Updated: Aug 12
In nearly every human civilization throughout time, prostitution has not only been a profession, but a part of life for many. There's a reason why it's often referred to as the world's oldest profession. It has connections to religious practices in the temples of Sumeria, thousands of years before the birth of Christ. Brothels were legal in ancient China and Greece. Israelites tolerated the practice and the early Romans actually taxed their brothels. During the Renaissance, royals indulged in brothels openly and without consequence. In almost every era of human existence prostitution has thrived, in some eras even being revered. Sex workers in these eras were exalted and recognized for their profession.
Even in Colonial times, prostitution was overlooked as a low-grade offense. It wasn't until about a century ago that groups like the Women's Christian Temperance Union came about and sent the practice underground. It was their goal to save the girls that were being forced into sex work. Prostitution went fully underground after the passing of the Mann Act in 1915. This act made the transport of women for the purposes of prostitution illegal, but it didn't stop the demand for sex workers. They just found new and interesting ways operating under the noses of authorities over time. The biggest innovation in the sex trade thus far came along with the advent of the internet.
For this post, I read the book, Lost Girls, by Robert Kolker. I quickly found that no other sources would be needed as they all just pulled from his research anyway. After reading the result of his eighteen months spent shadowing every person with a connection to this case, I knew that this is the definitive book on the Long Island Serial Killer case. I would urge anyone with an interest in this case to read his book as it goes into so much further detail. I can definitely say that for the low price of $20, I was not disappointed with my purchase in the least and this may very well be a book I'll read again one day.
Shannan Gilbert was only 24-years-old when she went missing. Before that, she had a very turbulent and tragic childhood. Her mother, Mari Gilbert, was never known for being an easy woman to get along with. She liked to keep her life behind closed doors quiet. It was a known rule that the children didn't speak of anything going on at home to others outside of their house. It would seem that Mari Gilbert's home was much like Vegas. Whatever happened there, stayed there. That became a problem when her oldest daughter, Shannan, got older.
She had two younger sisters, Sherre, who was just a year younger, and Sarra, who was two years younger. When Shannan was 6, her youngest sister, Stevie, was born. Stevie's father, David, was the beginning of all of Mari's problems in life. Sherre remembered huge fights erupting between Mari and David as she and Shannan would cower underneath the kitchen table. When Mari's mother discovered the abuse, she called police and had the girls removed from the home. David went to jail as all four girls were placed in foster care. For nearly two years, the children remained in the system until Mari could get them back. Once the girls were returned to her care, Mari moved the family to Ellenville, New York.
At the age of 7, Shannan was sent into foster care again by Mari, supposedly because she was bipolar and difficult to parent while also working multiple jobs. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was 12, but there's no way to know if she was suffering symptoms for longer. While bipolar disorder can effect anyone of any age, it typically doesn't strike a person until they're in their 20s. Shannan fell into an extremely small group, as most research states that 1% of kids aged 14-18 meet the criteria to be diagnosed. As she was even younger, she fell into a much smaller percentage.
For six years, she bounced around the system while also still attending school with her two younger sisters. Those closest to Shannan knew of her desperation to be a part of her own family again and how exiled she felt from them. Her formative years were an internal struggle of acceptance that she never received any kind of closure on.
Very few people that Shannan went to school with were aware of her living situation. Most that remember her from school remember the bright, sweet, outgoing, popular girl she was. She loved to sing and perform and was regularly the star in her school's productions, whether she was cast as the lead or not. She had dreams of one day being a professional singer and she had the talent for it, too. As she blossomed into a teenager, she became known every bit for her beauty as her intelligence and talent. Only those that really got to know her knew how despondent she was deep down, feeling alienated from her mother and sisters.
Shannan didn't realize it, but she actually got the better end of the deal when she was sent out of that house. While Mari claimed that she sent her daughter away because of her bipolar disorder, Sherre was much more candid about why her sister was put into foster care. Sherre remembers her older sister's exile coming after Mari moved a new boyfriend into the house that Shannan didn't get along with. After she was out of the house, the boyfriend began physically abusing Sherre and Sarra. Mari wouldn't learn of this abuse until years later, but when her daughters accused the man, she stood by them. He ended up going to jail, where he died a few years later. As though not wanting to breathe life back into him, Mari never spoke of the man or mentioned his name again.
In her eighth grade year, Shannan spent the only full year with her family that she ever would again. While Mari would say that Shannan was back and forth on whether or not she wanted to be with them, anyone else that knew the real Shannan knew that wasn't so. All she had wanted since she was 7-years-old was to go home and be part of her family again. When she finally got her chance, she was quickly disillusioned. When she walked back into her family's life, she was unaware of the abuse that was taking place at the hands of her mother's boyfriend. Shannan saw unrest in the home and tried to play peacemaker. Her attempts at bringing harmony into the home backfired, with her sisters and her mother's boyfriend all pushing her away as a result.
Another issue in the household was her sisters' resentment of her for getting out and away. They didn't see how Shannan had felt so exiled and alienated for so long. They only saw her freedom from abuse. None of the other girls could figure out why she wanted to be there so badly when all they wanted was to get out. As her sisters resented her for getting out, Shannan envied them for having a life that allowed them all to be together. At the end of the day, if things didn't work out for her, she could always leave. Her sisters didn't have that option and they envied her for it.
