Netflix’s Gilgo Beach serial killer film ‘Lost Girls’ reveals how top cops thwarted investigation

Netflix's Gilgo Beach serial killer film 'Lost Girls' reveals how top cops thwarted investigation

A Netflix film documenting the murders of sex workers in Gilgo Beach has revealed how Suffolk County’s top cop obstructed an investigation into a serial killer.

Lost Girls, which premiered on the streaming service in 2020, tells the story of a mother’s search for answers after her daughter goes missing and the subsequent discovery of 10 bodies found on a beach.

Throughout the documentary, Marie Gilbert (played by Amy Ryan) confronts then-Police Commissioner Richard Dormer (played by Gabriel Byrne), who repeatedly insists that her daughter, Shannon, was hysterical and died of natural causes.

It wasn’t until last year that new Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison revived the search for the serial killer, creating a first-of-its-kind special task force made up of local, state and federal officials to hunt down the killer.

He announced Friday that 59-year-old Rex Heuerman had been arrested and charged in the three deaths. He is also the fourth suspect.

But police continue to believe Shannon Gilbert’s death is unrelated.

Former Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer (pictured) charged with obstructing investigation into Gilgo Beach serial killer

The former police commissioner was portrayed by Gabriel Byrne in the investigative Netflix drama

The serial killer mystery began with the search for 23-year-old Shanan Gilbert, a New Jersey escort who disappeared in 2010 after making a frantic 911 call.

Her mother, Marie, then pressed Suffolk County authorities to find her daughter, joining other victims’ families to seek justice for their daughters’ deaths.

At his urging, police combed Gilgo Beach where they found the remains of Melissa Barthelemy, 24; Megan Waterman, 22, and Amber Lynn Costello, 27, all wrapped in burlap sacks.

The victims were not identified until the following year. Some of the four were missing for three years until their bodies were found.

All were sex workers who advertised their services on Craigslist, leading police to believe that the killer approached them first.

Officials said the victims were likely killed at different times and disposed of.

Then, in March and April 2011, as police continued to search for Gilbert, four more bodies, including a child, were found along the same stretch of coastline.

In March 2011, police found the skull of Jessica Taylor, 20, a prostitute. Most of her body was found in a wooded area in Manorville shortly after her disappearance in 2003. She also worked as an escort in New York City.

Body parts found near Gilgo Beach on April 4, 2011 were also linked to another body found in Manorville in 2000. The female victim, initially known only as ‘Jane Doe No. 6’, was identified using genetic genealogy tools in May this year. As 24-year-old Valerie Mack.

Gilbert’s naked body is later found in a nearby swamp.

“This book tells the story of five families who have lost a daughter and their struggles over nearly 10 years as they try to help the authorities find these girls,” director Liz Garbus told Collider ahead of the film’s release.

He said that Marie, in particular, ‘raised some hell and started looking for the police, but of course, it was too late. And in doing so, a group of women have come together to seek justice for their loved ones.’

But as the mothers held a press conference calling for an investigation, then-Police Commissioner Richard Dormer ‘bungled’.[ed] The case – whether due to negligence or corruption, we really don’t know.’

The mystery began with the search for 23-year-old Shanan Gilbert, a New Jersey escort who disappeared in May 2010 after making a frantic call to 911.

Lost Girls tells the story of Marie Gilbert’s efforts to get justice for her daughter

Marie Gilbert was able to sue other victims’ family members

In a 2011 interview with CBS News, Dormer said Gilbert probably drowned because she was “hysterical” at the time.

She said the fact that she was found naked was explainable because she was hysterical.

‘We know that, and he’s throwing away his assets as he moves on,’ he said at the time. ‘His jeans could move in that environment.

‘We looked at it very carefully, and it’s a possibility that the jeans came and he kept running, running towards the light,’ he added. ‘Of course, he was upset that night.’

He also suggested that Gilbert ‘may have been drugged or disoriented after reaching the beach.’

