Melissa Cann final noticed her sister Maureen Brainard-Barnes alive in July 2007 when her sibling took the practice from Connecticut into Manhattan and vanished.
“It’s been about 15 years since she went lacking,” Cann, 37, instructed The Post. “It is loopy as a result of if feels prefer it was yesterday. I used to be solely 22.”
Her 25-year-old sister’s disappearance consumed most of Cann’s personal younger maturity. Armed with Maureen’s emails, she made frequent journeys to New York City making an attempt to retrace her steps, pushed legislation enforcement to exhaust each useful resource and misplaced many nights of sleep.
“It took up numerous my time, however I needed to come to the belief that I wasn’t going to be the one to search out her. I needed to sit and wait and that was horrible,” Cann mentioned.
In December 2010, Brainard-Barnes’ physique was discovered on a stretch close to Gilgo Beach, LI, together with three different girls: Megan Waterman, 22, Melissa Barthelemy, 24, and Amber Lynn Costello, 27. They had been all intercourse staff of petite stature, promoting their companies on Craigslist. And their our bodies had been wrapped in burlap.
Since then, 11 our bodies in all have been unearthed within the space. The grisly murders, believed to be the work of a serial killer or killers, have captivated the general public, stumped native police and pissed off victims’ relations nonetheless ready for an arrest.
Now Cann, a soft-spoken, married mom of 5 communicates with detectives weekly — or extra usually — and nonetheless clings to the concept her sister’s killer might be delivered to justice.
“I at all times really feel hopeful. Without hope, what do you will have?” she mentioned.
Law enforcement doubles down
Renewing her sense of optimism are two latest key personnel modifications in Suffolk County — new district lawyer Ray Tierney and police commissioner Rodney Harrison.
Cann mentioned the items in place are actually “strong.”
Earlier this month, Harrison held a press convention on the website of the gruesome dumping floor, vowing to solve the case.
“We is not going to relaxation till we carry these accountable to justice,” mentioned Harrison, the former NYPD chief of department.
“There’s a dedication, a relentless pursuit to establish the people and produce them to justice. That’s for the relations to listen to, to allow them to know that we are going to not relaxation, and we are going to be certain we do all the things we now have to do to carry them accountable.”
He added that there have been “some nice leads which might be placing us in an amazing place to solve this case. We’re getting there however nonetheless some work must be completed to get us throughout the end line.”
Lorraine Ela, the mom of sufferer Megan Waterman, instructed The Post, she was “sort of skeptical” previous to watching Harrison’s press convention.
“I’m bored with listening to the identical crap come out of everybody’s mouth,” she mentioned in an e-mail. “[But] I used to be more than happy with the phrases from Mr. Harrison. He appears to look after the victims. I consider Mr. Harrison will work this case with dignity.”
911 name could present clues
Police initially discovered the stays of the primary 4 girls whereas trying to find Jersey City resident Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old Craiglist escort who, after visiting a John in Oak Beach, made a frantic 23-minute name to 911 insisting somebody was making an attempt to kill her. “There’s somebody after me … they’re making an attempt to kill me,” she reportedly instructed the 911 operator. She was by no means seen alive once more.
In December 2011, police located her remains in a close-by marsh. The official explanation for her demise is “undetermined,” and authorities have theorized she drowned or died of a drug overdose. But a 2016 impartial post-mortem mentioned her demise was “according to homicidal strangulation.”
Harrison additionally mentioned he would launch the 911 name to the general public if it didn’t intrude with the police investigation.
Gilbert’s household lawyer John Ray, who has heard the 911 tapes however is below a courtroom order to not communicate concerning the particular content material, instructed The Post they might “shock the general public.” He added we might study the police’s account of Shannan’s demise is “willfully false.” Law enforcement have previously said that two male voices can be heard in the background, said to be Gilbert’s driver and the man who hired her. (Both have been cleared by cops.)
Gilbert’s sister Sherre Gilbert has not heard them herself. Her mom, Mari, who was killed in 2016 by her schizophrenic daughter, Sarra, was given a transcript years in the past. Sherre mentioned she is aware of it could be “troublesome to listen to my sister’s final phrases. But something to assist her case.”
She hoped that in releasing the tapes, it could present her sister’s demise was no accident and that she was frightened for her life.
And perhaps it would present a helpful lead. “We wish to know if the general public can establish another voices on the tapes,” Sherre added.
Other twisted phone calls gave investigators clues to the killer’s id. Just days after Barthelemy’s disappearance on July 10, 2009, a person used her cellphone to name her little sister Amanda. In all, he made a handful of taunting calls, saying Barthelemy, who was dwelling within the Bronx on the time, was a “whore.”
Cops traced among the calls to Midtown Manhattan and Massapequa, which is 10 miles from Gilgo Beach.
Theories however no arrests
Over the years, the case has been saddled with scandals and sideshows which have sullied the investigation — and uncovered corruption amongst native officers.
In 2015, then-Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke was busted for the 2012 assault of a handcuffed suspect who swiped a bag of intercourse toys and porn from Burke’s trunk. The sordid incident was lined up by then District Attorney Thomas Spota, who was later sentenced to five years within the conspiracy. It was alleged that Burke stonewalled the FBI from getting concerned within the investigation as a result of they knew of his assault.
In that very same yr, the FBI formally joined the investigation, and in 2018, former FBI agent Geraldine Hart took over as commissioner. Using a database that collects DNA from genomics-services firms like 23andMe, they had been capable of establish Jane Doe 6 as Valerie Mack, a 24-year-old escort and mom of 1.
Last yr, the division released images of a black belt tied to one of many victims and believed to have been dealt with by a suspect. It was embossed with the initials “WH” or “HM.” They additionally launched GilgoNews.com to gather ideas and supply updates.
The grim thriller has been fodder for numerous documentaries, crime specials and even Netflix’s 2020 movie “Lost Girls,” based mostly on a 2013 e book by Robert Kolker delving into the lives of the victims. It’s additionally ignited the creativeness of true-crime sleuths and produced quite a lot of unfounded theories.
Some have speculated that Burke was in some way concerned within the killings. Others have floated Dr. Peter Hackett, a former Oak Beach resident who referred to as Gilbert’s mom and allegedly took care of her that night time. (Police have cleared him, however the Gilberts filed a wrongful death suit against him in 2012. Hackett has denied involvement and the go well with was tossed in 2018.)
Cann mentioned she doesn’t purchase any of the theories.
“Hey, it’s Burke, it’s Hackett. It’s none of them. Because if it was, considered one of them would have been arrested by now. I do know for a truth these detectives wish to solve this case,” she mentioned, including the hypothesis harms the investigation and stops the general public from coming ahead with ideas as a result of they suppose legislation enforcement has their man.
“I would like folks to say in the event that they noticed my sister in New York City. I would like them to place in a tip. Don’t take into consideration the names which were floated. There hasn’t been a suspect but.”
Sherre echoed these sentiments: “We wish to preserve the general public concerned and get justice. They all deserve justice, not simply Shannan.”
And as extra time goes by since her beloved one’s disappearance, Ela confronts one other powerful calendar milestone later this month.
“Megan’s birthday is January 18, and she or he would have been 34,” Ela wrote. “But [she’s] eternally 22.”