At the end of her eighth grade year, Shannan chose to leave. She knew it wasn't working out and her sisters had been right. Shannan had been the lucky one all along. The state found placement for her in the more affluent town of New Paltz, about a half an hour away from Ellenville. Though Shannan's experience had been disenchanting, it did give her the chance to rebuild bonds with her sisters that would last the rest of her life and beyond. As happy as she was with her new foster mother, she would still sneak out at night just to go visit her sisters. Whenever it was found that Shannan wasn't at home, her foster mother never worried and knew she didn't have to look far.
Her new foster mother wasn't your typical foster parent. Jennifer Pottinger was rather young for someone taking on the role, but she was amazing at it. Shannan absolutely loved her. Jennifer quickly noticed how intelligent and talented she was. She encouraged her to dive headfirst into her schoolwork and she thrived. Shannan graduated high school a year early with Jennifer as the good influence she so desperately needed in her corner. As Shannan was bonding and getting along with her new foster mother, Mari was starting to feel cast aside by her oldest daughter for the first time.
Shannan's graduation day was quickly approaching when Mari started her rants against Jennifer Pottinger. She claimed that the woman was exploiting her daughter, forcing her to work in her day-care center. She also seemed to feel threatened by the lifestyle that Jennifer afforded her. Mari had worked multiple jobs at a time throughout her adult life to get by and support her girls. She made claims that Shannan had been born wanting the best of things. Like there's a soul in the world not guilty of wanting better for themselves. Mari even had a habit of continuing to assert herself in Shannan's life, giving her orders and telling her who she was no longer allowed to talk to. Robert Kolker points to this as Mari's need to step in and let everyone know that she was still the mom and thus the most important person in her life.
There were still fights between mother and daughter, though she didn't live there. Shannan would regularly end up crying by the end of these arguments. They always came back to the same point. Mari had wanted to raise her sisters, but not her. Her mother's reactions to her visits home were always a mixed bag as well. While her sisters were always happy to see her no matter what the hour, Mari was a different story. Sometimes she was just as happy as the girls, others she wasn't.
After graduation, Shannan began spending longer and longer stretches away from Ellenville and her family. For a time, she moved in with her grandmother and enrolled in nursing classes. She worked different jobs at Applebee's, a hotel, and a senior center, as a secretary at a school. Within the year she had dropped out of her nursing courses and quit her secretarial job. She said that it all bored her. When her grandmother reprimanded her for staying out too late one night, she decided it was time to move out.
She had a boyfriend that she took to meet her family just once or twice before ending the relationship. She had plans and she couldn't be tied down if she was going to accomplish them. She was moving to New York City to start booking singing gigs and build the kind of life her family could only imagine in their wildest dreams. She planned on coming back into their lives on a white horse as their benefactor. She would take care of them and show them that she was worth something. That they needed her more than she needed them. Sadly, this was the only way she felt she could receive the unconditional love from her family that everyone deserves.
World Class Party Girls was run by a man named Joseph Ruis. Alex Diaz had only known him as the owner of kebab house that he enjoyed before his friend told him how he could make some real money. This friend told Alex all about where Ruis' money really came from. Sure, he made money selling kebabs, but he made more selling other things. Ruis employed dozens of girls and just as many drivers to attend them. When Alex heard about the kind of money the drivers were making to simply drive a girl to a call, wait outside, and maybe run an errand, he was floored. He ended up in Ruis' employment and soon after met Shannan Gilbert in 2007.
Even at the bottom of Ruis' pay scale, the hourly rate for just one girl was never lower than $200. Of that, Alex would get around $45-$50. By the end of a typical night he came home with somewhere between $300 and $400. If he worked only three or four nights a week, he could earn $1000. That was very good money for a 21-year-old man with a record and no high school diploma. These were just typical calls. The rates could go much higher and they did. A $400/hour call earned him as much as $120 to sit in his car and do nothing.
It was while he was driving for the escort service one night that he was asked to pick up Shannan and another girl for a call. She made an impression on him immediately. She was much more talkative than the other girl. She chose to sit up front with Alex, rather than in the back like escorts usually do. He also quickly took notice of how smart she was, using large words and carrying her text books. Shannan was always trying to better herself through school. This girl had plans and they didn't involve escorting for the rest of her life.
Alex ended up picking the intelligent young woman up for another call again one night. He remembered her instantly and they began talking. As it turned out to be a slow night, they spent most of it getting to know each other. By the end of the night, they had sex in Alex's car. After that, they were together for the rest of Shannan's life.
Mari was not in the dark when it came to Shannan's career choice. She made it clear to her family and anyone else that knew her that escorting wasn't forever. For the time being it was a means to an end. It was also providing her with the ability to be the benefactor to her family that she had wanted so badly to be. Many have speculated that Mari never said anything to Shannan about her lifestyle because she was handing them money and paying the bills when needed. She also paid the bills for herself and Alex while putting herself through school. Shannan would brag to her family that really rich men were paying her thousands of dollars to do hardly anything at all. She made it all seem so glamorous.
On June 23, 2009, Shannan was arrested with a 42-year-old man named Elpidio Evangelista. They were picked up outside of a bar on Sinatra Drive, a waterfront road in Hoboken. Both of them were charged with promoting prostitution, conspiracy, and manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled dangerous substance. They were released on a summons. The police weren't after them, they were looking to reel in a much bigger fish. They had been working hard to put together a case against Joseph Ruis. Less than a week after Shannan's arrest, Ruis was arrested as the head of World Class Party Girls.
