Of those thousands of tourists that visit, a few were walking the beach of Davis Park.
This is normally a very quiet, lonely stretch of shoreline that doesn't get much foot traffic outside of the summer months.
Just a few months beforehand, in January of 1996, one of the most damaging blizzards in American history had ravaged the east coast. It had introduced incredibly low temperatures and extremely high winds in a dangerous combination that damaged multiple properties and even led to the deaths of 150 people.
But in that storm, many things from Long Island had come adrift: some properties, many people's belongings, etc.
So when this group of walkers, taking a stroll alongside this isolated stretch of beach, saw something flapping in the wind, they decided to move closer to take a look.
Much to their horror, it was a plastic bag. And inside that bag was a set of legs, belonging to a woman. The toenails on the feet had recently been painted red, they recalled.
Whether these legs, wrapped together in a plastic bag, had been placed on that specific beach or simply washed up in the months beforehand is unknown. However, they were the first sign of a killer, found fifteen years before other pieces of the puzzle would be uncovered, just miles away.
Welcome to the Unresolved Podcast. I am your host, Micheal Whelan, and this episode is part two of the Long Island Serial Killer, a man who had been terrorizing prostitutes for the better part of two decades before being discovered by happenstance over half-a-decade ago.
If this is the first episode of the podcast that you're listening to, I highly recommend you go back and listen to the first part of the story. There will likely be a lot of details that don't make sense unless you do, as this is a direct continuation of the story I began in episode fourteen.
Now, without further ado, we step back to December of 2010, where Suffolk County police officer John Mallia had just discovered the first remains that would be attributed to the Long Island Serial Killer.
Officer Mallia had been using the Oak Beach area that prostitute Shannan Gilbert disappeared from to help train his veteran canine officer, Blue. He had begun these tracking exercises in the summer months shortly after Shannan's disappearance, with no luck finding her tracks whatsoever.
However, in December of that year, nearly seven months after Shannan had disappeared into the night, screaming and begging for help from a supposed group of killers, Mallia followed the tracking nose of his German Shepherd companion.
Parked alongside the Ocean Parkway, which stretches across multiple islands off the southern coast of Long Island, Mallia and Blue travelled roughly fifty feet away from the highway into the thick bristle of brush. There, hidden in a marshy swamp-like area, Mallia discovered the source of Blue's speculative nose: a burlap sack, half hidden in the mud and the muck. As Mallia got close enough to look inside the burlap, which was already disintegrating due to the elements, he saw the skeletonized remains of a human being.
Two days later, Mallia would return to the scene with investigators and detectives, who had started collecting evidence of the area. Blue remained in the car temporarily, as Mallia helped clue in the detectives as to where he had discovered the remains and in what condition they had been in.
About five-hundred feet from those original remains, Officer Mallia stumbled upon another of those dilapidated burlap sacks. Inside, the remains of another human.
More police and investigators were called, as the scene began to look like something out of CSI. Ocean Parkway, the road I oft-mention that serves as the main throughway between Jones Beach Island and Fire Island, was nearly shut down due to the amount of vehicles brought in.
Even out here, in the gripping cold of a December along the New York coastline, Officers Mallia and Blue continued the search. By the end of the day, they had personally uncovered two more burlap sacks containing human remains, bringing the grand total to four so far.
While the bodies were sent off to the Suffolk County medical examiner for testing, the realization that Long Island had a serial killer on their hands was beginning to surface.
The breaking news that four bodies had been discovered just off of the Ocean Parkway, in the small and vacation-friendly hot-spot of Gilgo Beach, was terrifying.
In the hours and days before the bodies were identified, many speculated that Shannan Gilbert would be one of those four. All of the bodies were found to be smaller in stature, roughly the same height as Shannan, and they all four appeared to be women.
However, once the testing came back, it was found that none of the four were Shannan Gilbert. Instead, they were four other women that had been prostitutes who advertised their services on Craigslist and Backpage; four other women that had gone missing in the years prior, who ended up being asphyxiated and then their remains stuffed into burlap sacks.