It was later revealed that Gilbert had called 911 in the early morning hours of May 1, 2010, claiming that someone was trying to kill him before disappearing near Oak Beach.

‘Something’s going to happen to me,’ she said on the call.

‘There is someone after me, I don’t know where I am. I am inside a room. I don’t know where I am. Can you find out where I am?’

At one point a man can be heard laughing and saying ‘shut up’.

Neighbors in the area later said they saw him knocking on several doors before he disappeared.

Gilbert met a customer named John Brewer that night in Oak Beach, and Brewer admitted to seeing Gilbert but was not involved in his death.

Police still do not believe Heuerman was involved in her death.

The first victim, Melissa Barthelemy, 24, was discovered by Suffolk County police on Dec. 11, 2010. Megan Waterman, 22, was found two days later.

Maureen Brainard-Barnes was 25 when she disappeared (left). Amber Lynn Costello was 27 years old. Their bodies were found near Barthelemy on the same day

Marie Gilbert (pictured) never got justice for her daughter, as she was murdered in 2016. Police do not yet believe Shanan’s death is related to the other victims

Still, Dormer agreed with other investigators that the other 10 bodies discovered in the area were victims of a serial killer.

But for years, investigators flip-flopped on whether all of the victims were killed by one suspect.

Then-District Attorney Thomas Spota told reporters in May 2011 that up to four separate killers could be responsible.

Seven months later, he testified that at least three different suspects were involved.

But at the same hearing, Dormer contradicted his colleague, saying all the deaths were related.

By 2012, the investigation had gone cold, with FBI sources claiming Suffolk police were unwilling to help their investigation.

The families of the victims claimed that the police were not interested in finding a killer because the victims were sex workers.

Melissa Cann, whose 20-year-old sister, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, first disappeared in 2007, told New York magazine that when she told a police officer that her sister was missing and ‘told him what she was doing in Manhattan, it was like she didn’t care. ‘

Marie died without justice for her daughter after she was stabbed to death in July 2016 by another daughter, Sara, who had schizophrenia.

Meanwhile, Dormer died of cancer in 2019.

Manhattan architect Rex Heuerman, 59, is charged with three murders attributed to the Gilgo Beach serial killer, and is the prime suspect in the killing of a fourth victim.

In an attempt to revive attention to the case that year, police released photos of a black leather belt found at the crime scene – which they believe was carried by the suspected serial killer. The belt appears to have embossed initials, WH or HM.

Police have created a website specifically for the investigation to finally solve the cold case for which no arrests have been made.

In 2021, there was renewed interest in the case after Suffolk County Police Commissioner, Raymond Harris, was appointed police commissioner.

He vowed to revive the dormant investigation at a news conference last year, saying, ‘I believe this case is solvable, and identifying the person or persons responsible for this murder is a top priority.’

The Suffolk DA announced at the time that he would set up a task force to investigate the cold case.

That coalition eventually came across Heuerman’s name, raising questions about why previous investigative units had failed to nail him.

Law enforcement sources told that he has been on their radar since last year. Investigators traced phone calls from Burner’s phone to victims’ cell phones dating back more than 10 years, matching him to the crime.

Police officers stood guard as law enforcement searched Heuermann’s home on Saturday

Prosecutors allege he used Burner’s phone and multiple email accounts to search sites depicting sexual violence, reach out to sex workers and continue the murder investigation.

Prosecutors allege he used Burner’s phone and multiple email accounts to search sites depicting sexual violence, reach out to sex workers and continue the murder investigation.

He also used fake email accounts and phone names to ‘conduct thousands of searches related to sex workers, sadistic, torture-related pornography and child pornography.’

Many of the search terms, prosecutors alleged, focused on violent sexual activity involving minors.

Authorities say Barthelemy’s Berner phone was also used to make ‘tanning phone calls’ to family members in the days after her disappearance, in which a male voice confessed to killing and sexually abusing her.

The calls were later traced to a location near Human’s Manhattan office.

He pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and was remanded in custody.

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