The closure of the escort service that had been paying their bills forced Shannan and Alex to go legitimate. They quickly found that getting by on their new day jobs was nearly impossible. Alex began receiving unemployment, but he knew his benefits would only last so long. Feeling the pressure to provide, Shannan went back to escorting for a different service called Fallen Angelz.
When Shannan began working for the service, she and Michael Pak were both new to the company and low on the totem pole. She met Michael for the first time on September 2, 2009, just months after the arrest of Shannan's previous employer. Both of them were finding out the hard way how difficult it was to gain seniority in a new agency. The older, more trusted girls got the majority of the work. Michael thought this was just stupid. The younger girls should be making more money and receiving more calls. The older ones were normally more strung out and tired in his experience.
It didn't take long for the pair to get fed up with being treated like second stringers at a ball game. They decided to strike out on their own when Shannan had an idea. In an interview for the LISK: Long Island Serial Killer podcast, Alex talks about Shannan's revelation to start working from the internet. He admitted that at time, he'd never even heard of an Iphone. That was before Shannan bought one to start working for herself, employing Michael Pak as her driver. Going by the name Angelina, she posted her ads to Craigslist.
Of course, there were issues between Alex and Shannan due to her decision to go back to escorting. When it was all said and done, Alex didn't have a job or a stable way of paying the bills. Shannan did, even if he didn't approve of how she was going about it. The fights weren't always about Shannan working, though. Sometimes the fights were about Alex's lack of employment, and in Shannan's opinion, ambition. One of these fights led to Shannan's most identifiable attribute.
Early one morning, she came in from work to the apartment that they were sharing with Alex's father in Jersey City. It was just across town from the apartment they had moved into after getting together. The closure of World Class Party Girls and the hard times that followed had forced them out of it. Now, at almost 6:00 in the morning, Shannan was drunk and tired after a long night of work. She railed against Alex, calling him a loser and telling him that he was doing nothing with his life. He tried to quiet her before she woke his sleeping father. He tried to calm her down, but it was no use. Asking her to leave with him wasn't working, either.
She called him a daddy's boy and hit him in the chest. He was still trying to calm her down and get her to leave the apartment with him. She refused and continued to argue. Somewhere in the midst of the fight, Alex clenched his fist and struck her in the chin. Though Alex's father was mostly deaf, Shannan's screams and cries woke him. He lectured his son, telling him that he should've never done that.
For two days after, she lived in pure agony. Chewing wasn't even a possibility. Just trying to bite down on something sent such unimaginable pain shooting through her jaw that she couldn't bear it for long. Alex finally took her to a hospital in Newark for them to find that her jaw was fractured. Her choices were limited. She could either have her jaw wired shut, or she could have a titanium plate grafted onto the bone. As the titanium plate would heal quicker, she went with that. Out of her own pocket, Shannan paid for the procedure in installments.
She wasn't held down for long. She was back to working, Michael Pak picking her up at a prearranged corner after she came into the city on the PATH train. She'd lug her purse, a bag of extra clothes, a text book, a netbook to freshen her ads so they would keep arriving at the top of the searches, and a tall McDonald's soda. She was often known to spike her soda with vodka. She would talk to Michael while they were out waiting for calls. He got to know her well over their time together and liked her, though he admitted she could be difficult at times. Nevertheless, they made a good team and worked really well together.
On a good night, she made seven or eight calls. Charging $200 an hour, she was making anywhere from $1400 to $1600 a night. While waiting for calls she either talked to her drivers or studied for her classes.
Michael Pak wasn't her only driver. She also worked with another man named Blake. He got to know her and held the same opinion of her as Michael. He liked her and thought her to be very intelligent, but also found her to be difficult at times. He enjoyed their conversations, though and learned much about her from them. He wasn't clear if Alex was pimping her or not, but he knew that she was tired of being the only one bringing home any money. He was even aware that Alex had hit her and she was still angry about it.
Blake took notice of the toll the job was taking on her. After a long night, she looked rather ragged and made no attempts at freshening up. Then a week or two later, presumably after some time of to rest and decompress, she was perfectly fine again. Back to her old self, looking well made up and put together. He recalled how messed up she seemed to be the last night he worked with her. She made the comment that if she wasn't then she wouldn't be able to do half of the things expected of her.
April 30, 2010, seemed like any other day for Shannan and Alex. They grabbed some food from a Taco Bell and sneaked it into a movie theater. They went to see the reboot of Nightmare on Elm Street. After returning home, she told Alex that she had already called Michael Pak and planned on working that night. Later on, she posted some ads on Craigslist and left to meet up with her driver.
For the first couple of hours there were no calls. At around midnight someone finally responded. The call took them an hour away to Oak Beach on Long Island. The roads were engulfed in darkness once they crossed the bridge. Many that would drive this road later would have the same thought. This would be the perfect place to hide a body.
At the end of their long, dark journey they came to a small gated community known as Oak Island Beach. They had been given directions as to how to get through the gate, but were unable to get in. They ended up having to call the john, Joe Brewer, to come down and let them in. Joe was a pudgy guy with a shaggy head of beach hair. Somewhere in his forties, Joe had never worked a day in his life. He lived off of his family, who owned several rental properties. He drove down to the gate in his Jeep and opened it, allowing them to follow him back up to his mother's house. He was being allowed to stay there and had turned it into his own personal animal house.
Neighbors in the small community of just 72 homes talked about Joe and his proclivities. They weren't oblivious to the partying, the drugs, or the women in the house. Rumors swirled around Joe about his lifestyle. Whispers passed from one neighbor to the next about the escorts called to the house. While rumors abound of Joe Brewer's wild parties, it would seem that on that particular night it was just him and Shannan.