Similar to Shannan Gilbert, they had all led tragic-yet-hopeful lives, and met a similar type of unknown ending.
While she spent most of her life with her mother, Marie, Maureen more closely resembled her father, Bob. She was a dreamer, who never really took things too seriously. She wanted the best for herself, but she didn't want to work herself to the bone to get it.
Maureen was the oldest of her family's children, and many would consider her to surprisingly be the least mature of them all. Maureen was constantly finding herself stuck in a book, at least until she started to become a teenager and attract the attention of boys. At which point, any hope of her studying or succeeding in school became a lost cause.
At sixteen years old, Maureen had fallen in puppy love with her high school boyfriend, Jason Brainard-Barnes. Maureen left school to deliver her first child, a baby girl named Caitlin, and Maureen and Jason were soon married in a quickie wedding in their hometown of Groton, Connecticut.
Not too long after that, Maureen moved in with Jason and his grandparents in Pawtucket, where they stayed until he enlisted in the army, leading them out-of-state.
Two years later, they returned to the Connecticut area, but would divorce amicably. They separated without a messy divorce, both agreeing that their daughter Caitlin would stay with Jason and enjoy the benefit of a quality school system.
Maureen moved in with her younger sister, Missy, and began looking for work as a now-twenty something with no high school degree. She began to jump from job-to-job, mostly minimum wage jobs with no permanent goal; jobs that failed to capture her imagination in any way, shape, or form.
She had been a poet for some time, and remained dead-set on the idea of becoming a rapper. She was constantly writing lyrics to songs, which she would collaborate on with Jay DaBrule, a guy that lived down the hall from Missy's apartment. The two entered a friendship, which included - but was not limited to - sex.
Maureen would treat Jay's apartment like a refuge, where she could go and let her young daughter, Caitlin, play with Jay's daughter, who was just a year older. She would use his computer to tweak her Myspace page, where she would try and spread her music. It so happens to be at Jay's apartment where she clicked on a message from a modeling agency that wanted to take some photos of her.
She took some photos - nothing risque, just facial and body shots - which soon opened her up to the wide world of modeling. She posted those photos on her Myspace page, where she began to receive multiple offers. Unfortunately, almost all of the offers she received were for nude modeling or escort services.
But, Maureen thought, why should she have to split the profits with the escort services? She could cut out that middleman, promote herself on Craigslist, and make a 100% profit.
She continued to look for odd jobs, and eventually moved out with a roommate. It was allegedly during this time period, roughly around her twenty-fifth birthday, that Maureen began to dabble in drugs, particularly ecstasy and cocaine. She had also started to post Craigslist ads, advertising sexual services for men in her local area, before she realized that the money wasn't enough to justify it, and the odds of encountering people she knew were rising every day.
She would shortly start dating someone else, a guy named Steve, whom she would have a son with: a baby named Aidan. However, despite the love for her new child, the relationship with Steve did not last for long, and now Maureen had to juggle custody of her children with two different fathers while struggling to pay for her rent and working odd, dead-end jobs. She began another job at a call center, before being let go and striking out on her own as a full-time escort in Manhattan.
Maureen Brainard-Barnes would travel to New York City for a weekend in July of 2007, hoping to earn enough money to fight off her pending eviction. She had a hearing that Tuesday, and her custody of Aiden was likely hanging in the process. Steve, her ex-boyfriend, had been looking for any excuse to claim sole custody, and eviction would definitely solidify as a reason.
She was last seen nearby Penn Station in Manhattan, having rented a hotel room in Times Square.
The day that she was due in court, her family noticed that she was missing. Jason Brainard-Barnes, her ex-husband, called her sister, Missy, and had been trying to locate her.
Missy, short for Melissa, reported Maureen missing to the Norwich, Connecticut police in their hometown. From there, she would end up logging into Maureen's emails and social media accounts to try and find out where she was. This is how she discovered her sister was a prostitute, a discussion they could have another time... once Maureen was found.
