« True Murder: The Most Shocking Killers

LOST GIRLS-Robert Kolker

2013-09-11 | 🔗
One late spring evening in 2010, Shannan Gilbert, after running through the oceanfront community of Oak Beach screaming for her life, went missing. No one who had heard of her disappearance thought much about what had happened to the twenty-four-year-old: she was a Craigslist prostitute who had been fleeing a scene—of what, no one could be sure. The Suffolk County Police, too, seemed to have paid little attention—until seven months later, when an unexpected discovery in a bramble alongside a nearby highway turned up four bodies, all evenly spaced, all wrapped in burlap. But none of them Shannan's. There was Maureen Brainard-Barnes, last seen at Penn Station in Manhattan three years earlier, and Melissa Barthelemy, last seen in the Bronx in 2009. There was Megan Waterman, last seen leaving a hotel in Hauppage, Long Island, just a month after Shannan's disappearance in 2010, and Amber Lynn Costello, last seen leaving a house in West Babylon a few months later that same year. Like Shannan, all four women were petite and in their twenties, they all came from out of town to work as escorts, and they all advertised on Craigslist and its competitor, Backpage.  Lost Girls is a portrait not just of five women, but of unsolved murder in an idyllic part of America, of the underside of the Internet, and of the secrets we keep without admitting to ourselves that we keep them. LOST GIRLS-AN UNSOLVED AMERICAN MYSTERY-Robert Kolker
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Good evening. This is your host of dancers for the program, true murder, the motion. Fucking killers in true crime, history and the authors that about them. One late spring evening in two thousand and ten, Shannon Gilbert after running through them. Now I thought from Geico Motorcycle. It took fifteen minutes to take a spirit, animal quiz online. Please be the Cheetah Lee these be the cheetah and learn your animal isn't the cheetah, but the far less appealing blobfish.
Oh come on. To add insult to injury, you could have used those fifteen blobfish minutes to switch your motorcycle insurance to Geico Geico. Fifteen minutes could save you, fifteen percent or more on motorcycle insurance. The oceanfront community of oak beach screaming for her life went missing. No one, no one who had heard of her disappearance thought much about what had happened to the twenty four year old. She was a Craigslist prostitute had been, who had been fleeing the scene of what no one could be sure, the Suffolk County police to see seems to have paid little attention until seven months later, when an unexpected discovery in a bramble alongside a nearby highway turned out four bodies all evenly spaced, all wrapped in burlap, but none of them Shannon's. There was Maureen, Brainerd Barnes last seen at Penn station in Manhattan,
years earlier and Melissa BAR Semele last seen in the Bronx in two thousand and nine there was making Waterman last seen, leaving the hotel in Waffle Long Island, just a month after Shannon's disappearance in two to in two thousand and ten, an Amber Lynn, Costello last seen leaving a house in West Babylon, a few months later that same year, like Shannon all four women were petite and in their twenties, the came from out of town to work as escorts, and they all advertised on Craigslist and its competitor. Backstage.
Lost. Girls is a portrait not just of five women, but of unsolved. Murder in an ideal is part of America, of the underside of the internet and of the secrets we keep with out admitting to ourselves that we keep them. The book that we're featuring this evening is lost girls and unsolved american mystery with my special guest journalist and author Robert Kolker welcome to the program, and thank you for agreeing to this interview, Robert Kolker, I'm pleased to be on. Thank you. Thank you very much, Bob a dedicated fan of the poor of the program and someone that suggested that I get in touch with you and and ask you for an interview for this program. Her name is Susie. She has contacted me and I I ask this question often, but she put in a little more eloquent terms. What are the, how did you become? How do you come
Come to this story bob, and what are the circumstances that led to writing this book? Give us your background and how you came to be able to write this lost girls. Ok, then, thanks. I appreciate the question from from you and from Susie. I'm a writer for New York magazine, I write feet stories and cover stories for the magazine that are, you know that are based on reporting of news events and often there crime stories, and so when four unidentified bodies were discussed right all near each other and found in Burg, right on a beach in long island, Is clearly a story that would be interesting, Danny reporter it and then the bodies were identified and it was clear that they were Craigslist escorts and the most interesting thing happened.
