Maureen Brainard Barnes

January 25, 2011 by staff 

Maureen Brainard Barnes, (AP) – Four women whose bodies were dumped along a deserted strip of beachfront on Long Island were prostitutes who booked their online customers and were probably killed by a serial killer, announced authorities Monday.

Investigators did not identify a suspect, or say how the women were killed, but were looking into what the customers they might have met some time before they disappear. One woman was reported missing nearly 3 ½ years ago; another was seen as recently as last September.

“Their deaths are a direct consequence of their work as prostitutes,” Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spot told reporters. “I sincerely hope that people who are engaged in a similar business to these four young women would come forward. They certainly must have some information.”

The police had hesitated as to whether a serial killer was involved, Police Commissioner Richard Dormer originally proposed this scenario when the bodies were found in December, but investigators later became tightlipped for a cause.

But on Monday, Spot said, “The actual cause of death appears to be substantially similar” and that “it appears that the same person or persons responsible.”

Spot and Dormer declined to say how the women died. In December, they had described the rest of the skeleton.

The women identified Monday were Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Norwich, Connecticut, Melissa Bartholomew, New York Erie County, and Amber Lynn Costello, of North Babylon on Long Island. Brainard-Barnes was last seen in Manhattan, July 9, 2007, Bartholomew was living in the Bronx where she disappeared July 12, 2009, police said. Bartholomew’s parents filed a missing persons report in New York soon after his death, because they could not contact her.

Brainard-Barnes was 25 when she disappeared was 24 Bartholomew and Costello was 27.

The fourth wife, Megan Waterman, a 22-year-old escort craigslist Scarborough, Maine, was last seen in June at a Holiday Inn Express in Hauppauge. Waterman disappeared after a trip to New York on Memorial Day weekend with Akeem Cruz, a 21-year-old man, described as his Brooklyn friend. Cruz is currently serving a sentence of 20 months at Maine Correctional Center for drug trafficking.

A woman matching Costello’s name, date of birth and appearance in February did not appear in court in Pinellas County, Florida, on charges of theft and was briefly imprisoned twice in 2009 for theft shoplifting. She was last seen in North Babylon on September 2.

Police found the first body in mid-December just steps away from a 15-mile stretch of road by the sea that leads to the famous Jones Beach State Park. The other three women were found two days later during a follow-up survey.

The victims “were probably there for a certain period of time,” said Spot. But investigators believe they were killed elsewhere and their bodies dumped on the beach road.

Calls and messages left for family members of Costello, Brainard-Barnes and Bartholomew were not immediately returned Monday. Nobody answered the door at an address in Akron, NY, listed Bartholomew, and a man with the last name in North Babylon Costello said he had no connection with the dead.

Police were searching for another missing craigslist escort when they came upon the body near the beach. Since then, they said that the person they were originally looking for a woman from New Jersey was not among the dead. Authorities said Monday that the case is still under investigation.

“What are the activities of these victims may have engaged in prior to their murders does not matter,” Dormer said Monday. “They were young women whose lives were tragically cut short.”

The case has some similarities to a 2006 case in New Jersey, where the bodies of four prostitutes were found in a drainage ditch outside Atlantic City and about a mile from the beach. The killings remain unsolved.

Atlantic County Prosecutor’s spokeswoman Madelaine Vitale said Monday that his office had been in contact with investigators in Suffolk County in the early stages of their investigation, but would not comment directly on new Long Island. New York authorities enforcement also declined to comment on a possible link.

The highway is a narrow strip of land between the Great South Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. Drive to four lanes through the middle, connecting Jones Beach with its beaches and the city-state run more to the east.

Associated Press writers Colleen Long in New York, Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo Bill Newill in Trenton, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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