remains.
Now Dormer says his department believes all the murders were committed by a single person with apparent knowledge of the Island, including its parkways. Obviously, the perpetrator learned after his first disposal that beachfront parkways are good dumping grounds.
Sadly, for the family of Gilbert, of Jersey City, the cops seem to rule out a link to her disappearance and the discovery of the first bodies at Gilgo. After apparently hooking up with a client via Craigslist, Gilbert was last seen running from one of the houses there.
The body of a toddler and a man wearing women's clothing were also found; the latter has been linked to the other killings.
Unfortunately, serial killers are not unknown on the Island: In 1959, Francis Henry Bloeth, whom Newsday dubbed The Mad Killer, robbed and fatally shot three people before his arrest. Someone recalled selling him a .32 caliber pistol used in the killings.
More recently, Joel Rifkin, 52, of East Meadow, was nabbed in 1993 after he drove a pickup without license plates on the Southern State Parkway. Rifkin's trunk contained the body of a 22-year-old prostitute he'd picked up four days earlier. He was linked to 16 more killings.
Colin Ferguson, 53, from Manhattan, killed six people including the husband of Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D., Mineola) and wounded 19 more on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993.
We are no strangers to this. Long Islanders like Susan Isaacs of Port Washington have written bookshelves about local murders, if not serial killers.
Then there have been other shocking murders, such as of Valley Stream's Kelly Tinyes, 13, in 1989 and Seymour and Arlene Tankleff in Belle Terre in 1989; son Martin Tankleff was convicted of their murder but released from prison and totally exonerated in 2008.
Because Nassau and Suffolk's 2.8 million residents are so family oriented--the 2010 census found they live in 914,000 households--any murder is shocking and a serial killer is certainly abnormal.
Yet Long Islanders know there is a seamy side to the suburbs. The Customs and Enforcement office charged seven L.I. defendants in the Bonanno and Gambino crime families this week with importing Russian and Eastern European sex workers for local strip clubs like The Scene in Commack. In May, West Hempstead's Courtesy Hotel, long known as a hangout for sex workers, was finally demolished after years of complaints to the cops and the Town of Hempstead.
Long Islanders accept that people like John Gotti Jr. live there. Still, in such a family-oriented place, besides wondering who'd be a serial killer, the other question is why nobody seems to be missing so many of the Gilgo Beach people?
To date, only five have been identified.