On the 10-year anniversary of the discovery of the first victims of the Long Island serial killer, "48 Hours" goes inside New York's biggest unsolved murder case.
Lily Waterman, 14, was just 3 years old when her mother Megan Waterman disappeared. Megan was one of four women whose remains were found discarded near Gilgo Beach on Long Island in December 2010.
Lily tells her story on television for the first time.
"I Can't Bring Her Back"
Lily Waterman tells "48 Hours" that if she could talk to her mom, she would tell her how much she loves her. "I never got to really say those words."
A Mother Vanishes
Lily's mom Megan Waterman, 22, was the youngest of the four victims whose bodies were discovered near Gilgo Beach. Megan was last seen on June 6, 2010, leaving a Holiday Inn Express in Hauppauge, N.Y.
The Gilgo Four
Investigators found three other bodies in the area near Megan Waterman's remains and were stunned they'd stumbled onto the victims of a serial killer. They dubbed the four sets of remains the Gilgo Four.
The killer had left puzzling clues: all the bodies had been discarded in a similar fashion, roughly 500 feet apart, each of them swathed in burlap.
Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, was the first of the Gilgo Four to disappear. She had been working as an escort in New York City when she vanished in June 2007.
"My Sister Mattered"
Maureen's sister Melissa Cann says Maureen's death is always in the back of her mind. "It's really really hard... I miss her so much."
Melissa Barthelemy, 24, went missing in July 2009. In the weeks following her disappearance, her 15-year-old sister was terrorized by a series of frightening phone calls made by a man calling from Melissa's cell phone. Police believe the man who made these phone calls is, in fact, Melissa's killer.
Amber Costello, 27, disappeared in September 2010, after she left her home on Long Island to meet a client. In 2011, her roommate Dave Schaller told "48 Hours," "she was an amazing person, she really was."
The Killer Had a Type
Former Suffolk County Chief of Detectives Dominick Varrone says there were striking similarities among the Gilgo Four. "Very petite. 5 foot or under, 100 pounds. Hazel green eyes." He believes the killer may have combed through online ads to target a specific type of woman.
The woman whose disappearance set off the search that led to the discovery of the Gilgo Four was Shannan Gilbert. Shannan, 23, was visiting a client in Oak Beach, Long Island, in May 2010 when she made a 23-minute frantic phone call to 911 ... and then vanished.
A Sister's Search
After Shannan's disappearance, her sister Sherre and other members of the Gilbert family worked tirelessly to find her, canvassing the Oak Beach area and urging the police to step up their investigation.
The Search Continues
Throughout the spring of 2011, investigators continued a wide-ranging search for Shannan Gilbert.
Six More Sets of Remains
By May 2011, police had discovered six more sets of remains in the area, bringing the total to 10 sets of remains -- including the Gilgo Four. Investigators were not sure the same killer was responsible for all the murders.
Shannan Gilbert is Found
In December 2011, a year-and-a-half after she went missing, police found Shannan Gilbert's belongings. Her purse, cellphone, shoes and even her jeans were found in the marsh eight miles from Gilgo Beach. A week later, Shannan's skeletal remains were found about a quarter mile from her belongings. Investigators are not convinced Shannan was murdered and theorize that she may have died of hypothermia or possible drowning.
Disproving a Theory
Shannan Gilbert's family retained Long Island attorney John Ray to help prove her death wasn't an accident. Ray has interviewed witnesses and commissioned a second autopsy. A private medical examiner determined that a damaged hyoid bone in Shannan's neck suggested she may have been strangled. Ray told "48 Hours," "the murderer will be outed … I have to prove it, and I intend to prove it."
The 911 Tape
John Ray fought for and won access to the 911 call made by Shannan Gilbert the night she disappeared. He is forbidden by court order from sharing the contents but insists they shed light on Shannan's disappearance.
In early 2012, James Burke became Suffolk County Police Chief. Burke ended cooperation with the FBI on the serial killer case and other major investigations. Losing FBI technology and expertise may have slowed down the serial killer investigation.
In December 2012, a petty thief named Christopher Loeb broke into Chief Burke's SUV. Loeb stole a duffle bag containing Burke's gun belt, porn and sex toys. Loeb was taken to a police station where he was handcuffed, chained to the floor and interrogated. Detectives began to beat him before Burke himself took over.
When the FBI investigated the incident, Burke began a cover-up. Critics say major cases on Long Island -- including the serial killer case – languished while Burke worked to stay out of prison.
A Guilty Plea
In February 2016, James Burke pleaded guilty to violating Loeb's civil rights and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison.
In 2018, Geraldine Hart, a career FBI agent, became the new Suffolk County Police Commissioner. "Not having the FBI involved consistently from the beginning has definitely hindered this investigation," Hart tells "48 Hours." In January 2020, Hart's office released images of evidence in the serial killer case.
The Black Leather Belt
A black leather belt embossed with the letters HM or WH was recovered during the initial stages of the investigation. The Suffolk County Police Department believes the belt was handled by the suspect and did not belong to any of the victims.
Longing for Answers
Like the family members of the other victims of the Long Island serial killer, Lily Waterman longs for answers. She says she misses her mom every day. "No one can ever replace her or come above her."
The Suffolk County Police Department set up a website, Gilgo News, hoping that someone with information about the killer will reach out with tips. Anyone with information on the case is asked to visit: www.gilgonews.com.