The Gilgo Beach Murders Were a Cold Case. Then a New Police Chief Arrived.

New York Times, September 25, 2020

This Time’s article is interesting for its parallels and contrasts to the OCCK case. For a decade after 16 bodies were found near a stretch of Ocean Parkway in New York–a burial ground used by a serial killer–no person of interest, no suspect–no comment by the Suffolk County Police Department. For many years, the police commissioners “seemed reluctant to discuss the case publicly and those who lived in the affected beach towns had tried to wish it away.” (Sound familiar?)

Most of the victims appeared to be young women who had worked as escorts. Commissioner Hart acknowledged how poorly the police were regarded in the public eye, “seen as showing little more than apathy and even disdain for the victims.” One senior detective in 2011 said it was a “consolation” to the community that the victims were only prostitutes. This man is the kind of detective that makes me hate police. Seriously.

In 2012 Suffolk police abruptly locked the FBI out of the “Long Island serial killer” investigation and was sent packing before the bureau’s behavioral analysis unit could develop a profile of the killer. “Ms Hart said she learned this was happening for one reason: Suffolk County’s newly appointed chief of department, James Burke, seemed to want it that way. And there was a reason for that, too: The Justice Department was investigating him for corruption.” Seems Burke assaulted a suspect who had stolen a bag filled with pornography and sex toys from Burke’s car. Burke then did the police chief thing and pressured detectives who witnessed the assault to keep quiet. The Suffolk County district attorney then got in on the game and helped with the cover-up.

Eventually both Burke and the D.A. were convicted of conspiracy and Suffolk County became notorious as one of the nation’s most corrupt law enforcement jurisdictions.” Hey, Suffolk County, I have a county in Michigan that could give your’s a run for its money. Big time.

This past spring, two years into the job, Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart announced a major break in this case which had “confounded her predecessors for nearly a decade.” Hart had moved Suffolk County’s most notorious unsolved case forward “where others once seemed determined to keep it from going anywhere at all.”

Hart, who spent 20 years working as an FBI agent, welcomed the FBI back into the investigation now that the conspiring pornmeister and assaulter Burke was gone. After seeing the Golden State Killer arrested using genetic genealogy, Hart called a colleague at the FBI and asked “How do we get this done?”

As in the OCCK case, the evidence in the Long Island serial killer case has little in common with what police had to work with in the Golden State Killer case. Hart partnered with the FBI to engage a private lab to process an unidentified victim’s DNA. Identifying the victims may lead more directly to the killer. The identification of victim “Jane Doe No. 6” as Valerie Mack last May was the first successful genetic genealogy investigation in New York.

Commissioner Hart held a press conference in the wake of publicity on the case and a Netflix release for “Lost Girls.” She defended her decision to be more public about the case. “We’re coming up on the 10-year anniversary on this. It’s received a ton of publicity. So how do we get the message out? The thought is, somebody out there knows something.”

When have you ever heard a press conference from the Michigan State Police on the OCCK case? There has been momentum in the OCCK case with more publicity than ever before via books, podcasts, articles and documentaries in the last few years. Yet all the MSP does is respond to a well-written factual account of all we can know about these cases given the actions of a few dirty players at the top, by saying “We don’t comment on fiction.” Those are fighting words as far as I’m concerned.

The makers of the documentary Children of the Snow, based on the 2018 book The Kill Jar, written by J. Reuben Appelman, had to PRESS officials to provide a tip line number to give the public with the documentary. Who announces this and requests people with any information come forward–a member of the MSP? Oh, hell no. It’s left to Detective Cory Williams, with Wayne County–not Oakland County (as in OAKLAND COUNTY Child Killer), to make the pitch.

Have we ever heard from Birmingham P.D. or the Oakland County Sheriff’s office in the OCCK case? Hell no. So convenient that the information, such as it is and in the shape it is in, is shoved in a room at an MSP post. And they are never in the mood to talk about the OCCK case.

In the meantime, in Suffolk County, Commissioner Hart continues to press ahead with DNA identification of as-yet unnamed victims. How about this as a giant contrast to the OCCK case:

That’s a new sentiment in the Suffolk County Police Department: the idea that investigating the case and acknowledging the families’ pain are two sides of the same coin, that doing one helps the other. That realization could be the greatest step forward the police have taken in this case. “There’s a lot of work left do do,” Ms. Hart said. “But there is momentum. And I’m going to continue to use that momentum to move forward.”

Think about that the next time you cast a ballot for mayor or city council members (to whom police chiefs report), or for a prosecuting attorney (potentially especially dangerous), county sheriff (reports to no one except the voters every four years), or attorney general or governor (who should be keeping an eye on the state police). At the micro and macro-level, these elected officials can do some serious damage or some serious good. Do you want someone who can work with momentum or are you happy with the “consolation” that the killing stopped in Oakland County after just four kids were taken and killed in 1976 and 1977?