She went inside with Joe and Michael waited in his black SUV. About thirty minutes later, she called him to ask if he would run to the store for some playing cards, massage oil, and lube. This isn't unusual as errands help to pad the time and the payday. Playing cards can also be quite useful if a john has been doing cocaine and is having a hard time maintaining an erection. Playing a card game can pass the time easily and innocently. Michael said no to the errand since he was an easy thirty minute drive to the nearest store. It was also around 1:00 in the morning. Surely nothing would be open in that area so late.
Shannan became irritated with Michael when he refused the errand. She fumed that she would find her own way home later before hanging up on him. According to Michael, this wasn't the first time he'd been sent on his way, either because Shannan had gotten mad or her date was running long. She'd found her own way home before and nothing had ever happened. He tried to call her back, but she didn't answer. He tried to call Joe Brewer, but he didn't answer, either. Thinking that all was well, Michael just settled into his driver's seat and waited.
After less than an hour of arriving, Michael could make out the silhouettes of Shannan and Joe leaving the house. They got into Joe's Jeep and drove off into the pitch black night. They couldn't have gone far because the two were back in about fifteen minutes. Michael assumed that they had left to pick up some drugs. It isn't until around 4:00 AM that he finally gets another call from Shannan. Joe wants to extend the date another hour. As this just means a bigger payday for both, he agrees and continues to wait.
About an hour later, Michael was peacefully sitting in his car when Joe approached. This was odd. He never dealt with the johns. He'd never even spoken to one before that night. He would quickly find that his night was going to get a lot stranger before he left. Joe informed the driver that he wanted Shannan to leave and she was refusing. He wanted Michael to come get her out of his house. He was very surprised to hear this, so he went inside to get her.
When Michael walked into Joe Brewer's house, he immediately noticed how messy it was. Every surface was cluttered. The floor was strewn with junk. The inside of his house was a direct contrast to the outside. Behind the piles of junk, he could see a couch. Shannan was crouched down behind it. She was visibly calm, but very paranoid. He could see her cell phone in her hand and heard the dispatcher on the line asking for her location.
Now he knew something was off. Escorts never called the police. Especially not in the middle of a date. What the hell happened here to make her so fearful that she would risk calling 911? He noted that she looked very shaken. Something, or someone, had scared her half to death.
Not knowing what else to do, Michael returned to his car. He had tried to get Shannan to come with him, but she refused to go anywhere. She was convinced that he and Joe were both trying to kill her. Joe had walked out onto his terrace while the driver tried to handle the situation, and failed. He let the john know that Shannan was still inside, refusing to leave. Joe decided to try getting her out on his own.
When Joe Brewer walked back inside he seemed to think that he had a handle on the situation. He tried to pick her up and remove her from the house physically. This only sent her into an outright panic. Screaming at the top of her lungs, she ran from the house. Michael could see her run out and hear the thud when she fell and hit the ground. He thought that she was hurt and started to run after her. She sprang up from the yard and took off as she began pounding on the doors of every house with a light on.
Michael threw his high beams on and began combing the neighborhood for her. As he searched, he called out into the cold darkness for her while also texting her phone. Near the gate they entered hours earlier, he finally saw her. She was crouched down behind a boat belonging to a long-time resident of Oak Beach named Gus Coletti.
That particular morning, Gus and his wife, Laura, were preparing to drive upstate for a car show. They were disturbed from their peaceful morning routine when Shannan Gilbert came banging on their front door. She still had 911 on the line as she begged for help. While Gus would later claim that he let her inside, it doesn't sound like it on the call. As soon as the old man says he's calling the police, Shannan bolts.
She runs and bangs on the door of the house across from the Colettis. When she receives no answer, she continues on. Each and every house with a light on in those early morning hours received a panicked knock at its door. The closest thing Shannan got to an answer was a widow named Barbara Brennan that called police after refusing to open her door. Living all by herself, Barbara was afraid to let a frightened young stranger into her house.
She eventually returned to Gus Coletti's yard to take refuge behind his boat. All the while, she still kept 911 on the phone. As she was trying to find some help within the neighborhood, she was also trying to get police to her location. The problem with this was that she didn't know her location. Shannan was not familiar with Long Island. As she had seen signs for Jones Beach coming across the bridge, she thought she was at Jones Beach. Ultimately, Shannan ended up being bounced from one police dispatcher to another as they unsuccessfully tried to nail down her location.
For 23 minutes, Shannan's call was bounced all over Long Island. Dispatchers and police were unable to figure out where she was. Eventually, the call ended and attempts to call back were fruitless. Throughout the recording, Shannan seems to go in and out of a state of incoherence. It led many to believe that she was high that morning. While she seemed rather incoherent in some parts of the call, she was perfectly clear and sound in others.
It does show when listening to the recording that Joe Brewer and Michael Pak are both aware that she is on the phone with police. Neither seem to be concerned with it at all, only getting her out of the house. Once she leaves, the sounds of her heavy breathing as her feet pound the pavement can clearly be heard as she tries to continue to get police to her location. She tells them that they're trying to kill her, sometimes in a panic, others in a more calm tone as she tries to rest and gather herself. The call ends with a blood-curdling scream, the reason for which has never been determined. The distinguished Captain and Colonel of True Crime Garage dissected the 23-minute recording in its entirety after its release. It does show why police never responded to Shannan that morning. The confusion of the call is overwhelming as she goes for long stretches without answering dispatchers and then gives puzzling information when she does.