Unfortunately, Maureen would be one of the bodies discovered in that marshy swamp just off of the Ocean Parkway. She was the first one missing out of the four bodies discovered there, having been missing for over three years.
Missy, with a photo of her sister Maureen
The only break that the police ever had in the search for Maureen Brainard-Barnes was a clue that broke a few weeks after her disappearance, in 2007.
Apparently, at that point, Maureen's cell phone had been turned on, and pinged somewhere close to Fire Island. If you recall from the intro, Fire Island is the large, thin island located just slightly northeast of where the bodies would be discovered years later. It is also the place that the first evidence of the supposed Long Island Serial Killer - the pair of women's legs - would be found way back in 1996.
Melissa Barthelemy was born on April 14th, 1985, in Buffalo New York. She was born to a single mother hellbent on raising her without marrying her high school boyfriend.
Melissa's mother, Lynn, would spend a large part of Melissa's life working to support them, so Melissa would spend her time with her grandparents. Or, as she got older, supervising herself to make sure she stayed out of trouble.
Unfortunately, she up grew in an era where many of Buffalo's jobs were being outsourced to other areas, increasing the crime rate and poverty level during Melissa's youth.
When Melissa was a child, roughly eight or nine, her mother Lynn fell in love with another man, a black man named Andre Funderberg. The two moved out with Andre, and Lynn soon brought another daughter into the fold: Amanda. She was nine years younger than Melissa, but the two got along great and funnily seemed like exact opposites: Melissa was white but had always wanted to be black, whereas Amanda would be half-white-and-half-black but always felt like a white girl.
As Melissa grew older, she began to misbehave more and more. She would stay out longer than anticipated, hang out with unsavory characters, and even began slacking off in school. Her mother, Lynn, tried to intervene multiple times, but her methods seemed to always be ineffective. When Melissa started to date a local drug dealer, Jordan, Lynn believed there to be nothing else to do, so she sent Melissa down south to live with her biological father, Mark, in Texas.
She was down there for two-and-a-half years, until she was nearly eighteen, when her trip culminated in her stealing her father's work van and driving around without a license. She was sent back to Buffalo, where she would finish out her senior year. When she returned, she was surprised to see that her family had moved from their inner-city neighborhood to essentially the farmland, away from her old friends.
Melissa decided to move out on her own, which meant she would need to find a job and pay for her living expenses as she finished up her high school degree. She had dreams of going to beauty school and becoming a hairstylist, perhaps opening up a salon of her own one day. She found a job at a pizzeria, which lasted for a time, at least until she graduated. Then she began working at a Supercuts, which was unfortunately the only job matching her criteria that she could find at the time.
She would eventually start seeing her old ex-boyfriend, Jordan, the drug dealer. Everyone in her family urged her to cut off the relationship; even Andre, her mother's ex-boyfriend and the closest thing to a father that Melissa had.
On a trip to New York that Melissa took with Jordan, she met a man named Johnny Terry, whom allegedly offered Melissa a job cutting hair.
Unfortunately, Johnny Terry was his legal name. His street name was Blaze, and he was a pimp that worked in a less-than-stellar area of the Bronx.
Within a short time of heading to New York City, Melissa discovered that the hairstylist job Johnny offered wasn't real. Her and Jordan weren't long together, and she soon fell in with Blaze, and began working as one of his prostitutes. Before long, she was renting a basement apartment which was used to house her many cats, many of which she had taken in as strays.
She ended up getting a tattoo on her lower back, emboldened text with her pimp's name, "Blaze."
Melissa Barthelemy ended up getting arrested once, dated September 12th, 2008, for soliciting prostitution. She plead guilty, but received no jailtime or fines, just a five-day stint of community service.
Every now and then, her younger sister Amanda, now a teenager, would come and visit. Amanda recalls her sister leaving for work at night and coming back early in the morning, something that she now knows as her older sister going "on dates."