Among a lot of people in the New York area, interest in this case, sort of deflated a little bit, It all kind of got a little quieter for some reason, because people said oh, these women were prostitutes, and that to me was the first time that something unusual is going on here. It be I'm very clear. As time went on that this happens. A lot in serial killer case is that serial killers, actually rely. On the idea that their victims will not be next and that, even if they were discovered that the public won't necessarily go on a crusade to find them. Because, as a society, we stigmatize these women and decide somehow that they have it coming. Never mind that the jobs are also the breaking a lot: the pimps for breaking the law. The drivers are breaking the law, so then
as time went on in the case became more complicated and in LAS girls. I cover all the ins and outs of the case. I as a reporter got to know some of the family members of some of these women and I became immediately, clear that they defied expectations. I'd assumed- and I think a lot of other people had to, that these women didn't have families that they didn't. People in their lives who cared who cared about them, that they were somehow you lost to the world long before they actually disappeared and were murdered. And what I learned is that nothing could be further from the truth. These women had very close relationships with. Family member state in constant touch, and we're leading more or less semi functional labs for a very long time
care deeply when they went missing, and it was in many cases, law enforcement that dropped the ball when they disappear. Because again our society stigmatizes women in this, line of work from there? It became clear that the women involved were doing something new in terms of prostitutes and they were taking advantage of the internet and this allowed, to lead even more mainstream lives than previous generations of prostitutes have been able to do. They don't longer have to go to a bad neighborhood. They can work at their home. They don't need to work for a pimp. They can be their own boss. They can set their own hours. They can lead a kind of a departmentalized life there, prostitution life can be in a box. They can just do it a few days a month and then lead normal lives, the rest of the time, and that meant that in many cases these women were people who might never have become prostitutes ten or fifteen years ago. But the internet
is it easier for them, it lowered the barrier to entry and it made them feel safer because they weren't walking the streets. The way that you'd have to, and all of these factors were things that put them in harm's way, and I thought to myself after writing a magazine story about the case that brought the family members together. Wouldn't it be great to write a book that made it clear to the public who these women really were and to make them seem more than just you know, cardboard, characters are extras in a serial killer case. What if we could under and what it is exactly that makes women like this so vulnerable. It's not just that. They chose to take this risk. It's that we chose to turn our backs on them. And what, if I got to know their families better, and what, if I got to know their communities better an and if their lives were actually windows to a part of America that the media doesn't really talk about much. All these women came from struggling parts of America that the media doesn't talk about places where
opportunities have been drying up and where the recession is still going. Strong, cases where a generation earlier there might have been jobs. But now the best jobs are at Dunkin answer at Walmart and now, with the internet There's a temptation for some meant to make more money in one night, then there friend The neighbors are making in a week or two weeks working at the local gas station or convenience store. This is it's a part of America that I really think deserves attention, and so I thought lost girls could do that as well, but for your listeners, obviously blah scrolls is also murder mystery and I go through the in's and outs of the case. I have exclusive interviews with people who are considered persons of interest in the case by the public eye, he quit the police commissioner at the time and that she could detectives at the time their are exclusive, a is there as well and with a John, is at the center of the case, as well, so
what I wanted to offer. Readers was a three hundred and sixty degree view of IMR mystery and author of a broader mystery of what it is in our society that makes women like this of honorable now for our audience and and for those that want to know about this book. Let's talk about the catalyst for the discovery of these women and and for the evidence for you to do this story as well as because, unfortunately, these characters come only to light after their deceased. So let's go back to this evening in two thousand and ten was shining Gilbert and tell us first, Shannon Gilbert was tell us from the beginning. Shannon Gilbert was, and we can get through this faithful
evening where she disappears. So take us back and tell us what you found out from all your research about who Shannon Gilbert was and how she was formed, and some of the formative years for her well, the initial reports of this case, made it clear that Shannon Gilbert was working for herself. You know posting ads on Craigslist that she living at the time in Jersey, City NJ, which, if you list Thank you is very pretty far away from the area in Long island where, where she disappeared and that she was driven by a driver who shared some of the money that she would bring in as a prostitute in the two of them are kind of in business together and uh Office said that she had run up in Ellenville New York, which is up state sort of halfway between New York City and the state Little Albany Itza in a in a.
In more rural, not not really suburban, more part of the state and see you. Obviously came to the New York area to make money, and then there were a couple of reports that said that perhaps that she had. Been prescribed antidepressants and you might have used, sat and that's really all anyone ill, but the the. About Shannon in her life is exactly what her childhood was like, because it off? It became clear time that she was a half mother and she had three sisters. And that the family all lived in Ellenville, but the chanted didn't always live with the rest of her family and my eyes, learn to my research in Moscow also, is that the various family complication the difficulties that her mother was having Shannon ended living in foster care. For almost
entire childhood from the time she was seven years old going forward sheet? Maybe only lived at home for about a year, despite all this. She got excellent grades she graduated high school from some very good high School New Paltz High School in just after just three years of high school education, she had amazing singing voice she performed for her friends and they loved listening to her saying She was a buoyant upbeat, you know joy personality around her friends. There was no suggestion that this foster care such she was eating away at her. You know there was none of the you know kind of try. That that obvious trauma that the stereo type you might expect would happen in terms of if someone decided to become a prostitute. But she was a restless person with ambition and in my girls. As you get to know her better, you learn exactly what motivates her too.
Go off to try to make a name for herself, and that is that a cording to many of her friends and those who are best She really wanted to re, enter her family and be welcome back into her family and to we have a position of power within her family and making, money from prostitution for a create a time actually was helpful to her. In this way she was able to buy people presents and you know, swoop into town and treat everybody to whatever they wanted, beak She had the money and Everyone was concerned about her, but, of course nobody in this book thanks, you know it none of the characters in the book. I think that they're going to be murdered by serial killer and so yeah not a lot was done to really stop her office. She was such a fiercely independent, energetic person that it was hard to imagine her putting herself in harm's way and not being able to defend
and in fact in lost girls, her mother married points out. You know she fought back, she ran screaming from this house in Oak Beach, we can talk more about the circumstances of disappearance now or later in the program, but that night at Oak Beach is probed extensively in the book. From the point of view of her driver from the point of view of her I'm from a neighbor down the block from the police and then from several people who have research. The case independence, lay on wed, which I'm sure your listeners know about. You know one of the great major independent. Yeah internet sites where people talk to one. And share information and trying to their own sleuthing at home about a case interesting, San Angeles, tell us about these. The disappearance of the the events leading up to the disappearance, actually, like you say, with the driver and the clients called and he's contacted, Duke she's, contacted to Craig's list. Tell us about that
Well, it was a the last night of April in twenty ten and she had gone that night to a movie Freddy Krueger movie. I think, with her boyfriend Alex, who used to be a driver at an escort service back in the days when Shannon was working for an escort service and after the movie ended at about one thousand pm and she told her boyfriend that she had to work, and she said goodbye to him and she hopped on the commuter train from Jersey City into Manhattan. He went into Manhattan and she went to a street corner and waited for her I'd for her driver or driver's name is Michael Pack He and she had been working together, several nights a week for at least eight or nine months. They were friendly and had a nice rapport going and he came and picked her up at the place that they had determined and she got into the car and, with you know, with a little netbook and with her.