When Micheal found her behind Gus Coletti's boat, he hoped to coax her out and take her home. Instead, Gus came outside to see what was going on. He told the old man that they had just come from a party and he was trying to take her home. He was told that the police had already been called and they were on their way. In the short amount of time that Gus had Michael distracted, Shannan shot out from behind the boat and took off. She ran up the road leading to Larboard Court, a street within the gated community that would become very important in Shannan's investigation.
Unfortunately, Michael didn't see which way she ran. He didn't even see the street that she had taken at all in the early morning darkness. The only road he could make out was the one he had taken from the gate up to Joe Brewer's house. Naturally, he figured that Shannan had run through the gate. Expecting to find her walking up the road they had taken to Oak Beach, he left through the gate to find her. Shortly after his departure, at 5:40 AM, the police arrived, responding to Barbara Brennan and Gus Coletti's calls. This was within 45 minutes of their calls.
There wasn't much of a search for Shannan that morning. The police heard about the Asian driver and his black SUV. An officer walked the neighborhood, checking the hoods of any dark-colored SUVs to see if they were warm. When they discovered nothing from this cursory check, they assumed that she had left with her driver and went on their way. Meanwhile, Michael Pak was scouring the roadways for Shannan and finding nothing. Little did he know, he was driving in the opposite direction of the one she was running in. Assuming that she found another way home as she was known to do, he went home to get some sleep.
As the morning of May 1, 2010, wore on, Alex was growing more and more concerned. He tried calling her cell phone several times, but it was turned off. He would start to gain hope when he'd call and the phone would ring once before turning off again. He thought that she might have gotten arrested again, but as the day went on he wondered. By the following day, May 2, he had rifled through Shannan's drawers until he found a piece of paper with Michael Pak's number on it. He called, demanding to know where his girlfriend was and what had happened to her. As Alex heard the entire strange situation explained to him, he became more worried than ever.
Michael still had the number for Joe Brewer and put the john on a three-way call with himself and Alex Diaz. Alex minced no words when he told the man he thought that he had done something to Shannan. Trying to prove that he had nothing to hide, Joe invited Alex out to his house that night to talk. Being unfamiliar with the area and wary of the john, Alex carried a pistol with him. Driving across the bridge and out to Oak Island Beach that night, Alex had a disturbing thought. It was so dark and the bramble along the roadside so dense that this would be an ideal place to hide a body.
When Alex arrived at Oak Beach between 11:30 PM and 12:00 AM, he remained on the opposite side of the gate as he spoke with Shannan's last john. His story was the same as it had been on the phone. He said that he didn't do anything to her and had no idea what happened to her or where she went. Throughout the conversation, Alex couldn't shake the feeling that Joe knew something that he wasn't telling. Joe was insistent that he knew nothing and even offered for Alex to come up to his house and search it. Alex wasn't interested. He didn't know what Joe may have had hiding at that house, waiting for him.
Alex decided that it was time to go to the police department. He made his intentions known to Joe and asked that he lead him there. Joe didn't seem to have a problem climbing into his Jeep and leading him to the Suffolk County Police Department. Perhaps that was because he knew how Shannan's case would be treated. He definitely made a point to warn Alex that they wouldn't do anything about it due to her profession. Perhaps it was the fact that Joe had friends working in the Suffolk County department. That was made clear to Alex quickly as he laughed and joked with the officers. By the end of the visit, Alex had been laughed out of the building by the officers that he had come to for help.
While speaking with police, Joe minimized his relationship with Shannan. He told them that she was a woman he had been with that night and now her boyfriend was worried about her. Of course he never mentioned a thing about having paid for her company.
Alex felt like he was living in a nightmare that he couldn't wake up from. He left the police station never getting to file a missing persons report for his girlfriend. Her family would end up having to file the report in Jersey City, since that's where she resided. In the weeks that followed Shannan's mother and sisters would walk the streets of Oak Beach, knocking on doors and asking questions. At this point the authorities were doing nothing to find her.
As Mari made noise and pulled attention in Shannan's direction, police began to search. Her jacket was found in one of these early searches, but it was lost before it could be tested for any DNA evidence. It was in December 2010 that an officer with Suffolk County's K-9 unit made a grim discovery while on a training exercise with his dog, Blue. They wandered through Oak Beach on the search for Shannan. Finding nothing in that area, they traveled further down one side of the highway on Ocean Parkway. About three miles down the parkway, Blue hit on something. First, he found the bones of a young woman wrapped in burlap. Before the end of the day, Blue had turned up three more sets of remains wrapped in burlap.
It would take months to identify the remains found in December near Gilgo Beach. As the media dubbed them the Gilgo Four, four families were sending in DNA samples and holding their breath. These families had already been fighting just as hard as Shannan's family to get the cases of their loved ones investigated. They had been living the nightmare that Alex Diaz walked into that night in Suffolk County when he walked into the police station with Joe Brewer. Police departments that refused to take their disappearances seriously because the women worked as Craigslist escorts. No one aside from those that loved these women the most thought it worth looking into when they went missing.
The first of the four discovered that day was 24-year-old Melissa Barthelemy from Buffalo, New York. She was raised in a neglected neighborhood of the town known as Kensington-Bailey. It was a rough neighborhood to grow up in and even the children of the area needed to be tough. Though Melissa was small, she was scrappy and never backed down from a fight. Her mother, Lynn Barthelemy, only had one rule when it came to her daughters fighting. Never throw the first punch.