When things between Melissa and her boyfriend/pimp Blaze began to hit the skids, she began utilizing Craigslist to advertise her services. Just like Maureen Brainard-Barnes, she had decided to cut out the middleman and pocket all of the cash. Unfortunately, Blaze soon discovered this, and had a group of his other prostitutes attack Melissa and steal her money one night.
Melissa was beginning to hit rock bottom. She had dabbled with drugs like cocaine during her "dates," but was beginning to develop a bit of a problem with alcohol. Now, after the beating, things were looking more dire for her in New York. Her family pleaded with her to move back to Buffalo, and to live with them and take a job at a friendly-owned cosmetologist.
"Soon," she promised.
On July 11th, 2009, Melissa sent her younger sister, Amanda, a text message. She wanted Amanda to come out and visit again. Later in the day, on July 12th, she deposited a thousand dollars into her bank account, profits from a night spent with a client.
Melissa Barthelemy was last seen outside of her apartment, sitting on the curb and likely waiting for a ride. Her phone would dial out once that evening, a call to her ex-boyfriend/pimp Johnny Terry, aka "Blaze," but he wouldn't answer.
Blaze alleges that she had another appointment that night, a thousand-dollar spender that he personally knew of. However, since he and Melissa weren't working together anymore, he wanted nothing to do with her and avoided her call.
Melissa's family immediately noticed her absence, especially since they were now planning on having Amanda go out and visit her older sister again. Melissa's landlady noticed her absence, too, due to the endless purring of her countless cats.
Melissa's family checked with local hospitals to try and find her, and then tried to report her missing. The police essentially waved them away, saying that Melissa was an adult with no history of mental illness. Also, she was a prostitute, immediately making her expendable in their minds.
It took nearly two weeks for the police to file the proper paperwork to make Melissa an official missing person. By then, though, Melissa had disappeared, and would never be seen alive again.
Four days after Melissa's disappearance, things took an incredibly dark turn.
Her sister Amanda, nine years her junior and now just thirteen years old or so, received a phone call. On the caller ID, it appeared to be coming from Melissa's own cell phone.
"Hello?" she asked, excited to hear from the sister that had been missing for days. With a future trip to visit pending, she was undoubtedly excited to get this call from her doting older sibling.
"Is this Melissa's little sister?" asked a voice. A male voice.
The good feeling in Amanda's stomach immediately knotted and turned into fear.
"Yes," she hesitantly responded.
"Do you know what your sister is doing?" the man's voice asked. "She's a whore."
And thus began a series of phone calls that Amanda would receive, all coming from Melissa's cell phone.
It is most likely these phone calls, which began just days after Melissa's disappearance, that finally kicked police into gear to consider her a missing person. They wouldn't file the necessary paperwork until ten days after she was last seen, and at that point, they pulled up her phone records to see what had been going on.
Apparently, on the night of her disappearance, Melissa's phone had dialed her voicemail. This had allegedly occurred in the town of, forgive my pronunciation, Massapequa. This town lies just north of Jones and Gilgo Beach, where the bodies would be discovered, on the other side of Oyster Bay in mainland Long Island.
Police immediately suspected Johnny Terry, Melissa's pimp and ex-boyfriend, who also went by the name of Blaze. He claimed to have had nothing to do with Melissa's disappearance, having an alibi in New York.
Over the following months, Amanda would continue to receive the terrifying phone calls. The man, who would only speak to her in his quiet, low voice, continued to torment and haunt her. He said that he knew where she lived, he called her a "half-breed," in reference to the dark skin given to her by her father. He seemed to know details about her own life, details he wouldn't have known unless he had been after Melissa for quite some time.
In their last phone call before the story went public, he even told Amanda: "I'm watching your sister's body rot."
Johnny Terry also claims to have gotten these phone calls, by someone that knew details of him: his tattoos, his travelling habits, his work, etc. He claims the man on the other end of the phone sounded older and white, but also drunk, at least during the calls. Police followed through with this information, and discovered that Terry did receive calls from a disposable phone, which was registered to the name "Mickey Mouse."
