YONKERS, N.Y. — She was a victim of serial killer Robert Shulman, a postal worker from Hicksville, Long Island convicted of killing and dismembering five women in the 1990s using barbells and a baseball bat. But no one knew her name — until now.
Det. John Geiss, of the Yonkers Cold Case Squad, told PIX11 News on Monday Meresa Hammonds was the victim found in a Yonkers dumpster on June 27, 1992. She was a mother of two sons who was living in New Jersey. She was 31 years old.
For 29 years, Hammonds was listed as missing.
Now, using genetic genealogy, police have confirmed she was one of the serial killer’s victims.
Shulman once said he used to smoke crack with his victims at his apartment in Patchogue, black out, and then wake up to find them dead in bed.
The women, who were sex workers, were then dismembered. Shulman deposited the body parts in Long Island dumpsters, sometimes going to Manhattan or — in Hammonds’ case — Yonkers.
“I wanted to try the genealogy (for identification), because it was successful in a Mount Vernon case,” Geiss told PIX11 News on Monday.
Genetic genealogy was also used to track down California’s notorious serial killer and rapist, Joseph DeAngelo, a former cop who was arrested in 2018 at the age of 73.
DeAngelo pleaded guilty in 2020 to 26 counts of murder and kidnapping.
In the Yonkers case, Det. Geiss said he went through the FBI, which has a specialized team. The DNA from Hammonds was put into private genealogy websites.
“After three weeks, we got a hit and it was right on the money,” Geiss said.
Hammonds was identified because one of her cousins had submitted DNA to a genealogy website and it was tied to the then-unknown murder victim.
Geiss then flew to Michigan in early November to meet with Hammonds’ sister and two brothers. They gave DNA samples, which provided a genetic link to the victim. They also identified Hammonds from a photo and a butterfly tattoo on her right, rear shoulder.
The final DNA test that sealed the identification came from Hammonds’ now-adult son, Jason Di Tripani. Geiss said he met with him in New York.
“Jason didn’t know too much about his mom and wondered why his mother didn’t go looking for him,” Geiss said. “At least they have answers.”
One of the positives to come out of the tragedy was Di Tripani learning he has aunts, uncles and cousins. He met his late mother’s family for Thanksgiving in Michigan.
Di Trapani wrote to forensic genealogist Carl Koppelman on Facebook after his mother’s identification was confirmed.
“I’m truly thankful, and to detective John. She will always be missed, was taken from all of us to(o) young, but like you said, at least we know she was loved and can rest in peace. Best part is getting my mom’s family in my life, because before all of this, I had no clue who they were. Love every single one of the Hammonds family. Truly grateful to have found you. Better late than never. Love all of you more than you could ever know. My mom was truly loved and blessed. Rip MOM 92,'” he wrote.
Shulman initially received a death sentence for one of his murders, but he was later re-sentenced to life without parole for the five killings. He died of natural causes on April 13, 2006, at the age of 52.