UNITED STATES NEWS

After 26 years, authorities identify woman whose remains were found along Gilgo Beach parkway

Aug 4, 2023, 6:44 AM | Updated: 9:10 am

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (AP) — A woman whose remains were among discoveries that became known as the Gilgo Beach killings has been identified after 26 years, authorities said Friday.

Known until now to the public only as “Jane Doe No. 7,” she was Karen Vergata, 34, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney told a news conference. She vanished around Valentine’s Day in 1996.

The development was part of a reinvestigation that, last month, spurred the first arrest in connection with the long-unsolved string of killings that emerged when remains of 10 people were found over a decade ago along a coastal parkway in Gilgo Beach, on Long Island in New York.

But it is unclear whether Vergata’s death might ever be tied to the ongoing case against Rex Heuermann, an architect who has been charged with three of the killings and named the prime suspect in a fourth. Tierney declined to comment on “what, if any, suspects we developed” in Vergata’s death.

Some of Vergata’s remains were discovered in 1996 on Fire Island. More of her bones were found in 2011 near Gilgo Beach, more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of the original location.

Vergata lived in Manhattan, Tierney said. He said investigators believed she was working as an escort; most of the other victims in the Gilgo Beach killings also were sex workers.

No missing persons report was filed when Vergata disappeared, Tierney said.

A new investigative task force, formed last year to investigate the Gilgo Beach killings, developed a DNA profile of the woman whom investigators called Jane Doe No. 7, Tierney said. Then the FBI used genetic genealogy techniques to identify her tentatively as Vergata and the task force obtained a relative’s DNA to cement the identification in October, he said.

“It’s important that we remember and honor not only Ms. Vergata but all the victims on Gilgo Beach,” the prosecutor said, adding that the investigation into all of their deaths continues. He declined to answer any questions at the news conference.

Authorities have yet to identify some other victims, including a woman whom investigators nicknamed “Peaches,” after a tattoo on her body. Some of her remains were discovered stuffed inside a plastic tub in Hempstead Lake State Park in 1997; others turned up near Gilgo Beach in 2011, along with the remains of an unidentified toddler believed to be her daughter.

Tierney said authorities held off releasing Vergata’s name while contacting her relatives and furthering their investigation, which led last month to Heuermann’s arrest in the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman and Amber Lynn Costello. Prosecutors say they also are working to charge him with the death of a fourth woman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, but they have not yet done so.

Heuermann has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer says the 59-year-old denies killing anyone.

Authorities have said he is unlikely to be responsible for all the deaths.

Authorities zeroed in on him as a suspect in the killings of Barthelemy, Brainard-Barnes, Costello and Waterman when the task force ran an old tip about a Chevy Avalanche pickup truck through a vehicle records database.

The records search turned up an Avalanche belonging to Heuermann, who lived in a Long Island neighborhood police had been focusing on because of cellphone location data and call records, authorities said.

Detectives said they were later able to link Heuermann’s DNA to a hair found on a restraint used in one of the killings.

After his arrest, investigators spent nearly two weeks combing through his home, including digging up the yard, dismantling a porch and a greenhouse and removing many contents of the house for testing.

Earlier this week, prosecutors said they have begun providing Heuermann’s lawyer, Michael Brown, with reams of evidence including autopsy findings, DNA reports and crime scene photos.

The case first drew headlines in 2010, when police began searching for a missing woman named Shannan Gilbert near Gilgo Beach. Instead, they discovered 10 sets of remains of other people, including eight women, one man and the toddler.

Gilbert’s body was found in December 2011 in the marsh in the community of Oak Beach, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) east of where the other 10 sets of remains were discovered. Investigators have found she drowned accidentally; her relatives have long disputed that determination.

___

Peltz reported from New York.

United States News

Associated Press

Cause of crash that killed NY couple at Niagara Falls border crossing still a mystery 8 months later

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — A police investigation into the crash and explosion that killed two people in a high-powered luxury car at a Niagara Falls border crossing last year has concluded with the crash’s cause still a mystery, authorities said. The probe into the Nov. 22, 2023, crash that killed Kurt and Monica Villani, […]

1 hour ago

FILE - A long row of unsold 2021 X3 sports-utility vehicles sits at a BMW dealership Sunday, March ...

Associated Press

BMW recalls over 291,000 SUVs because interior cargo rails can detach in crash, raising injury risk

DETROIT (AP) — BMW is recalling more than 291,000 SUVs in the U.S. because the interior cargo rails can detach in a crash, increasing the risk of injury. The recall covers certain X3 SUVs from the 2018 through 2023 model years. The company says in documents posted by U.S. safety regulators that dealers will replace […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Authorities identify victims of fatal plane crash near the site of an air show in Wisconsin

NEKIMI, Wis. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man and a man from New York have been preliminarily identified as the victims of a fatal plane crash near the site of an airshow in eastern Wisconsin. The bodies of Sean Tommervik, 37, of Philadelphia, and James G. Sullivan, 32, of Brooklyn, were found Monday in the wreckage […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Fake protest set for TV shoot on NYC campus sparks real demonstration by pro-Palestinian activists

NEW YORK (AP) — A fake protest encampment set up for a TV shoot on a New York City college campus sparked a real reaction from pro-Palestinian activists, who organized their own demonstration against the filming, a newspaper reported Wednesday. The scenario unfolded Monday and Tuesday at Queens College, where the CBS drama “FBI: Most […]

2 hours ago

Lear production worker Abigail Fletcher rides her mini bike in support of the picket line as member...

Associated Press

Strike at plant that makes truck seats forces production stoppage for Missouri General Motors

Production has halted at a Missouri General Motors plant that manufactures trucks and vans, the result of a strike at the company that supplies seats for the vehicles. About 480 workers at Lear Corp. in Wentzville walked out at midnight Sunday. The strike brought production to a standstill Monday at the GM plant in Wentzville, […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears speaks at a press conference announcing that Raymond Ron...

Associated Press

Mistrial declared in case of Indiana man accused of fatally shooting five, including pregnant woman

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A judge declared a mistrial in the case of an Indianapolis man accused of fatally shooting five people, including a pregnant woman, after a witness verbally confronted the defendant in front of the jury. Marion County Superior Judge Chris Miller declared the mistrial Tuesday in the trial of Raymond Ronald Lee Childs […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 storylines to get you revved up for the 2024 Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals training camp is just a couple weeks away starting on July 25, and Sanderson Ford is revved up and ready to go.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

After 26 years, authorities identify woman whose remains were found along Gilgo Beach parkway