Terry's claims seem to be corroborated by what Amanda recalls: that the man on the other end of the line sounded white, and at least middle-aged.
However, perhaps most troubling of all, is that the calls to Amanda would all be traced back to busy areas of Times Square, in New York City. Whoever it was that possessed her phone, would only turn it on when he was safely anonymous in a crowd, and make the calls from there. Attempts to trace the caller and find his location failed, multiple times.
When a local TV station aired the information about the phone calls in an August 2009 piece, trying to find Melissa Barthelemy, the phone calls immediately ceased. The trail to find Melissa would go completely cold until December of the next year.
Megan Waterman was born on January 18th, 1988, to a troubled home in Portland, Maine. Her mother, Lorraine, had been a lifelong troubled alcoholic that was living with her ex-boyfriend, Greg, and his current girlfriend, Karen. Lorraine and Greg had already had a kid together, a boy also named Greg, when Lorraine gave birth.
The house itself was chaos, even outside of the relationship scenario. There were rumors of abuse, neglect, Lorraine's alcoholism becoming an issue, and so much more.
When Megan was just a baby, her grandmother, Muriel, began making reports with child services, and filed for custody of her grandkids. She was a tough old woman, who had raised six kids of her own and had known that Lorraine was the most troubled of any of them.
Megan and Greg Jr. were taken away by child services, and the only family member fighting for custody was their Nana, Grandma Muriel. Lorraine was nowhere to be seen, but Muriel would sacrifice her weekends to petition for custody and visit the kids while they were in foster care.
Lorraine, Megan's mother, began to suspect that Muriel only wanted custody so that she could keep keep her federally subsidized-housing, but it makes no difference. Grandma Muriel was the guardian that both Megan and Greg Jr. needed, and both she and their father, Greg Cove, signed away custody.
Unfortunately, at this point, both Megan and Greg had become little hellraisers. Both were starting fights at school, starting fights outside of school, starting fights at home, mouthing off to anyone when they didn't get their way, and struggling at school. Megan would be diagnosed with ADHD, but even after the diagnosis would get kicked out of her elementary school, and even had the cops called on her in first grade when she was caught misbehaving outside.
The words most commonly used to define Megan Waterman were: defiant, fearless, and reckless. She would pitch a fit until she got her way, and if that wasn't enough, she would battle or threaten.
As she grew up through her teenage years, she was in-and-out of trouble. She would become familiar with the local police officers, for a variety of reasons, whether they be through fights with other girls or stealing from the local Wal-Mart. She dropped out of school at seventeen, as she was in special ed classes at this time due to her behavior.
It was at this age, seventeen, that Megan became pregnant. The father was a man nearly twice her own age, a hookup she'd had in a club bathroom. Megan began to get in-touch with her mother again, as Lorraine had spent the better part of the last decade trying to get her life in order and battling alcoholism.
Megan would give birth to a baby girl in the summer of 2006, named Liliana. Things looked up for a time; Megan's issues began to ease away, and she finally seemed to calm down. She definitely loved her daughter Lili, that's for sure. But eventually that tough attitude she'd held as a teenager turned into an aggressive need to provide for her newborn daughter, and she began falling in with a rough crowd.
Enter: Akeem Cruz, also known as "Vybe." Vybe was a guy from New York that hung out with a pretty hardcore crew; he always presented himself as the level-headed member of the group, even though he was younger than most, so it was no surprise when Megan began to be drawn to his silent confidence. Unfortunately for Megan, Vybe was a manipulative wrecking ball.
Vybe had been arrested for a variety of charges, including possession of illegal narcotics and an illegal weapon as just a teenager, but rather than face charges, had begun laying low in Megan's neck of the woods: Portland, Maine. And now, as Megan began to fall into the world of drugs and prostitution, Vybe was right there to help her along the path.
Of course, Vybe was there to collect a profit, but wasn't with Megan when she ran into trouble. In October of 2009, Megan was arrested for soliciting prostitution, and would go on to be robbed twice by the Johns she was meeting up with. Vybe was absent for all of those encounters, yet he would still be there to help her post her ads online and collect a cut for himself.