Lynn was only 16 when she got pregnant with Melissa. Melissa's father, Mark, wanted to do right by mother and child, so he proposed. After some careful consideration, she accepted. She took some advice from her grandmother, moving Mark into her home with her family to see how things went first. It went terribly and Lynn called off the engagement at seven months pregnant. She took a job washing dishes at a Manhattan nursing home not realizing she would hold onto this job for the next 25 years.
When she was just a small child, Melissa was already well known for being outspoken and brash. Never one to back down, she would stand up to people twice her size. As a teenager, she started dating a shady character named Jordan. It wasn't Jordan's skin color that bothered Lynn in the least. Her younger daughter's father was black so she was open to the idea of Melissa dating a black man as well. What troubled her was the fact that Jordan was a known drug dealer.
Desperate to get her oldest daughter away from a bad element, Lynn sent her to Dallas, Texas to stay with her father and stepmother. Melissa lived for two and half years in a situation fraught with tension from the very beginning. She and her stepmother could not get along and regularly fought. Every chance she got, Melissa would call home and complain to her mother about the giant cockroaches and her stepmother. Secretly, Lynn loved to hear that she and her stepmother weren't on friendly terms. She also realized that Melissa was a strong-willed teenager and she likely wasn't getting the entire story about these arguments.
Mark made the decision to send Melissa back home to Buffalo after she stole his work van to go joyriding without a license. Only four foot eleven and ninety-five pounds, police quickly pulled her over under the assumption that she could not be old enough to drive. She was sentenced to community service and her father was issued a fine. After two and half years of complaints and fights, Melissa was no doubt very happy to be returning home.
By the time she moved back, she found that her grandparents had sold their house, where she had practically grown up. They left the Kensington-Bailey area altogether, moving to a suburb of Buffalo called Alden. It was pretty much farmland, which was exactly what Melissa had just gotten away from. She wasn't thrilled about being surrounded by fields again. She was constantly bored, with nothing to do in such a rural area. The transfer to a predominantly white school was also a big change for her. Growing up in Kensington-Bailey, her family had been one of just a few working class white families living in the neighborhood.
When she was a senior in high school, Melissa announced her plans to move out. Of course she and Lynn fought about it, but at the end of the day, Lynn had no ground to stand on. Melissa was almost 18 and would be able to move out soon anyway. A little bit at a time, Lynn eased up on Melissa and the idea of her leaving. She planned on moving to South Buffalo, where Lynn's sister, Dawn, lived. Lynn figured that with Dawn so close, she could keep an eye on her. Melissa and her aunt were close in age as well as having a close relationship. Dawn was also established and able to provide a dependable safety net for her niece if she needed it.
Lynn swore that she would never find a job without a high school degree, but Melissa was always full of surprises. She landed a job at a pizzeria and got a roommate to help pay the bills. She even went back to school, attending South Park High School. This where she likely would've been going to school had her family not moved out of the area. For the first few months she was out on her own, she didn't speak to Lynn. Then, the two started going out to dinner together. She was excited about the plans she was making for her future.
In her notebooks, Melissa meticulously planned out every detail of her life. She wrote down the cost of her own apartment, how much she would need to make, and how much she needed to save. She was a very bright and organized young woman. She knew what it would take to accomplish her dreams and she was willing to work hard towards them.
When she graduated high school it was with all A's. Not long after graduation, she figured out what she wanted to do with her life. Melissa wanted to go to beauty school. She got a financial aid form and Lynn co-signed an $8000 loan. Half of the debt would be shouldered by Melissa, while her mother would handle the other half. Lynn was more than happy to help. A $4000 investment in her daughter's future was a small price to pay to never have to see her struggle.
Melissa had watched her mother labor throughout her childhood to provide for her and her sister, Amanda. She was already 9-years-old when Amanda was born. Old enough to easily see how hard it was for her mother to care for them both on her own. After watching Lynn's hardships, Melissa decided that wasn't what she wanted for herself. She stated to her mother that she wanted to make enough money to put an end to her struggling and buy her all the things she'd never been able to buy for herself. She wanted to be able to walk into a store without any worries about price tags. A new dream began to take the form of a salon that Melissa owned and ran all on her own. To make this happen, she planned on not getting married or having children until she was at least 35.
As Melissa was following through with her life's plans, Lynn's life was changing. She started dating Jeff Martina, who was opening his own diner on Bailey Avenue. Since his diner was so close to Melissa's beauty school, she quit her job at the pizzeria to start taking on shifts there after her classes. Since she didn't have her drivers license, Lynn would drive her to class from her apartment in the mornings. She'd make the short walk from the beauty school to the diner after class, then Jeff would take her back home at night. During her rides with Lynn, Melissa would write in her notebook, figuring up the cost of buying and running her own salon. Though the task seemed daunting, she wasn't discouraged.
For the most part while attending school and getting her life off the ground, Melissa kept to herself. She still kept in touch with Jordan, though. To Lynn's understanding, she was outgrowing the relationship, but she was wrong. While the two weren't talking regularly at the time, that would change.
When she graduated from beauty school, Melissa couldn't have been more proud. She had accomplished the first part of her goal. She immediately ran into a problem, though. Melissa was the only white student in the beauty school she attended. When she went looking for work, she found it difficult to find a job that allowed her to use the specific skill set she'd been taught. The only job she could find was at a Supercuts in Williamsville, New York, a suburb northeast of Buffalo. Every night after the salon closed, Melissa would wait for two hours for a bus home.