She posted an ad and waited for a call. But it was a slow night and she had one call several blocks away from where they had met. But there really was thing else going on, except call coming out from long island from way out in long island, more than an hour's drive from Midtown Manhattan, even that late at night, and that came from a gentleman named Joe Brewer, who was the John at the house where she disappeared. They decided that given that it was a two hour minimum you for this appointment that they would go out there, because in many cases you can take a two hour date and try and extend in two or three or even four hour date, which would end up paying for the whole night and it wouldn't matter that they traveled so far so with that in mind, they decided to drive out there. They went out to Oak Beach, which is a seclude beach community in Long Island, where on
paper, all the residents are millionaires because they have beachfront property, but in fact it's a much more peculiar place than that. This isn't like EAST Hampton or W Hampton or or one of these millionaires rose it's it's filled with middle class and even some working class people whose families have these houses and they've watched the values rise up and it's secluded and far away from the rest of long silence. You've got this metropolitan area of over ten million people all around, and yet Oak Beach is just seventy two homes, a twenty minute drive from the nearest convenience store from the nearest gas station from the nearest supermarket? If you want your quart of milk, you've got to drive twenty minutes over bridge into the rest of long island. So the only people who live here are people who are definitely holding onto to homes because of their value. People who like to live remotely, who want to be off the beaten, track people
to be a big fish in a small pond or don't want to be hassled, and in this case Joe Brewer enjoyed his house because it was a party pet for him and his friends. It was almost like a frat house for him. He was you know, father of but divorced war. Hadn't worked for awhile had a little money in his family and of is basically hanging out and had hired prostitutes there in the past and Shannon was just another one, so should they sell out. She goes in Michael Pack. The driver waits outside, for you know, and or maybe two but early on she gets if he gets a phone call from Shannon saying that she In the John are going to go out on a drive two to run an errand, Michael Pack
and sure exactly what that errand is for, but he assumes it's to go. Get drugs. They aren't gone more than ten or fifteen minutes, which means they didn't leave the general area of Oak Beach right they come back. Michael pack keeps You hanging out in his car playing poker on a cell phone waiting for the date to keep going at some point. He gets another call from Shannon Should this time, Shannon is asking him to go off to the nearest pharmacy or drugstore and get some things that might help keep the date going Hunger things like playing cards and KY and so Michael Pack looks on Google and sees that the nearest pharmacy is way too far away to go but he says it's too far away. I don't want to do it and she she makes a little thinking
mad at him and then hangs up the phone, but then the date continues and then suddenly, sometime between five hundred and six hundred in the morning, there's a tap on the car windows, Michael packs car and it's Joe Brewer, and he puts down his window and brewer says she won't leave This is very unusual for a John to be in contact with the driver and right and the seem to be telling Michael Pack was I've got, we've got a problem, I want to state to end and your girl isn't leaving the house and so Michael reluctantly gets out of the car and follows brewer or into the house, and what follows at least according to Michael Pack, is a very peculiar chain. The
where Shannon is refusing to leave, but is crouched behind the couch and trying to keep away from not just from Joe Brewer but from Michael Pack and slowly. It becomes clear to Michael that Shannon is on the telephone, with the police, with nine one one trying to say what's going on here and what she says is they're. Trying to kill me Michael pack tries a couple things to try to convince Shannon to come with him. She refuses ruler tries to one point to grab ahold of her to get her out of the house and she screams and runs away. Brewer throws up his hands and walks out of the house. These events by the way or according to Michael Pack. So it's his version of events. It's unclear if this is exactly what happened, but this is based on his recollection.
And so there is now no one knows what to do and and Michael Pack says, forget it I'm out of here and he leaves the house and sits in the car again and that's when Shannon comes running out of the house screaming stumbling and running again into the darkness. Now. I want to slow down even further and talk with your listeners about what a peculiar moment says, get There's never been Doke Beach before she does no idea where she is or how she got there. She was driven there. She it's the middle of the night or actually Don will be breaking soon, but it's still very dark outside. She can't see a thing the only soul. She knows in this area is her driver, Michael Pack, and yet He runs away from him into the darkness and he is supposed to be her security tail. He is supposed to be the one who's guaranteeing that she gets out of there just time and yet she's not just running away from
John she's, running away from him. It is unclear exactly why she is so fat. Joe brewer might have told the police more than he's told the public, but it's very clear that he must know something about why she is so upset. The police have tried to describe her behavior as a reaction to the drugs a psychotic break, but that does explain why she could be on the telephone like she would be on the telephone with nine one one for twenty three minutes. That is not a lot of people believe it's not the work of an irrational person, Again, it's highly unusual for a prostitute to be calling the police anyway, because you know the fruits are I got to cause trouble for her, and so
a lot of people believe and based on what my signings in lost girls. I am highly persuaded to believe that Shannon had a very good reason to be calling the police that there's an incomplete, missing piece of this story. About what happened to her inside that house and that she genuinely feared for her life and that she, for some reason, Didn'T- trust her driver either and kept on going he's. He started knock on doors in the neighborhood. The first person who sees her down the road. A few doors down is Gus Colletti, an elderly man he's up early because he and his wife are going to drive off for a day trip, so his lights on, which is probably why she came to the house, but he says that he's going to call the police,
when he sees her and that's a sensor, shrieking and send and and screaming and running off again, so that that sort of a false yeah. That's a that's a dead end for her and she keeps running she knocks and a few our doors and this time nobody comes out. Another neighbor called nine one one when they see her, but they don't come out and don't help her, and that is the last. We know of what happened to Shannon, except that her body is found sometime later, is there sorry? Is there any? Is there any indication that there was? What's the background of Joe Brewer, Joe Brewer says sort of uh you to call me a boy would be a bit of a stretch he's a little too slovenly he's the best image in my
and you seen him and heard him and talked with him now- is of Joey Buttafuoco, he's kind of a you know: of who laughs a lot and tries to cool and really a high class or charming guy, but is you know very yeah, like a high opinion of himself and likes to brag to peep, around him about what a ladies man he is and he's not above hiring prostitutes to entertain his friends at parties, but I have, in terms of any kind of criminal background, is was, Was there any? No? No there's! No, there's no sense. That he's had any sort of criminal background, except perhaps, as a John but not how about Michael pack other than rest related to the same industry that was involved in was it? Was there any violence or anything to indicate what so ever that he might be so,
well, he is certainly kind of a ski she guy, and there are two schools of thought about, Michael Pack. One is that he's hiding a lot and is actually capable of of terrible things in the other school of thought about him is that he he's sort of a low level guy in terms of small time crime. He he served sometime in federal prison for misuse of a passport. What he was accused of, doing and convicted of doing was an immigration scandal trying to he was flying out to be a the companion of of someone who was being sneaked into the United States and at customs he was stopped and was cool.
