Appearing on a special episode of the CBS series 48 Hours Mystery that aired recently, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer spoke for the first time in two months about the murder of as many as 10 people whose remains were found in the weeds lining several Long Island beaches.
Addressing a national TV audience for the first time, the commissioner said, “An arrest is not imminent, but we’re making progress.”
The episode profiled each of the four victims who are believed to have died at the hands of a single killer. The victims, all women, are Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Maine; Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of Buffalo; Maureen Brainerd-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Connecticut; and Amber Costello, 27, of West Babylon.
Like Shannan Gilbert, who vanished in May of 2010 and whose body police were searching for when they discovered the four sets of remains, the women were all prostitutes. When asked about the fate or likely location of the 24-year-old Gilbert, of Jersey City, Dormer said simply, “I don’t know. That’s the $64,000 question.”
The show also highlighted the actions of Peter Hackett, an Oak Beach doctor and former director of Suffolk County emergency services. According to Mari Gilbert, mother of Shannan Gilbert, Hackett phoned her shortly after her daughter’s disappearance, claiming the girl had shown up at a halfway house that he ran.
Hackett subsequently denied making the call until he was confronted by the 48 Hours Mystery camera crews, at which point he admitted to having phone Mari Gilbert but denied her account of what was said.
As Hackett tells it, he told Mari Gilbert only that he calling was to offer her his assistance as a board member of the Oak Beach homeowners association. “I had nothing to do with anything occurring the night Shannan went missing,” he told the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “I never saw her that night; she never came to my house, I never offered her assistance.”
Suffolk police searched Hackett’s home with cadaver-sniffing dogs earlier this year but found nothing. Police maintain that he is not a suspect.
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