After a year at that location, she was moved to another Supercuts near the zoo. In this location, described by Robert Kolker as yuppie, Melissa only saw white customers. She likely felt trapped in a situation where the book was constantly being judged by its cover. Everyone automatically assumed because she was white that she would only know how to cut and style white women's hair. That just wasn't true.
Much to the dismay and anger of Lynn and Jeff, Melissa started seeing Jordan again. They, along with Amanda's father, Andre Funderburg, openly disapproved of the relationship. Melissa had considered Andre to be like a father to her, but she wouldn't listen to him when he tried to warn her about her boyfriend. He tried to tell her that Jordan only wanted to use her, like many other men. Jeff was much more blunt when he informed her that she was only a trophy to guys like him. She wanted to hear none of it. She was grown up enough to make her own decisions.
In 2006, she made her first trip into the city with Jordan. She told her mother that his uncle owned a recording studio out there. They returned home in just a few days, but went back to the city a few weeks later. After her second return home, she announced her intentions to move there with her boyfriend. She excitedly told Lynn all about a man named Johnny Terry that had offered a job cutting hair in a barbershop.
Lynn protested the move. The rent in the city is way too high. It's too far away from home. It was no use. Melissa's heart was set and her mind made up. She insisted that her new employer had a place set up for her already. She would be just fine. As hard as Lynn tried to get her to stay, the fight ended the same way it had before.
Melissa, strong-willed as ever, left home for Manhattan in 2006. Though her family was under the impression that she was cutting hair, she was living a much different kind of life out there. She and Jordan ended things permanently shortly after they arrived. She was dating Johnny Terry now, or Blaze as he was known in the streets. Blaze wasn't just her boyfriend, he was also her pimp. Though he didn't fancy himself a pimp, he sent multiple women out every night to have sex in return for money that he took most of. By definition, he was a pimp.
Blaze worked closely with his friend, Mel, a pimp and drug dealer. Every night the two would stand together on a corner as they watched their girls walk the long stretches intended to keep them from receiving any loitering charges. Melissa was usually posted up outside of a strip club on 7th and 48th Street called Lace. She was always joined by her good friend, Kritzia Lugo. As Melissa drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes, Kritzia smoked weed until they landed a john.
When Kritzia first met Melissa, she saw a silly little white girl that was always laughing about something. She recalled wondering to herself what she thought was so funny. Everywhere Kritzia had looked her entire life all she had seen was tragedy, trauma, and despair. Nothing about any part of it made her want to laugh. It didn't take long for her to learn that this tiny blond could give just as good as she got. The two became inseparable and Kritzia gained a great amount of respect for her new friend.
On the LISK: Long Island Serial Killer podcast Kritzia gives an interview. There she states that she was forced into the sex trade at just 15-years-old. During her time on the streets, she had become wise and tough. She saw her new friend taking the kinds of risks she never would've. Kritzia didn't see Melissa lasting a year out there. The scrappy blond gave them all a run for their money, lasting three years on the streets of Manhattan.
Just as the city's strip clubs were closing down for the night, Melissa and Kritzia's work day was just beginning. Drunk, horny men spilling out into the streets from the clubs in the middle of the night made the perfect customers. In the winter, the girls would warm themselves up at the McDonald's on Broadway, south of 47th Street. This was another good place to find possible customers feeding their liquor munchies. A simple touch of the arm or shoulder was all the connection that needed to be established to determine if a man would pay. Some shook them off, disgusted by the idea. Some asked why they had to pay when they could give the girls the night of their lives for free. Then there were the paying customers.
The two girls were thick as thieves, always getting into something together. They could get away with whatever they wanted since Mel was Kritzia's pimp and Blaze's friend. He was feared throughout the city. There wasn't another pimp or dealer in Manhattan that wanted any part of Mel. Kritzia was the only person that wasn't afraid of him. The way she saw it, everyone was scared to get hit by him. Being his main girl, she had been hit by Mel many times and didn't find it to be that bad in her opinion.
As they feared no man, even Mel, the girls did what they pleased. This meant breaking all of the rules that working girls were supposed to follow on the streets. If they wanted to talk to the other pimps' girls, they did. If they wanted to start a little shit, they did. Most of the entertainment for the other girls on the strip was seeing what would fall out of Melissa's mouth next. She was bold and chock full of wit.
In the summertime, all of the girls out working would gather at a spot on 47th, between 6th and 7th, that they dubbed the Batcave. It was here that the girls would rest their tired feet and fix their hair and makeup. Kritzia recalled Melissa fixing her braids for her there one night. She joked about burning bald spots in her head as she chased her around with the curling iron. Melissa was always proudly bragging about her beauty school training and her plans to one day open her own salon. She made it clear that she was out there working towards something, saving her money and meticulously planning.
Melissa would still visit home, but not very often. She never stayed away longer than a year. During her visits all of the tension that had existed between her, Lynn, and Jeff seemed to have dissolved. She would get together with the two and her aunt, Dawn. They would go out to a concert bar or a club and have some drinks together. Once their regular bar closed, they started holding their gatherings at Jeff's parents' house. Melissa would happily chatter away with her relatives late into the night. Whenever the subject of her current life in the city came up, she was guarded.
Being a business owner himself, Jeff knew that there was no way Melissa could be pulling in enough money to open a salon. Especially not when she came home with gifts every time she visited. On one occasion, she even gave Amanda $500 to shop for school clothes. This became more apparent to Jeff several months after she moved to Manhattan.