At the two of them weren't really together and he was arrested and did some time in a federal jail, but that's not a violent crime. So it's unclear that that he's ever had any experience and you know cutting people harm, no one. The most amazing things is, of course, the police response here and police. What they rice happened or didn't happen, tell us how the police proceed with this investigation. Well, the first indication that something's wrong is the nine one one call right she five thousand nine hundred and eleven? But what happens here is that she does where she is, and so the the operator that the Suffolk any operator for nine hundred and eleven Suffolk County is county where oak beaches and quickly transfers her to the state, nine hundred and eleven operator, because she says something about Jones Beach now for
listeners who don't understand the New York area Jones Beach is an enormous state park. That is beautiful beach in Long island, that's very close to oak beach, and it as far as major landmarks go it's something that is someone Shannon who was unfamiliar with the area would be the only place around there that she knows about so she panicking she's on the phone- and she says something about Jones Beach. The operator switches are over to this New York state operator. The New York state operate tries to get more information about where Shannon is, but never learns a thing, and so in play the nine one. One call, even though it's twenty three minutes long is something of a non starter. Now we haven't heard every minute of that call, because in in New York State laws, they don't release nine one one tape shakily when they're, you know they're they're open cases going on, but as far as the what the police said about what's on the tape them with family members, say they've been told by police
That's all there is, and so they don't even treat it as a missing persons case and they serve don't treat it as attempted murder. In fact it sits there and that please don't connect the dots, but I mean that call and the other nine one one calls from oak beach for weeks, which seems a little outlandish. In my opinion, I'm talking about two more nine hundred and eleven calls that were made one by Gus. Colette the neighbor and another by another neighbor named Barbara Brennan. These we're about a woman going screaming through Oak Beach, about Shannon Gilbert the police to respond to those calls they do get there in a semi decent amount of time, something like less than twenty minutes after the second nine, but by the time they get their Shannon does not.
To be anywhere and Michael Pack is gone as well. Michael pack pack told me that he threw up his hands after searching for for awhile and split doesn't seem like he actually spent that much time. Looking for her to be honest, but that's what he says and so so the police come but again think about it. The police are not there to investigate an attack, or an attempted murder, because no one's told them that that she believes so is trying to kill them and they don't know about her own nine one. One call all they know, was that a woman has been screaming and running down the street, but now her and her companion, the driver are gone and so the police officer at time kind of shrugs after spending some time there and says: oh well, I guess they resolve. Whatever argument they were having and he leaves again and he writes up the disappearance, but that the incident
did it's not perceived as anything more than a curiosity like a strange moment that happened to those beach. So that's that's the morning of May. First, two thousand and ten. It takes several weeks, perhaps even two months before The missing persons report that Shannon family filed in her hometown in Jersey City is actually connected to the events at oak beach. Ten to the nine one one call, and by that time the trail is cold, Scotts Colletti it's about a police officer coming in August to knock on his door and to interview him a second time about what was going on. By that time, security video at Oak Beach had been taped over no one in the unity enough about what had happened to bother preserving what we On that video now there are conspiracy theories and say that they're covering up for each other and that there were thing
on that video that were potentially incriminating We may never know, because that video was taped over and duck, makes us anymore. Well, the. So you see it's an investigation that falls through the cracks for logistical reasons. For very human frailty reasons in the just sort of the folly of bureaucracies for technological reasons they couldn't trace calculating trace her cell phone called nine one one and then for reasons of apathy community didn't care enough to hang on to that security, video or perhaps they're hiding something. Months go by was Shannon what was Shannon's family's reaction. This is the interesting part her family and her boyfriend Alex all wants to know what happened to her Alex takes a trip, within a day or so of Shannon being missing. He,
He goes out there once by himself and talks to Joe Brewer. He and Joe Brewer tried to file a missing persons report for Shannon at the local police precinct in. In Suffolk County and they practically get laughed out of there when they go in the police, say oh she's a prostitute and they don't seem to care. After hearing that also she's in her 20s she's, not a small child, and so they think well wherever she is, she must be where she once today. Maybe she found a better date and then they say do you, then they don't even accept her missing persons report. They say it has to. The file in where in the city where she resides, which is Jersey, City NJ, her face only eventually does, along with the boyfriend file a report in Jersey City and that's that report that eventually floats back to Suffolk County, but think of all the time that could have been saved. If the police in Suffolk County had paid attention had taken it seriously.
