But the case was marked from the start by apparent missteps and accusations that investigators were dragging their feet due to a cultural bias against sex workers.
Melissa Cann, whose 20-year-old sister, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, disappeared in July 2007, described in a New York magazine interview what happened when she told a police officer that her sister was missing and that she was a sex worker.
«As soon as I told him what he was doing in Manhattan, he didn’t care,» Cann said.
The fight to set the wheels of justice in motion inspired a 2020 Netflix movie called “Lost Girls” about Mari Gilbert’s effort to find her 24-year-old daughter, Shannan Gilbert, a New Jersey sex worker who went missing in May 2010 and whose body was later found on Gilgo Beach.
Mari Gilbert was stabbed to death in July 2016 by another of his daughters, Sarra, who suffered from schizophrenia.
Suffolk County investigators «lost control from the start,» said Shannan Gilbert’s sister, Sherre. in an interview from May 2022 with NBC News.
Brainard-Barnes was the first woman to be reported missing, but the investigation did not accelerate until December 2010, when a team of Suffolk County investigators led by Mari Gilbert went to Giglo Beach to search for her daughter.
A veteran Suffolk County Police Department officer named John Mallia and his search dog, Blue, found «a body of human remains,» according to a document released Friday in which investigators laid out their arguments as to why he was found. must deny Heuermann bail.
The remains were later identified as those of a 24-year-old youth. melissa barthelemywho was last seen alive in July 2009.
The remains of Brainard-Barnes, Megan Waterman, 22, and Amber Lynn Costello, 27, were found days later wrapped in burlap sacks just like Barthelemy’s.
“The cause of the four women was determined to be homicidal violence,” the bond request said.
Prosecutors also said in the document that Heuermann used disposable phones and multiple email accounts to search for sites that featured sexual violence, to communicate with sex workers and to keep up with the investigation into the murders.
He used fictitious names for email accounts and phone numbers «to perform thousands of searches related to sex workers, sadistic torture-related pornography, and child pornography,» according to the document.
Search terms often focused on violent sexual acts involving underage girls.
Barthelemy’s disposable phone was used to make «teasing phone calls» to his family members in the days after he went missing in which a male voice admitted to killing and sexually assaulting Barthelemy, according to the bond document.
The calls were later traced to a location near Heuermann’s office.
Heuermann was identified as a suspect in part by DNA left on pizza crust he dumped in a Manhattan trash can when a hair found on Waterman’s body matched DNA found on the crust.
Heuermann was charged Friday in the deaths of Barthelemy, Waterman and Costello, but not Brainard-Barnes or Shannan Gilbert.
Thanks to her sister’s persistence, Shannan Gilbert’s terrifying last words would become her epitaph.
On May 1, 2010, at 4:51 a.m., Gilbert made a 22-minute call to 911 shortly after an appointment with a client named John Brewer in Oak Beach on Long Island, followed by two shorter calls to the dispatcher to ask for help. the police said.
Brewer admitted to seeing Shannan Gilbert that night but was not involved in her death, police said.
While Shannan Gilbert’s calls were difficult to follow at times and some words were slurred, the message police said she repeated was: “Someone’s after me! There’s someone behind me! There’s someone after me!»
Those 911 recordings Investigators did not release them until May 2020, when Suffolk County officials continued to insist that Shannan Gilbert was the victim of a «tragic accident» and may have been using drugs or succumbed to the elements after he washed up on the beach and became disoriented.
They continued to maintain that Shannan Gilbert was not the victim of a crime even after michael badenThe world-famous pathologist who reported that George Floyd died as a result of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on her neck, has performed an autopsy and concluded that the young woman may have been strangled.
«I don’t care if anyone thinks she was on drugs, that’s fine.» sherre gilbert said in May 2022. “But I just don’t think she ran into drug-induced paranoia and just took off her clothes, threw her phone with her clothes, and then kept running naked into the swamp. I just don’t believe that.»