Investigators use DNA, genetic genealogy to ID another victim of Long Island serial murders – KOKI FOX 23

DNA

By: Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Updated: May 29, 2020 – 3:35 PM

LONG ISLAND, N.Y. — Police on Long Island have added another link in a chain of 11 unsolved Gilgo Beach killings believed to be the work of a serial killer.

Using genetic genealogy, Suffolk County police investigators have identified one of the slain women, initially dubbed “Jane Doe No. 6,” as Valerie Mack, police officials said Thursday. Mack’s identification comes 20 years after she vanished.

Mack, a Craigslist escort who lived and worked in Philadelphia, was 24 years old when she was last seen in the spring or summer of 2000 in the area of Port Republic, New Jersey. Her partial remains were found in Manorville that November and near Cedar Beach in 2011.

Valerie Mack is seen in mugshots from 1998 and 2000. Mack, who was 24 when she vanished in 2000, has been positively identified as one of the victims of a chain of 11 unsolved homicides on Long Island since 2007. (Suffolk County Police Department)

Mack was never reported missing, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said in a video statement.

“It is our hope that our efforts bring some sense of closure and peace to Valerie’s family,” Hart said.

Watch the entire video statement here.

Police officials called Mack’s identification a “giant leap forward in the investigation.”

A police vehicle is seen in November 2000 in the wooded area along a road in Manorville, N.Y., where the partial remains of Valerie Mack were found. Genetic genealogy helped Suffolk County investigators identify Mack’s remains 20 years after she was last seen alive. (Suffolk County Police Department)

“Valerie Mack’s identification represents progress in this investigation, but there is much work left to do,” Hart said. “As detectives continue to relentlessly pursue leads related to her murder, we ask members of the public, friends, family, and associates of Valerie Mack to provide whatever information they have about her and the circumstances which may have led to her death.”

Mack was among 11 victims whose remains were found scattered along a stretch of beach on Long Island. The gruesome discovery was made as authorities searched for Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old Craigslist escort who vanished May 1, 2010, after running from a client’s home in the Oak Beach community.

Gilbert’s remains were ultimately found Dec. 13, 2011, in a marsh in Oak Beach.

At right, search crews probe a marsh just east of Oak Beach, N.Y., in December 2011 for the remains of Shannan Gilbert, left. The search for Gilbert, a missing Craigslist escort who vanished in 2010, resulted in the discovery of 10 other bodies believed to be victims of a serial killer on Long Island. (Suffolk County Police Department, AP Photo/Kevin P. Coughlin)

Hart said her agency worked with the FBI and utilized advances in DNA technology, particularly genetic genealogy, to narrow down an identity for “Jane Doe No. 6,” as well as the two remaining unidentified Suffolk County victims.

A genealogy profile was established for Jane Doe and homicide detectives and federal agents used data from that profile to seek leads in areas of New Jersey to which she may have had ties.

They spoke to potential relatives of the victim and obtained DNA samples, which ultimately led to Mack’s identification.

“Our goal was, and continues to be, bringing justice to the victims and to their families,” Hart said.

Searchers comb over sand dunes and scrub across the road from where eight bodies had been found April 5, 2011, in Oak Beach, N.Y. A total of 11 victims are believed to be the work of a serial killer on Long Island. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Chilling discoveries

The chilling discoveries began with the disappearance of Gilbert.

“During the months that followed her disappearance, canine officers incorporated training exercises into searches of the area surrounding Gilbert’s last known location,” officials said on GilgoNews.com, a site devoted to the unsolved murders. “During one exercise, on Dec. 11, 2010, a set of skeletal remains was discovered in an area near Gilgo Beach off Ocean Parkway.

“The remains located would later be identified as Melissa Barthelemy.”

Two days later, the remains of three more Craigslist escorts were found nearby, spaced about 500 feet apart from one another, according to police. Those women were subsequently identified as Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Megan Waterman and Amber Lynn Costello.

News stories from April 2011 detail the discovery of several sets of human remains near Gilgo Beach on Long Island. The discoveries, ultimately totaling 10 victims, were made as authorities searched for a missing woman, who became the 11th victim when her remains were found in December 2011. (Stan Honda/AFP via Getty Images)

All four women were reported missing between July 2007 and September 2010. Brainard-Barnes, 25, had last been seen in New York City in June 2007 and Barthelemy, 24, had been reported missing in July 2009 in the Bronx.

Waterman, 22, had last been seen in early June 2010 at a Holiday Inn Express in Hauppauge, New York, and Costello, 27, had vanished after leaving her North Babylon home in early September 2010, authorities said.

>> Read more trending news

A fifth set of partial remains belonging to Jessica Taylor were found several miles east of where the first four women, designated the “Gilgo Four,” were found. Suffolk County officials said some of Taylor’s remains had been found nearly eight years earlier in Manorville, in a wooded area on the northwest corner of Halsey Manor Road and the Long Island Expressway.

“The female’s head and hands were severed and missing,” authorities said. “Additional remains of Taylor were discovered on March 29, 2011, along Ocean Parkway during the search for Shannan Gilbert.”

Police vehicles are seen April 15, 2011, where a body was discovered near Gilgo Beach and Ocean Parkway on Long Island. The remains of a total of 11 victims were discovered in a case believed to be the work of a serial killer. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Three more sets of remains – including those of Mack – were found April 4, 2011, during the Gilbert search.

Like those of Taylor, Mack’s remains were partial. Part of her body had been found by hunters in a wooded area off Halsey Manor Road in November 2000, three years before the majority of Taylor’s remains were found in the same area.

Searchers who found Mack’s remains in April 2011 also found the remains of an unidentified toddler nearby, as well as those of an unidentified Asian man.

Pictured is an artist’s rendering of an unidentified Asian man whose skeletal remains were found April 4, 2011, along Ocean Parkway on Long Island. The young man, who died five to 10 years before his discovery, is one of 11 victims found in the area near Gilgo Island. (Suffolk County Police Department)

Investigators hope that genetic genealogy can help solve their identities, as well.

“One week later, while searching further west along Ocean Parkway in Nassau County, two additional sets of skeletonized remains were found approximately 7 miles away from the discovery on April 4,” police officials said. “One set is believed to be the mother of the toddler found a week earlier. The other set of partial remains was linked through DNA analysis to remains found in Davis Park on Fire Island in 1996.”

All 11 murders remain unsolved. NBC News reported in January that Hart said Gilbert’s killing did not fit the pattern of the other 10 but that investigators were not ruling out the possibility that all the victims were killed by the same person.

Valerie Mack is seen in mugshots from 1998 and 2000. Mack, who was 24 when she vanished in 2000, has been positively identified as one of the victims of a chain of 11 unsolved homicides on Long Island since 2007. (Suffolk County Police Department)