Police have released previously undisclosed evidence in the unsolved case of the Gilgo Beach murders, nearly a decade after the remains of 11 people were discovered along a stretch of highway on Long Island.
During a news conference on Thursday, Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart released a photo of a black leather belt she said authorities believe was "handled" by an unknown suspect. Hart said the belt, which is embossed with the letters "HM" or "WH," did not belong to any of the victims.
"We are hopeful that this photograph will bring somebody forward with information about the origin of that article," she said.
Hart said the belt was found at one of the crime scenes along Ocean Parkway during the "initial stages of the investigation" nine years ago. She said the hope is that the release of new information — which will be shared on the newly launched site Gilgo News — will shed light on the investigation and help advance it.
The 11 bodies were found near Gilgo and Oak Beaches while Suffolk County police were searching along Ocean Parkway for Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old sex worker from New Jersey who vanished in 2010 after leaving a client's house in Oak Beach.
During the search for Gilbert, police made a startling discovery when they found the remains of Melissa Barthelemy, 24, in Dec. 11, 2010. Two days later, three more bodies were discovered — Megan Waterman, 22; Amber Lynn Costello, 27; and Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25.
All four bodies were spaced approximately 500 feet from one another, Suffolk County police said.
In March 2011, the partial remains of Jessica Taylor were found along Ocean Parkway by Suffolk police. Eight years earlier, remains also belonging to Taylor were found in Manorville, Hart said at Thursday's news conference.
The following month, in April 2011, Suffolk police uncovered three additional remains. They were a female toddler, an Asian man, and a woman whose partial remains were also previously found in Manorville in November 2000. Police have not identified any of the three victims.
The grisly discoveries continued when police unearthed two additional bodies in Nassau County, one being the mother of the unidentified toddler found in Suffolk. Gilbert's remains were found on Oak Beach in December 2011.
The murders all remain unsolved and police have not publicly named a suspect. NBC New York reported that four of the victims, including Gilbert, were sex workers.
Hart said at Thursday's news conference that Gilbert's death does not match any of the patterns of the Gilgo Beach killings, but they will not rule out the possibility that it may be connected to the murders of the 10 other victims.
On the night Gilbert disappeared, she called 911 from her client's home and said that someone was trying to kill her. According to NBC New York, there were three other calls made that night but none of the calls have been made public.
In January 2019, Suffolk County police fought a judge's order to turn over the call, with department lawyers arguing that releasing the tape could jeopardize the investigation. An attorney for Gilbert's estate said police refusing to release the call is suspicious, claiming it could reveal information that is damaging to the police department.
Hart told reporters Thursday that the 911 tapes aren't being public because they are a part of the investigation.