Vybe was also a burgeoning drug dealer, mainly specializing in cocaine. Megan was a client of his, and would even steal bits from his stash at opportune moments, but she would also hide his drugs at her Grandmother Muriel's house when visiting.
During one of these visits to her grandmother's, after a particularly violent fight with Vybe, the police staged a raid of his hotel room; where they found Vybe hiding out with three others, and stacks of stolen goods that his clients would trade in exchange for coke. He would be able to post bail of $50,000 that day, and the charges would eventually be dropped because the police didn't have a warrant; an odd oversight for a hotel raid.
However, now Megan and Vybe needed to get some quick money. He had just had most of his stuff seized by police, and lost $50,000 for bail. Megan began to plan a trip out to Long Island, where she would be able to make up to $1500 a night.
In June of 2010, Megan checked into the Holiday Inn Express in Hauppauge, a suburb of Long Island located just 25 miles north of Gilgo Beach. At around eight o'clock, on the evening of June 5th, she would be seen leaving the hotel with her boyfriend, Vybe. However, she would come back just half an hour later, and spend a few hours in her hotel room. She made some calls, to friends and family, including one to her Grandmother Muriel, who was the constant babysitter for her daughter, Lili. She also placed one call to her mother, Lorraine, whom she had been in the process of repairing her relationship with.
The last phone call she would make, at roughly 1:20 in the morning, was to Vybe. Approximately ten minutes later, security cameras would see her leaving the hotel, and an employee would recall seeing her walking down a service road towards a nearby convenience store.
Many assumed that she was just meeting up with a client, as she had posted a Craigslist ad just an hour or so beforehand.
He began placing calls to her friends and family, asking if they had seen her. Finally, he took a trip to the Holiday Inn that she had been staying at, but when the hotel staff checked her room for activity, they told him that she wasn't there.
Sadly, due to Vybe's nefarious activities and the possibility of him being arrested, he didn't immediately report Megan's absence to the police. He called the police once, to report what kind of jewelry Megan had been wearing when she disappeared, but didn't want to risk seeing them in-person and being arrested himself.
Unfortunately, this kind of shady behavior made Vybe, known legally as Akeem Cruz, the main suspect in Megan Waterman's disappearance.
He was arrested about a month after Megan's disappearance, charged with criminal menacing with a dangerous weapon, for an incident unrelated to Megan. He managed to escape that arrest, but would be arrested yet again in August for possession of crack cocaine. This time, there was no bail set, so he wasn't able to escape so easily.
As Vybe sat in jail, waiting his eventual hearings and court proceedings, Megan Waterman met the same fate as the other bodies found in the Gilgo Beach swamp: strangulation, followed by a perpetual missing persons report as memories of her began to fade. And unfortunately, she was not the last to go missing.
Amber Overstreet was born in October of 1983, the second of two daughters. Her parents, Al and Margie, were the epitome of a love story: her, Margie, the woman born into an upper-middle class family, and he, Al, the boy from the "other side of the tracks" that lived a blue collar lifestyle.
Amber had an older sister, Kim, who was six years older than her. Despite the age gap, the two would become close friends throughout their lives, and remained close even when things soured later in their lives.
The four-piece family lived a pretty idyllic lifestyle, for a time. They lived in Gastonia, North Carolina, a decent-sized suburb in the Charlotte area. All of the family recall this time as being very cheery: family dinners as their father Al reconnected with his huge family, happy memories, the works.
Unfortunately, when Amber was just five years old, this happy family unit would face a terrible burden. The family lived next door to a twenty-six-year-old young man named James, who would take the two Overstreet sisters to play tennis just a few blocks away.
During one of these visits, things turned... terrible... for five-year-old Amber. The details are fuzzy, but this somehow ended with James raping Amber. What happened after that is what's unclear: Amber always thought that James went to prison, but the other family members recall Al putting his shotgun to the younger man's head and threatening to kill him. However, no police incident is on-record for whatever happened that day, suggesting that things were solved off-the-books and police weren't even called.