Instead they decided it wasn't their problem. Now. Imagine for a minute that Shannon Gilbert wasn't a prostitute. Imagine if she was a middle class person that if she was the daughter of a doctor or a lawyer or of a judge somehow I think the police would not to attention and done a little bit more for her friends coming to say that something had gone wrong that night, something tell me that the community would have been compelled to turn over that security, video within minutes or hours of her friends going to the Suffolk County police. But none of that happened because of Shannon's line of work, Yeah the stories like that echo throughout lost girls by the way we learn about things like this happening with a lot of the other women as Well and then something sorry go ahead then something really peculiar happens, which I further detail in lost girls, which is
a neighborhood of beach, a doctor named Peter Hackett, offers to help Shannon's boyfriend, and Spread the word about Shannon's disappearance in the community and he Mary Gilberts Number Mary is Shannon's mother and he calls her. He says he called to offer the assistance as the representative of the community of Oak Beach, but marry says that the car was actually far more peculiar than that she feels that he was checking to make sure that to see if it is to to test sort of cover his basis, because he's hiding something. She said, that. He said that he runs a home for wayward girls and that Shannon had spent some time with him and that he had tried to help her that day. That morning.
And that now she wasn't with him and he just wanted to make sure that she got home. Alright. She feels in hindsight that the doctor was on a fishing expedition calling her up trying to assess her out and play her in some way, because he knew more about the disappearance then meets the eye, and that's when the conspiracy theories really spin. All through last girls, there are neighbors it up beach who are convinced that The doctor. I saw her that night and he tried to help her that night, there, some neighbors who say that they even over heard him saying that he did. He of course denies all of this, and I worked. I should before that. Just in the interest of fairness, I work very hard to to portray the situation fairly because the doctor has it down yeah he he he defends himself. He says that all this is completely wrong at the same time,
he also deceived the public. He denied that he was ever on the phone with Mari Gilbert. He denied it for a year until. Finally, he was forced to admit it and so and when, even when approached after that, he continued to dissemble, then talking about this case said that the there. He is Incredibly naive and defensive, and and scared about the all the attention no good reason at all, or perhaps he knows more about what happened that morning that he cares to admit the conspiracy theories about him are are all over the place. Some say that he yelled should be a suspect in the case, but he of course denies that. Other people say that he was a bystander who is covering up for someone else. Then there's the added complication that he he has physical disabilities. He has a he walks with a prosthetic leg and what he actually have the
the two physically overpower, Shannon the speculation runs wild, but the police when an entirely different action after interviewing Brewer and Michael Pack and Dr Hackett and others in the community. They decided that this was not a criminal matter that this was an accident, that Shannon had a bad reaction to drugs and was going through psychosis, and that she ran off and they were convinced for a year and a half that wherever they found her, it would be, when in the water or perhaps anywhere else, would not be a murder victim that she would be victim of circumstance. Now. This is just if true, it's highly coincidental, given the fact that, for other women, just like her men in their 20s who advertised on Craigslist were found
three miles away on the side of Ocean Parkway and you'll go beach, it would be incredible to think that her disappearance led to the search that led to the discovery of these other for women, and yet the cases are somehow not connected. You can tell that this is becomes a slightly convoluted set of events with lots of different theories. What lost girl has to do- is untangle all these theories and get to the bottom of what might be behind. Okay, that you've you've jumped ahead. Just a little bit here be the least figure that she drowned in the march, or something like that that again, what was the? What was the evidence other than that she was a drug crazed I mean, maybe they have some evidence or testimony to that to that effect. Where was this, how did they come to that conclusion of drowning without any body?
That's a very good question and some say that it was merely pressure that the police, commissioner, was feeling to get this case out of the way. You know just sort of clear the case, but I also believe that he was playing the averages. He thinks that her case a little different from the others, because because had a driver and that the Killers MO's to try to get these women alone, and so, if he thinks that that is in this is the police commissioner. At the time, Richard Dormer believes that it, it just doesn't make sense that she would be targeted by the same killer for this reason and that treason allowed and so from there? He he starts to you, know
unfurl a whole other scenario where there's no foul play at all and where the neighbors innocent bystanders and where she just sort of runs off and dies. But I tried to make clear and lost girls that this is this is then just a strange and outlandish theory. It also is kind of polluted by this old fashioned, victorian sense of prostitutes. It's almost suggests that Shannon Gilbert died of hysteria or of a broken heart? or of melancholy. You know that's her, so always somehow, driven under by life living on the streets, and that tested it just doesn't seem quite right, particularly since there's so many inconsistencies in the doctor's story
and so many consistencies in the the entire. It was an accident theory. I think it was irresponsible to sort of make that kind of conclusion, so it made it too. There seem to be out in about the pressures because, like you say, there's a lack of these of lackadaisical attitude anyway, let's get to now the discovery, because it's in a couple a couple days to get the four bodies of, and we we will name these people. Maybe you can go ahead and and name the women that are found. First was Maureen, Brainerd Barnes found first, she was the first to disappear, but it was Melissa, Bartholemy's body that was found first and then two days later. The bodies of the others on the other three that which would be Marine Brainerd, Barnes and
Amber Lynn, Costello and Meghan Waterman, just the without getting too big. Of these just give us the the description of how the women were found and where exactly they were found, and just the condition of the bodies from from First from what we know from police, and this may be incomplete information. The bodies are found roughly about a tenth of a mile away from each other, so pretty close to each other. All it technically and Gil go be it really the side of a highway along street highway called Ocean Parkway that connects the rest of long island to these barrier island beaches Parkway is distinctive in that at night. You can tell when you're alone, because it's a straight shot at night, with very few street lights and so if you are let's say, a killer, trying to dispose of four bodies close to one another. You
can pull over, and you can know pretty much that no one is watching you because you know there are no headlights coming from miles away, and that is presumably what this killer did. He pulled over dumped a body drove a little bit dumped in the second jump to third the fourth and got out of there, but they all are very close to one another they were shrouded in burlap. Perhaps they were in burlap bags and the skeletons that that the bodies themselves did not seem to leave. It seems to be strapped and of any flesh, and this this is interesting it's unclear whether this was a function of the weather, whether they've been left there a long time or whether the killer had, we're going to work on them to make sure that they work this way? In any case, the this is a methodical disposal of bodies, one that has great intention, Aliti behind it, with real real eye for detail and the fact that they were located so close together suggests to many profilers that this killer,
wanted to remember exactly where they were wanted to be will try by anytime and relive the experience of having killed them, wanted to continue his relationship with these. And well beyond the act of killing them. We wanted to you know every every murder like this is an active of of violence, more than of and anything else, but it's also it's also about dominate Shin and control and to control every aspect of of their bodies. The full seems important to this killer. How did the? How did the bodies come to be discovered and how what the circumstances led to that well, we'll go back to Shannon Gilbert's disappearance in two thousand ten ten, the last time the police seem to come to oak, each was in August and then As far as the neighbors were concerned, this wasn't, you know this was a missing persons,
that might have even been resolved for all. They knew it wasn't in the papers nobody cared and as far as the media was concerned, but because it was a missing person case on record. It was a perfect case for the cadaver dog unit in Suffolk County is its training exercise and so yeah. Of course, we all know that that that the after the first forty eight hours of a missing person case, it becomes likely that that the person you know has died, so. In this case, an officer in Suffolk County who had a cadaver dog was simply of the opinion that Shannon Gilbert's body had to be somewhere and why not use a dog in a training exercise to try to find it. So he would go out from time to time. And he tried the the neighborhood didn't, find anything, and he tried one side of the hiring didn't find anything. And then he went to the other side of the highway and sure enough three miles down from the oak.
