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A New York lawmaker is demanding answers and pushing for progress in the unsolved and controversial Long Island Serial Killer case.
“There are far too many conflicts and questions that are still in place 10 years later,” State Sen. Phil Boyle said at a Monday news conference in Oak Beach, close to where many of the victims were found on Gilgo Beach, the New York Daily News reports. “We need to know that everything that could be done was done to try to get justice in this case.”
Boyle, who represents portions of the Long Island towns of Babylon and Islip, told Oxygen.com on Tuesday by phone that the case has always felt close to him; he even attended a memorial for some of the victims a few years back.
For more than a decade now, the elusive murderer alternately dubbed the "Long Island Serial Killer," the "Gilgo Beach Killer," and the "Craigslist Ripper" has remained at large. 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. Although those other victims haven't been officially declared part of the case, theories about how those additional killings could be connected have circulated for years. Many of the victims were sex workers who advertised their services on Craigslist, hence the "Craigslist Ripper" moniker.
Even though Shannan Gilbert is not included as an official victim in the case, her death has been the center of several movies about the serial killer, including “Lost Girls” and "Long Island Serial Killer: A Mother's Hunt for Justice.” Her lawyer has long maintained that there has been corruption by police over the course of the investigation, an allegation police deny.
Furthermore, there have been allegations for years that former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke was not properly investigating the case. A sex worker alleged that he paid her for sex during a house party in the same area where Shannan Gilbert had disappeared, according to the Long Island Press. Burke later served a 46-month federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to beating up a handcuffed suspect who had stolen a gym bag from his SUV in a separate case. Then-District Attorney Tom Spota and another fellow prosecutor were indicted of federal charges of obstruction of justice and witness tampering after federal prosecutors said the pair had “numerous meetings and telephone conversations” where they “agreed to conceal Burke’s role in the assault,” according to The Washington Post. Spota was found guilty of the charges in 2019.
Boyle pointed to these cases of corruption and alleged corruption as proof that the case needs to be looked at with a fresh set of eyes. He specifically mentioned Burke during the press conference, adding that he'd cut ties with the FBI during the serial killer investigation. During the presser, Boyle called Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone a “protector and enabler” of Burke.
Boyle told Oxygen.com that Bellone had appointed Burke as his new police chief shortly after some of the victims' bodies were found. Prior to this, he said, Suffolk police and the FBI had been working together on the case.
“Then Burke, for some unbelievable reason, kicks the FBI out,” Boyle told Oxygen.com. “So they were not on the case for the initial, crucial years of the investigation.”
The FBI teamed joined forces with local police again in 2015.
“What I'm asking is for the New York State attorney general to look at that original period where Burke kicked the FBI out of the investigation,” he told Oxygen.com. “Why did he do it? Why was he not fired when he did that?”
Boyle said he will now be contacting state Attorney General Letitia James to request a special prosecutor be appointed to the case. He said he is also going to be contacting current police chief Stuart Cameron and Steve Bellone, the county executive of Suffolk County, to ask why Burke wasn’t fired after cutting ties with the FBI.
He also wants to know if Burke was ever cleared as a suspect in the case.
The lawmaker said he learned or read several pieces of information recently that prompted him to speak out. He cited the Unravel podcast as one such piece of media. In that series, hosts Billy Jensen and Alexis Linkletter spoke to Bellone, who told them he'd concluded Burke was a sociopath.
“If you're the boss of the police chief and you find out this guy’s a sociopath, do you keep him as your police chief?” Bellone asked. “I've been seeing more of a connection within the last couple of months reading this stuff than I ever knew there was between Bellone and Burke. It was clear he [Burke] was a close ally of Spota but it appears now that he may have been as close if not closer to Bellone who still is our county executive.”
Bellone has not immediately responded to Oxygen.com's request for comment.
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