However, the damage had been done. One can't even imagine what kind of toll that would take on a poor five-year-old victim of such a heinous crime, but the family unit began to totally fall apart. Margie, the mother, began to suffer from a serious nervous breakdown that required hospitalization. Al, who had to continue on as the sole parent for a time, began to abuse alcohol and was arrested on more than one occasion for DUI.
The family found themselves together again when Amber was becoming a teenager, but things would never be the same. Their mother was forever scarred by what had happened to her own daughter on her watch, and their father was barely holding it together, as-is.
Kim, Amber's older sister, became the de-facto leader of the house when Al and Margie began to suffer from health issues. She was now just nineteen or so, and had begun working her way through college with two jobs, when she was also counted upon to be the nurse for her ailing parents.
It was during this time that Kim began to be drawn into the world of prostitution. It originally revealed itself to her through a college classmate, who promoted it was a type of erotic massage company, but it eventually revealed itself to be what it was: an illicit prostitution ring.
Unfortunately, Kim's behavior began to rub off on Amber. As Amber progressed through her teenage years, she began to turn tricks for neighborhood boys, which eventually led to her simply working alongside her older sister. And sadly enough, the work seemed to be fulfilling to her: Amber was always known as a sweet and innocent person, an emotional girl that would work her butt off to be accepted and loved. This was the type of world that would envelop her and spit her back out, but she openly embraced it, either due to her personal nature or her childhood trauma. She just loved to please other people, it was in her very nature.
The company that both girls were now working for, Coed Confidential, was beginning to go through some serious changes. What had started as a place for the girls to host parties was starting to become a drug dealing operation, leading to many of the young women developing drug problems of their own. Older sister Kim had begun to struggle with a cocaine addiction, while Amber had started to dabble with heroin.
Things were not looking up for either of them.
Amber would begin to find her religious faith, and seek help at a local church. The pastor, named Charles West, apparently became like a father to Amber, taking her in and helping her get clean. But when he passed away just a short time after, Amber relapsed. She got married to someone during this relapse, a man named Michael Wilhelm, but apparently the marriage wasn't long for this world: they had barely been married a month when they divorced amicably.
A short time after that, Amber would flee with her sister, Kim, to Florida for a fresh start. There, her and Kim would drift apart, while she got clean again and began to work herself into the close-knit church community of Dunedin. She would meet Don Costello, a local from there. Amber, unfortunately, wasn't able to have children, a symptom of the traumatic rape that had occurred in her youth. The two struggled through a couple of miscarriages before getting lucky with adoption a year into their marriage: a baby boy named Gabriel. The young couple would come and visit Amber's father, Al, during a Christmas holiday. That was the year that her mother, Margie, had passed away. Amber tried to convince her father to get closer to Christ, and seemed to finally have her act together.
Unfortunately, this newfound happiness didn't last long. Amber's marriage to Don disintegrated quickly, culminating in her trying to shoplift toothpaste from a Publix. She was supposed to face charges that February, in 2009, but disappeared from Florida before then.
Over the years, Kim had had a total of six children. She kept working throughout all of their lives, not being very present in their everyday raising, and had been dealing cocaine on the side of her prostitution. However, she would start to go legit: moving back to North Carolina, she had found a regular day job, and began a healthy relationship with a guy named Dave, who doted upon her like she was a princess.
Funnily enough, it was Dave Schaller, Kim's boyfriend, that tried his hardest to get Amber's life back in order. He was the one that paid for Amber to fly up to their home in North Carolina - twice, actually, when she blew the money for the first ticket on heroin - and allowed his girlfriend's sister to live with them while she tried to get her life back-in-order. He worked to get her a place in rehab, worked to find her a place at a recovery center, and was the only one that would visit her on the weekends.