Each entrance in December of that same year, of twenty ten seven months after Shannon disappeared, they found those first four bodies. Then the winter came the snow made it impossible search for more bodies, but at the end of March beginning of April they found five more bodies and some of them at the They all were different. They weren't in burlap. Some of them were not complete skeletons, some of them. Later on, became linked to remains that had been left in other parts of long island years earlier, a torso left Several miles away of one victim now there was a leg from that same victim found, and none of these victims have been identified. The way that the first four have, except for those that
except for another prostitute named Jessica Taylor who disappeared several years before and they don't quite fit the same exact profile How is the first for women in burlap? One of them is a small asian man. Another one is a toddler who appears to be related to women. He was found several miles away dinner. At the time, Richard Dormer was of the opinion that they really all could have been killed by the same killer. He has a theory that the killer, when he first started, telling had a little less control over who is victims were. It was who he ever who he ever picked up. Nearly whoever happened to be in the right opportunity for. But then, with the advent of the internet, he was able to actually get on the phone to find exactly the right person
for him and he was actually able to go shopping for the perfect victim for him, and so he became more selective in the victims became more similar to one another. He also believes it's one killer because again he's a cop he's playing the average. Is he just can't believe that there would be two serial killers or more than one killer deciding to Lee bodies in roughly more or less the same exact spot. It just doesn't seem like it statistically likely to happen, but there are a lot of people who disagree with. That police commissioner, including the district attorney in the area, Thomas Voda, who is Gwen, record very early, saying that it's not clear that there's one killer No one should believe it it yet that it could be just that. It is a very good practi a good dumping ground for bodies, much the same way that the wand from its New Jersey might have been the Meadowlands before they built the football,
ballerina or perhaps some areas in Staten Island for mob hits that this is just one place where people leave a lot of bodies. It's almost have been some other. What you know the da and the police are, like you say, with an ongoing open investigation, are not going to reveal every single detail that will show the demonstrate to the public the there are differences in say, burial or some of those things. So I think the word of the da is interesting, but but then again the police Commission has police. Commissioner, has his his theory. So I'm very intrigued by that kind of argument between those two people that should be basically on the same side yeah. It was it's deeply troubling to the families in this case that they weren't on the same page, for a long time, strictly from a practical standpoint,
Let's say God willing. There is a suspect in this case and that person is arrested and brought to trial. It would be a very easy thing for that that the suspects defense lawyer to get up and and try to pick up the prosecution's case by talking about how everyone in law enforcement, had differing opinions and were fighting over exactly what happened here. It just isn't it isn't good for the prosecution to be doing this and so in Moscow. If you hear the story of how the commissioner was replaced with someone who is much more in step with what the district attorney leaves and how they've been in lockstep ever since and her trying to learn from that mistake, but in some sense that the damage has been done. Well, it's it's interesting to the district attorney, isn't just pressure to lump them altogether and then hope. You know hope for the very very best
she would grab one suspect and then it would be easy under the light of all the passion to be able to lump all of 'em and he would have no way of proving otherwise that suspect, meanwhile, there's another killer, still roaming Street silk yeah, I mean you I wonder how much of this is about closing cases. And or a how much is it. It is about p, are about about containing people's expectations and hopes for the but might be possible or that or for their fears. You know it
One person thinks it's a good thing to say that there might be more than one killer. Another person might think. Well, that's terrible in terms of you know public hysteria. I think that, there's more than one killer, that some thought that bad a bad image for the police department, so self interest plays a role here. I believe, but it is interesting, very, very interesting, Richard Dormer position in that his theory has as far as my research, because it I don't think he's that far off I mean we might watch tv and and there's some rules on on on criminal minds, but definitely there's probably rules and and rules are meant to
broken in terms of stereo typing. What a serial killer can do and can't do in terms of changing, and we have seen serial killers change their signature method of operation. There are things that could happen in, and at least dormer seems to have some pretty good evidence to back up his theory. I think I think that's a strong point. He also points out by the way that He thinks that the unidentified people are quite likely also prostitutes now, of course, he has no real evidence to lead him to this theory the only he freely admitted at the time talking to me that it's just a theory, because how could he know for sure? But he thinks that the the fact that they have gone identified for so long, particularly a small child, a toddler that these people were really living off the grid in a profound way that
I like the women in lost girls. They really had no connections in life and that they were engaging in survival sex. They they think that clothing that asian man was found with with women's clothing they I think that the toddler traveled around with the mother doing calls, which is not unheard of at the low end and prostitution, particularly if you're streetwalker and again he leaves at the killer, may have evolved, he may have. He may have gone out looking for whatever hooker he could find in the beginning, and then as time went on decided he wanted to be more selective. And there was the internet providing them with the perfect shopping list. I want to ask this question to this: did the this Craig list provide? Did for about Craigslist in this case provide any kind of problems inherently for the police in terms of trying,
