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Crime News Murders

Police Identify Jane Doe Found Near Gilgo Four as 34-Year-Old Sex Worker

The Jane Doe was a sex worker in Manhattan at the time of her disappearance, which was not reported to police.

By Cydney Contreras

The Suffolk County District Attorney's office identified a Jane Doe found near the Gilgo Four as Karen Vergata, 34.

During an Aug. 4 press conference, D.A. Raymond Tierney shared that Vergata was working as an escort in midtown Manhattan when she disappeared around February 14, 1996. At the time, no one reported the 34-year-old missing.

According to Tierney, the feet and legs of Jane Doe No. 7 were found on the bayside shore of Fire Island April 20, 1996. Then, 15 years later, on April 11, 2011 — the same day the Jane Doe known as "Peaches" was discovered on Jones Beach — authorities found a skull in Tobay Beach in Nassau County. Her torso has never been found.

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After the formation of the Gilgo Beach Task Force, the Suffolk County Crime Lab began the process of identifying the victim in coordination with the FBI. Once they were able to create a DNA profile, they reached out to Vergata's family members last October to obtain another DNA sample, leading to the confirmation of her identity. 

A photo of Karen Vergata

News of her identification was kept a secret amid the confidential investigation.

Though the remains of Jane Doe were found in the same vicinity as other Gilgo Beach murder victims — including an unidentified Asian male, Peaches, and Peaches' infant child — Tierney said they won't be naming a suspect and noted that Gilgo Beach murder suspect Rex Heuermann has not been charged in connection to the those other murders.

He added that the investigation remains confidential and ongoing.

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Heuermann's lawyer pleaded not guilty on his behalf in the murders of Amber Costello, Melissa Barthelemy, and Megan Waterman. He is a prime suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes.

At the press conference, a reporter asked Tierney about belts used to bind Brainard-Barnes' legs and ankles, but the D.A. declined to comment on the case.

This week, Tierney told Newsday that authorities are in the process of testing hair found on one of the belts, according to the New York Post. Additionally, he confirmed that the leather belts had the initials "WH" and "HM" engraved and are a part of the evidence that has been presented to a grand jury.

"Yes, there was ‘WH’ or ‘HM’ on the belt. The last name is Heuermann. There are ancestors with WH, so assign to that what you will,” Tierney said.

According to the Post, Heuermann's grandfather William Heuermann died in 1964.

Though there has been speculation that Heuermann had an accomplice, Tierney told the outlet, "We have no evidence that this defendant conspired or acted with any other person."

Heuermann is scheduled to appear in court for a pretrial conference hearing on Sept. 27.

Vergata is just one of the 11 decedents who were found dead in two Long Island counties from 2010 to 2011. While Heuermann is charged in connection to the deaths of Costello, Barthelemy, and Waterman, and is a suspect in the death of Brainard-Barnes, police are still investigating what happened to Shannan Gilbert, Jessica Taylor, Valerie Mack, Peaches, Peaches' infant daughter, and an unidentified Asian male.

Authorities have previously indicated that they do not believe Shannan Gilbert's murder is tied to the deaths of the Gilgo Four.