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Nearly 30 years after her dismembered remains were found in a dumpster, an unknown woman has finally been identified as the victim of a serial killer.
On June 27, 1992, a female referred to as “Yonkers Jane Doe” was discovered in a Yonkers, New York dumpster, according to WPIX 11. Though authorities named the Jane Doe as a victim of Long Island-based serial killer, Robert Shulman, the woman’s identity remained unknown for decades until DNA confirmed she was Meresa Hammonds.
Hammonds was a 31-year-old mother of two who lived in New Jersey at the time of her disappearance.
On Dec. 7, Carl Koppelman, who works as a volunteer forensic genealogist for the DNA Doe Project, announced the news on his Facebook page, stating he had the family’s permission to share details about the victim.
“She was born in Kentucky in April of 1961 and was one of seven siblings,” said Koppelman. “She spent much of her early years living in California. When she was older, she moved to Michigan and then to New Jersey, where she and her sister worked as fashion models.”
In 2018, Yonkers Police Department appealed for information about the Jane Doe, whose body parts were found in black trash bags, according to Westchester’s News 12. One of the victim’s legs and both arms were removed from the body. Police said she worked as a sex worker, which fit the pattern of Robert Shulman, who confessed to killing five women in the sex industry and scattering their dismembered remains around Long Island and Manhattan.
“She was a person that was just dumped like garbage, and we want to give her an identity, be able to tell the family at least we know what happened to her,” said Yonkers Police Det. John Geiss in 2018. “You know what, there was a little bit of justice. The person was arrested.”
According to WPIX, Geiss utilized the genetic genealogy technology offered by the FBI to identify Hammonds. Authorities matched the victim’s DNA to a cousin who submitted a sample to a genealogy website.
“After three weeks, we got a hit,” said Geiss. “And it was right on the money.”
Authorities confirmed Hammonds’ identity when they compared her DNA to three of Hammonds’ siblings and her now-adult son, Jason Di Tripani.
“Jason didn’t know too much about his mom and wondered why his mother didn’t go looking for him,” Geiss told WPIX. “At least they have answers.”
Robert Shulman, a postal worker from Hicksville, New York, was one of several serial killers operating across Long Island during the 1990s, according to the New York Times. Another, Joel Rifkin, targeted and killed 17 sex workers between 1989 and 1993, while the infamous Long Island Serial Killer, tied to at least 10 murders around Gilgo Beach, continues to elude authorities.
According to WPIX, Shulman used to take his victims back to his Patchogue, New York, apartment, where he claimed to smoke crack-cocaine with the women before using barbells and baseball bats to bludgeon them to death.
Court records revealed investigators with the Suffolk County Police Department followed leads provided by sex workers, leading to Shulman’s arrest.
Shulman was sentenced to death in 1999 but later resentenced to life in prison. His brother, Barry Shulman, was sentenced to two years in prison after he helped his brother dispose of the bodies, according to the New York Post.
“My brother begged me to do it. What could I do?” said Barry Shulman in his confession. “Anyone would do it for their brother.”
Robert Shulman died of undisclosed causes in 2006 at the age of 52, according to Newsday.
Shulman admitted to killing Lori Vasquez (1991), Lisa Ann Warner (1995), and Kelli Sue Bunting (1995), according to the New York Times. On top of the victim recently identified as Meresa Hammonds, Shulman also confessed to killing another unknown woman whose body was found in Medford, New York.
On Dec. 7, 1994, an employee of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works discovered the nude and dismembered remains of “Medford Jane Doe” in a garbage can, according to the Doe Network. Shulman confessed to beating her to death with a baseball bat before removing her limbs with an ax and hacksaw.
“Medford Jane Doe” is described as being 5’0” to 5’1” and around 135 pounds with brown eyes and reddish-brown hair that could have been dyed, according to the Doe Network. She had a tattoo of a red heart with a white banner that said "Adrian" on her left shoulder.
Anyone with information can contact the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office at 631-853-5555.
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