but then a fire that John Joe Brewer was it hard to do, or was it easy through? Craigslist was at the easy for police to be able to get that information. Well, I don't think they needed Craigslist in Joe Brewers case, because he was you he was ready. It meant that he contacted or through Craigslist and broader there. He is not admitted that he had sex with her, but he said it's just a lonely guy and wanted to have some company for the evening Thank you my question at him. My question is then again in in your examination of how prostitution is changed through social media like Craigslist. Is it easier for police to be able, in a in a case like this pardon me views in a super valley sample, but in case in a case similar like it's where they wouldn't know. They would want to know the identity of the John is. It is harder or easier
I think it's extraordinarily hard, because, because the way that these listings work is if you're you put a listing on you, you post your name and a name a photo photo and maybe a sentencing what you're offering and then you left cell phone number. And the the job. Ones are all on that page right, but they aren't clue, anything on that page. They aren't clicking through and ordering a prostitute for a fire crags list there, just scribbling down that phone number and calling that phone number and let's see that woman has a disposable, tell cell phone. That's made out to a phony per And or or maybe she shares the phone with six women and at yeah by the time that woman is dead, that the police can go back and see who is looking at Craigslist that day and clicking on the adult services page, but
showing. There is a down to hundreds of people. Perhaps even thousands of people, so it it's not exactly a dead end for the police, but it's not a slam dunk either. Particularly women are using burners Third Party cell phones, whatever whatever ability, the NSA might have to triangulate exactly what these phones when you've got to know who the phone belong to and when they belong to them and who's answering so it gets complicated, but there is not a lot of information. Given that this is an open case about exactly what the police know about who called these women and what their phone calls were. It does seem as if some of their job things for chase down early in the investigation and interviews. But no suspects were named no persons of interest for named and it seems as if the police have come up dry.
Which is the astonishing. When you consider the original Craigslist killer, John Markoff from Boston was found within a day right, but I think the difference there is- He had hired someone in the Saas category. Someone who lives yeah, what what's in the man who is leading up slightly more above board and his son could be traced and his disappearance is taken more seriously. So we we don't have the necessary time, and I I don't think that do you would want to go through everybody's history. But let's say: let's take one of the young women and talk about her life right from the beginning and because you really do this really is a
Almost a what people describe almost a tribute to these to these women, because so many people pay lip service to this idea that well you know, all prostitutes are people too. You know there and even that just sounds ridiculous- that they would have to put it that way. So the thing is without being judgmental, because that's what you haven't done here, which you have reported on all of the little citizens that you've heard from overhearing somebody say at a vigil. You know all this for a you know, so I
like to hear how one woman went and sort of went off the rails or at least how she wound up in prostitution. And why and what was the family's reaction was tell us, give us the the trajectory of one woman and and just, and so you can fool. The audience can clearly get a sense of what you bring to this really added dimension to these people's lives. Other, then again just a little bit of lip service about how they're just regular human beings. Thank you Dan. I appreciate that. I really appreciate the chance in lost girls and I'm grateful to everyone. I spoke with including, and especially their family members, because the here isn't, I wasn't out to canonize. These women are or turn them into saints, but at the same time, I'm aware of this a lot of victim blaming going on here and that these
men we're far more than that shouldn't they shouldn't just be written off and and the causes of what brought them to this. It really deserves attention, and that there's a lot about them. That was, they were made them much more human, I believe, and humanization, and everyone in this book, with the exception of the killer of course, is treated humanely without a lot of fairness and I'll talk about Marine Brainerd Barnes, who was with word by her family and was the linchpin in her family. She was the oldest of three children and her sister and her brother in living in their 20s, where you were a tight knit group who, cared for one another and looked after one another all the time you know she was twenty. Four years old. She was when she first got into pro citizens she had one child. She was not holding down steady job and she was suddenly
aware of how much money she could make just in one night and Given the you know, given all the pressures of her life that child care pressures the rent pressures to be able to make that much that fast with something she decided to try and from there she decided to take trips to New York for one or two days at a time she developed a system of rules. She became very very responsible about the way that she could stay safe. I interviewed a friend of hers who went down with her for a few trips, and she talked about just how responsible marine was being how safe she was saying how she wasn't taking any rest. And then toward the end of one weekend. She lets down her guard and sure enough disappears after a day. No one knows what to do about
They they go in the hotel staff claims never to have seen her. The police in the hometown of Groton Connecticut, are of no use to them whatsoever. The Nypd the does, barely anything for them either they it's two thousand and seven when Maureen disappears and it if you can believe that it takes three one slash two years before they get any sense of what Happ. Into her and to this day they have no idea how about He swore she would never even leave Manhattan for a call ended up on a beach in long island, interesting and the idea of prostitution itself. What is this all this writing this book researching this book talking
families talking to people that don't necessarily condone it, but I understand it as a way of life in in in in the simple economics when you look at making ten times as much money as you normally could making you're lucky. If you can get part time work easier, these women are young and attractive and there is a demand, not everybody's demonized, as this for for and obviously there's people like Jill Brewer and his friends and a lot of people, a lot of people respectable people, all kinds of people take this prostitution very lightly and then very and there is no moral judgment. So what was the overall? these- these four women five women. What was the overall attitude why they engaged in prostitution despite everything else other than the economics which again is a big factor, but.