It was during this stint at rehab that Amber would meet a man named Bjorn Brodsky - a rail-thin stick of a man that everyone ironically called "Bear," who stood just a few inches taller than Amanda. He was a man that had led a troubled life, leading to him being arrested for breaking-and-entering to support his drag habit. He had checked into rehab so that he could help raise his infant son, even though the relationship with the boy's mother had soured.
Amber and Bear grew close during this period of time, and he moved in with Amanda, Dave, and Kim once he was released from rehab. Dave, Kim's boyfriend, began to see himself as the guardian of the group, a guy trying to help a bunch of misfits get their lives back-in-order.
A short time after Bear would be released, though, Amber and Kim would begin to float the idea of working as escorts again. They both needed the money, and subtly proposed the idea to both Dave and Bear. Bear was okay with it, but Dave was more hesitant; he wanted to help the sisters better themselves, not help them right back onto a troubled path. He agreed to help however he could, but he wouldn't take a time from the money they made: he wanted them to get enough money to jump-start a life and then get out.
They started posting ads for their services on Craigslist, and before long, money was rolling in. Amber was making over a thousand dollars a day, but before long, most of that would be funneled right back into their drug habit. All four members of the house - even Dave, who had never had a drug habit beyond painkillers to keep his old martial arts injuries at-bay - were now using. Dave, Amber, and Bear used heroin, while Kim kept smoking crack.
Bear would be arrested in August of 2010, when a cop randomly searched him to find not only a pocketknife, but cocaine and heroin. Amber raised funds to bail him out just days later, but Bear would then drop an emotional bomb on her: he told her that he had always planned on leaving, but now he needed to do so and get clean so that he could be there for his little boy.
Bear left, and now Amber was heartbroken. She returned with Dave to his home in Babylon, New York, and carried on looking for clients through Craigslist ads.
On September 2nd, 2010, she went back-and-forth with a client for a while, bartering on price and terms. Whoever it was, he promised Amber a lot of money for a night of work: at least $1500, and he would pick her up at around 11:00 that night.
By this point, Kim had left the house already, leaving Dave for an ex-boyfriend. So that night, when Amber started walking down the street to get picked up by her client, there was no one there to recall any details. Dave was now too high to notice anything around him, and the client too smart to be seen by anyone nearby.
I wish I could tell you that there was a break in the case for Amber Costello, but unfortunately, she was not even reported missing.
What's most troubling about Amber Costello's disappearance is that she left Dave Schaller's house without a purse or even her phone. She left it all behind, implying that she trusted the client she had been speaking to. Perhaps he was a repeat customer, or someone she knew, but he had gotten her to put her guard down for the evening in exchange for a decent payday.
Her sister, Kim Overstreet, kept telling her ex-boyfriend Dave just to cool it; Amber would surface eventually. So they held off. After all, they didn't want cops sniffing around their house and find evidence of drugs or prostitution. So they just hedged their bets that Amber had run off with someone or maybe even found a way out of their crummy lives.
As days began to turn into months, no answers presented themselves. Kim began to wonder about a client she had had in the weeks before Amber's disappearance: a white guy, who drove a truck and owned a tugboat business. Apparently he had had a box of women's sexual devices, and seemed rather aggressive: at one point, when he was with Kim, he held her throat and began to slightly choke her.
Kim recalled this rough encounter after Amber's disappearance, and also recalled telling Amber about him as being an easy paycheck. She had no way of asking Amber whether she followed up on it, however.
Melissa Cann (Maureen's sister) with Kim Overstreet (Amber's sister)
Unfortunately, no news would break in Amber's case until the four bodies were discovered by Officer John Mallia and his German Shepherd partner Blue. Wrapped in burlap, the bodies of all four women were found nearby each other, separated by just one-tenth of a mile or so between each.
Whomever had put these women here had done so deliberately. Tests would come back and find that all four women had likely died of strangulation, and each of them disappearing in close proximity to one another meant only one thing: there was a serial killer loose on Long Island, and unfortunately for the police, there were still more bodies to dig up.
Amber's ex-boyfriend, Bjorn Brodsky, and one of Amber's friends, Mike Donato