MANORVILLE, Long Island (PIX11) — Wednesday marked 20 years since the headless and handless body of Jessica Taylor, a 20-year-old escort working out of New York City, was discovered in the woods of Manorville, Long Island.
She was the second victim of an unknown killer to be found brutally dismembered and tied up. Valerie Mack, a sex worker from New Jersey and Philadelphia, was similarly found dead in 2000.
“Their leg area was bound in a ball,” one former investigator told PIX11 News. “You’d have to be a hunter to do something like that.”
Mack, who wasn’t identified for 20 years, and Taylor were later tied to the Gilgo Beach serial killer case when their skulls and hands were found along Ocean Parkway — 40 miles west — during a police search in the spring of 2011.
Several “persons of interest” have come up during the lengthy investigation, and a new name has emerged with the arrest of Manhattan architect Rex Heuermann in connection with the deaths of the so-called Gilgo Four, escorts who were found bound in burlap in December 2010 in the brush off Ocean Parkway. Heuermann is formally charged in connection with three of these killings and remains the prime suspect in the fourth.
Police said the bodies of the victims — Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Costello — were intact.
One piece of hair found on Waterman’s body was a DNA match for Heuermann, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney. Lab experts are conducting additional testing on hair found on a belt on the body of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, an escort who disappeared in 2007.
Investigators have also looked at former Manorville carpenter John Bittrolff in connection with the deaths of Valerie Mack and Jessica Taylor since he lived only 3 miles from where their bodies were discovered.
Bittrolff was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison in 2017 for killing two sex workers in the early 1990s. The victims, Rita Tangredi and Colleen McNamee, were discovered two months apart, not very far from Bittrolff’s home. The married dad was also tied to the death of a third sex worker, investigators said. All three victims had been posed in a sexual position and were missing their left shoe, officials said.
When PIX11 asked another law enforcement source about Bittrolff and the Manorville victims connected to Gilgo, we received this response: “We’re looking at him very closely, but we’re not ruling out Heuermann.”
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The Suffolk County district attorney and the police commissioner revealed on July 14 that Heuermann, a married father of two from Massapequa Park, allegedly used online services to meet escorts and hooked up with some of them in Manhattan, where he worked.
The camouflage burlap found on three of the Gilgo Four is commonly used in duck hunting.
There have been reports that both Bittrolff and Heuermann hunted animals.
Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to the charges in the Gilgo Beach case.
Bittrolff has appealed his conviction.