Was there did you find that normalization of of this sort of a just looking at it as work absolutely- and there were very personal reasons by by some of the women, ended up in situation- and you know, one of them was- you Know- did have sexual issues based Being a navy effective in another, one was roped in somewhat by a boyfriend who acted as a pimp But they all shared was a sense of how the money it wasn't just money it was. It gave them agency. It gave them power over their own lives to give them whether it was a store in their family or self sufficiency, Financially in their lives, it also meant that they to a great extent could be their own boss. They wouldn't wouldn't have to be beholden to anyone. Maureen. Enjoyed how it meant that she could be independent from any boyfriend and not have to work for any Escort service Miller.
By telling me how to pimp for a while she'd thought that Craigslist could liberate her from that print him and help her make enough money to get out of this forever. They all had plans do not do this forever, and they all knew that there was absolutely no other way in their life that they could achieve those plans as quickly as if they and if they didn't do that. Why do you think CIS ready of all the evolutionary process? Is that we've gone through where we've had sort of seen the light of day from all the barbaric practices? is all the outmoded ideas. Why is it still hooker dead? Why are these people that are most vulnerable again? We don't I to the the high class stripper the
The Heidi Fleiss is in the escorts that you can go through a phone book in Canada like it's pizza but This the solvable? Foreman on the street or the again, the woman, it's it took some chances here. Somehow. Why is society still have to deny. Well, in that sense, we didn't you cut out for about a minute, or so or thirty seven, oh, my god, that's so strange yeah, I'm not get so again, yeah. I heard you yeah. Well, you know it's interesting that this this issue of prostitutes being mass murdered. It cuts across time and and
and an error as like Jack, the Ripper an office, three different societies, I mean in Canada, there's there's the is there some very grisly cases with many many victims it. I think it's easily it's easy to say that the predators go after people who are vulnerable and prostitutes are vulnerable because they work in the shadows and prostitutes working the shadows because of the social stigma that it's been attached to them for for decades for centuries centuries the irony is that the demand for sex has never gone away, that the internet has made it more accessible than ever, because the internet affords you a certain amount of privacy, not just the prostitutes at the Johns can go on and on and no one you don't have to go to a bad part of town anymore, and so there was a once in the last ten years, or so that prostitution could become professionalized, that everyone could be like the Mayflower, madam, because they'd be working out of their own home. They wouldn't have to be a hooked up with some sleazy people. They
could pay their way to college, do whatever they wanted, and it's all consensual in a victimless crime and yet the killers among us still, CD, swimming is vulnerable and in many if they are and they beat and so Craigslist and back page and all the services became a shopping list for these these predators. It's really quite something, but you asked about about that. That's really about the! So, stigma, and I think that is that along with class, is really the root of of the discussion in lost girls, and I don't come out one way or another work on about legalizing prostitution I deliberately sit out that argument, because I think that that that that, if the uh of prostitution. Most of all that we mitigate it, even if you don't decriminalize it mean imagine if process kids were allowed immunity, if you they told police about threats to their well being
imagine a world where, where police actually cared more, if a prostitute was in danger and didn't just laugh at them if they came to them, certainly if you're a low level pot dealer- and somebody threatens your life, you could probably get immunity if you went to the police, but not if you're a prostitute, there's misogyny at work here. There's class arguments at work here, and I think I am, and my hope is, that a book like this changes people he is a little bit- help change the discussion. A little bit of people understand that these people five work work something yeah, yes, absolutely and- and it really is tribute to these women because normally
these, the buck stops right at the newspaper headline and and the short article with all the misinformation and and that's it, we don't ever look at this any differently and there's ramp realms of bulls reams of books same way where it's I mean it's not like they're, very nasty about it, but it's certainly not doesn't really elevate these people to the same level. I mean. I can't believe that there's so much effort in humanizing serial killers fictionally and nonfiction wise and then very little attempt to humanize victims, people so innocent victims. Well, all victims are innocent and the killers are the only people that we should revive I'll. Never for a moment it can anybody be responsible for their own death. Absolutely I mean it's professions out there and you
Is that people don't blame the victim, we're very willing to do it for a prostitute? You know it's very, very odd. Well, I I want to congratulate you on this Robert. I think this is really really interesting book and very, very important. Again. Very many true crime books are for. Where can I I don't know if I look at this a true crime, but this is a genre that it's in, but it's a very, very, very fascinating, read and a ride for everyone to enter into these women's lives and and really get a picture of a serial killer, hunting for just regular folks, just like you and I and we're all again terrorized by the specter of the serial killer and you've really captured the entire seal, the this media circus, the victims, families, maybe even their overreaction. It's a very very
interesting, an incredible tale- and I want to thank you very much for coming on and talking about lost girls, I really appreciate it and thank you so much. Thank you very much. And you have a great night and I hope to talk to you again soon goodnight. Thank you. Goodnight bye,. I've got to tell you about this cool show. I discovered called small Business Revolution main street. It's a business makeover show with tons of awesome advice. What I love 'em it is. They do it all with heart, not the high top drama of those other shows, we've all seen type Pennington the renovation guy he's on it and Amanda Brinkman. This marketing guru from Delux definitely check it out. You can watch it on Hulu, prime or small business revolution dot. Org I got to tell you about this cool show I discovered called small Business Revolution main street. It's a business makeover show with tons of awesome advice. What I love it is they do it all with heart, not the high
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Transcript generated on 2019-11-06.