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Families Of Long Island Serial Killer Victims Are Hopeful As Case Gets Renewed Focus

"Without hope, what do you have?” Melissa Cann, sister of Long Island Serial Killer victim Brainard-Barnes, told the New York Post.

By Gina Tron

Relatives of Long Island Serial Killer victims are holding out hope after a newly confirmed police commissioner vowed to solve the case.

“I always feel hopeful," Melissa Cann, sister of victim Maureen Brainard-Barnes, told the New York Post on Monday. "Without hope, what do you have?”

Brainard-Barnes, 22, was one of the first four victims known as “The Gilgo Four,” all petite sex workers who advertised their services on Craigslist, to be discovered along Gilgo Beach in 2010. Soon after, police found more bodies along the Long Island coast. For more than a decade now, the identity of the elusive murderer alternately dubbed the "Long Island Serial Killer," the "Gilgo Beach Killer," and the "Craigslist Ripper" has remained a mystery. Even the true scope of the killings isn't fully clear. While police have officially linked 10 victims, whose remains were found primarily near beaches along Long Island's south shore in 2010 and 2011, to the investigation, an additional six bodies were found in the same area at around the same time. 

Rodney Harrison, who was just confirmed as the new police commissioner for Suffolk County last month, announced on New Year’s Eve that the department is in “a great place to solve” the case, citing new leads. He stated at a press conference that he is “making a commitment to the residents of Suffolk County as well as the family members.” 

“We will not rest until we bring those accountable to justice,” he vowed.

Lorraine Ela, mother of 22-year-old victim Megan Waterman, told the New York Post that while she was “kind of skeptical” prior to the press conference, she now feels that “Harrison will work this case with dignity.”

“I am tired of hearing the same crap come out of everyone’s mouth,” she told the outlet via email. “[But] I was very pleased with the words from Mr. Harrison. He seems to care for the victims.”

Sherre Gilbert, sister of Shannan Gilbert whose disappearance in 2010 led to the discovery of the first four victims, told the Post that she is hopeful about Harrison’s vow to try to release related 911 calls. 

While authorities have said they don't consider the 24-year-old sex worker an official victim of the serial killings, she has long been theorized as one. She had made a panicked call to 911 the night she disappeared while seeing a client out on Oak Beach, Long Island. Her estate’s lawyer John Ray previously told Oxygen.com that three other 911 calls were made that night pertaining to her. One call was from Gilbert's client Joseph Brewer and two were from neighbors. While Ray told Oxygen.com in 2020 that he is under strict court-implemented orders not to speak about the contents of the 911 tapes he has received, he said he has listened to them and calls them “extremely important and extremely interesting.” He said they reveal "many, many things that nobody knows right now" about the investigation. 

Sherre told the Post that she thinks a release of the calls could conjure up more leads.

“We want to know if the public can identify any other voices on the tapes,” she said.

Sherre told the Post that she hopes the public will help get justice for all the victims found dead in this case.. 

“They all deserve justice, not just Shannan,” she said.

Ray told Oxygen.com on Thursday that Harrison recently reached out to him, which he views as a positive step forward.

“He told me he wants to be transparent and wants to work with me so I opened the door for that,” the lawyer stated.

There are other efforts being made on the case as well. In October, Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini told Fox News that he has directed more than $300,000 into advanced technology to analyze old phone data in hopes of tracking down the killer responsible for the murders.