Craigslist killer: growing sense that he’s a cop
Charles Laurence reports from New York on the search for the Long Island callgirl killer
Ten sets of human remains have now turned up on a beach along New York's summer playground of Long Island's South Shore, some buried in the sand, others concealed by spiky scrub. One was no more than a skull and bones.
Four of them - the most recently deceased - were found decomposing in burlap sacks and have been identified as missing prostitutes who used the classified ads site Craigslist to advertise their services. Which is why police are hunting for a serial murderer dubbed the 'Craigslist Killer'.
The details of the killings are filling notebooks: the means of death (strangulation), the probable location of the killer's tryst with his victim (marina villages close to the beaches) and the mode of disposal (stripped naked, hidden in sacks).
The women's mugshots have become familiar - they look young, one like a girl in a commuter train, another like a would-be porn star. And everyone knows the name of the champion police sniffer dog who has found five of the 10. He is Blue, a seven-year-old Alsatian.
But the police are apparently nowhere nearer putting a name and face to the killer than they were in December when they began searching for a Jersey City prostitute named Shannan Gilbert (above left). They still haven't found 24-year-old Shannan, but they did discover the first of the 10 bodies.
Despite the lack of concrete evidence, there is a growing feeling that the killer might be a cop. And an interview in the latest Newsweek magazine with the housemate of one of the missing girls, Amber Lynn Costello, has done nothing to dispel that.
Costello was last seen by her housemate, Dave Shaller, heading out in jeans and a white hoodie to meet a client on September 2, 2010.
Shaller describes how she preferred to bring her clients to the clapboard house where they lived so that he could listen out for any violence. He would watch the clients come and go. This time, however, she came to trust the client after several phone calls, and went to him, charging extra at $1,500.
Both the location and the phone calls are significant. The house is in West Babylon, a marina and end-of-the-line dormitory facing Gilgo Beach, where Costello was found, across the waterway which separates the South Shore barrier island from the mainland. A bridge links them. Babylon is an enclave of New York cops both serving and retired.
The several phone calls remind detectives of an earlier clue: the client of another girl who ended up on Gilgo Beach, Melissa Barthelemy (above right), made several calls to the home where she lived with her mother and sister, even taunting them after she disappeared. Police traced those calls as coming from Times Square, Madison Square Garden, above Penn Station, and the Long Island suburbs near Babylon.
Whoever made those calls knew how to avoid detection: they were from public booths or disposable mobile phones in crowded places, and each call lasted less than the three minutes it takes a cop listening in to trace them. All the calls responding to the Craigslist ads came from a disposable mobile, and lasted less than three minutes.
"Here's a guy aware of how we utilise technology," a police source told the New York Times. "Frankly, people are thinking maybe he could be a cop." ·
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