New York: The discovery of eight bodies buried on a Long Island beach in the northeastern state of New York has raised suspicions here there is a serial killer on the loose.
The remains of four prostitutes, aged 22 to 27, who worked through online ads posted on the Internet site Craigslist, were discovered in December near Gilgo beach, 47 miles (75 kilometres) east of New York City. The young women disappeared on different dates between 2007 and 2010.
Investigators found three more decomposing bodies on Monday. The body of the eighth victim turned up on Wednesday in the brambles that separate the beach from a nine-mile (15-kilometer) stretch of road known as Ocean Parkway.
The four recently discovered bodies were taken to the New York City medical examiner`s office, which is conducting DNA tests.
"All the remains are here. We are doing anthropological review and DNA testing," said Ellen Borakove, the medical examiner spokesperson.
"We need at least a couple of weeks, we don`t even know the sex of the victims," she said.
Suffolk County lead investigator Dominick Varrone told reporters that the most recently recovered bodies may have been victims killed before the four women whose bodies were found earlier.
"Until they are identified we cannot link the discoveries," said Varrone.
Police currently have no suspects.
A possible ninth victim, Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old prostitute from New Jersey, has been missing since May 01, 2010.
A little before 5:00 am that day, she banged on the door of Gus Coletti, 76, a resident of nearby Oak Beach.
"I hear somebody screaming and bang-bang on the door," he said. "I opened the door, and she stood right there. I said, `What`s the matter?` And she kept saying `Help me`," he told the New York Times.
But Coletti said she ran off when he went to call police. "She took off, and that was the last I saw her," he said.
Gilbert`s family insists she should be easily identifiable because she had a metal brace in her jaw.
Over about six miles (10 kilometres) of beach battered by wind and rain, dozens of investigators on Thursday were engaged in a macabre sweep with cadaver sniffing dogs.
Fire trucks were used to extend ladders horizontally over hard-to-reach areas and dangle searchers over them in gondolas.
"Any time you have an abundance of bodies found in the same vicinity, it`s very unusual," Jay Salpeter, a former New York City homicide investigator told Long Island Newsday.
"If you look at other serial killers, most times bodies are left in different locations and even different states. This is unique because the killer is using this (Gilgo Beach) as a dumping ground."
If the serial killer theory is confirmed, it would be the third such case in the region over the past 20 years.
The most notorious serial killer was Joel Rifkin, 52, serving a life sentence for the murder of nine women, most of them drug addicted prostitutes, between 1989 and 1993. He is suspected of having killed 17.