She announced to her family that the barbershop she'd supposedly been working at had closed. She claimed to have taken a job dancing at a nightclub. Lynn and Jeff had questions. Was she stripping? Was this safe? Melissa insisted that they only took their tops off and the men weren't allowed to touch them. While they didn't like the sound of it in the least, there was nothing they could say. Melissa was a grown adult, perfectly capable of making her own decisions and taking care of herself.
Though she was never one to discuss the men she dated with her family, Melissa did disclose that she had ended her relationship with Jordan. They briefly breathed a sigh of relief before learning of her new boyfriend, Johnny Terry, or Blaze. They only met him a couple of times during their time together, but they didn't like what they saw.
Kritzia thought Melissa was lucky to have fallen in with Blaze as her pimp. He wasn't known for being assertive, but he had Mel's protection. No one would dare cross him or any of his girls. That was a good thing since Blaze wasn't much of a fighter, either. He didn't style himself as a pimp. He really didn't think that he was, so he regularly broke the rules that pimps are expected to follow. One main rule being that you should only have sex with the girls that you're pimping. He was known to often bring home "square girls" from the club.
Blaze shared a house with Mel in The Bronx, where Kritzia and Mel occupied the master bedroom. Blaze had a smaller bedroom all to himself. Melissa had begged to move in with them, but he told her there wasn't enough space for her. Kritzia could clearly see the real reason he didn't want her to move in. It was Blaze's bottom bitch, Em. As his bottom bitch, Em held seniority over the other girls working for him. Melissa was always left to feel as though she was being taken advantage of. She told those around her that she was tired of taking care of Blaze's wife for him.
Despite the strained and rocky relationship between Blaze and Melissa, she still got his ridiculous street name tattooed on her back. She sat right beside her best friend, Kritzia, as she got Mel's name tattooed on the back of her neck. It was a big commitment to someone not willing to commit to her at all. Aside from getting tattoos together, they worked together as well. These jobs earned them large paydays as men loved the duo act.
Walking the streets in New York City every night, the girls saw how worn down and ragged some of the other women had gotten. They didn't want to end up like that. To ensure that this wouldn't happen to them, they had certain rules they followed for screening johns. Men with briefcases probably had families and were less likely to cause trouble. Men at nice hotels were more about a good time and wouldn't want any drama. Older men were preferable as they were less likely to attack a young woman.
Young men that were perfectly capable of getting a woman into bed for free weren't preferred customers. The way Melissa and Kritzia saw it, there had to be something wrong with them. Young, white men were just stingy and annoying. They only wanted to pay $50 for everything.
There were men that took them out to dinner and the movies. Even one lonely man that paid simply for the company of someone to play dominoes with. These were the kinds of clients that they liked to deal with the best. Just nice, lonely men that needed someone to spend some time with them.
As many girls working in the sex trade will agree, cocaine could be a prostitute's best friend. Men doing cocaine will experience what they call "limp dick," making it nearly impossible for them to maintain an erection. They also tend to be unwilling to give up the possibility of things working out in their favor, so to speak. While it's usually expected that the girls partake in the drugs as well, many have tricks for avoiding this so not to become off their guard. Melissa and Kritzia were no different, making it appear as though they'd done the cocaine when in fact they had not. They would hide the line behind their hand as they mimed sniffing the drug. When they would come up from the table, they would simply swipe the line off onto the floor.
The two had also learned the art of swindling sex. They scammed many men together, almost playing at how much they could scam each john for. After stealing $100 from a man at the Hilton, the duo got arrested together. Kritzia ended up pulling a fair amount of time in jail, while Melissa was only arrested one other time while her friend was away. Melissa plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of attempted prostitution and served five days of community service.
While Kritzia loved to smoke weed, Melissa couldn't stand it, or any other drug for that matter. She preferred to drink. When Kritzia's munchies would inevitably strike, they would walk down to a deli in the fashion district, just south of Times Square. Melissa would only order a cup of ice for the beer stashed in her purse as her friend ordered food. Kritzia stated that she had never known another white girl to do anything like that before. She would warn Melissa about drinking on the job and taking drinks from johns, but her warnings fell on deaf ears. Melissa was too trusting of everyone, thinking that nothing would ever happen to her.
Amanda made her next trip to the city in 2008. It proved to be a much bleaker glimpse into the life her older sister was living. By this point, Blaze and Melissa had broken up. Amid the pressure she was receiving from her family to come home, her and Blaze were also fighting constantly. Melissa was beginning to tire of the long nights walking the streets, too. After the so-called relationship between Melissa and her pimp ended, she bought a second hand laptop and began working for herself. Posting ads to Craigslist, Melissa was putting herself in a dangerous position.
Kritzia noticed that her friend was working solo and asked her what she thought she was doing. This wasn't safe. Not only would she invite the wrath of Blaze and Mel, she would also be putting herself at risk, working without the protection of a pimp. Melissa didn't see where working for Blaze was helping her at all, though. She was still living on her own, paying her own rent and bills. She wasn't giving him anywhere near all of the money she was making every night anyway. She just waved Kritzia and her concerns off. Her reasons for staying with Blaze had worn too thin.
By the time Amanda made her second visit, Melissa was solely working on Craigslist. She would watch her sister post ads from her computer before being picked up, usually by a livery cab. The rest of the night, just as before, Amanda was on her own until Melissa returned in the wee hours of the morning. Not worried in the least about Blaze's reaction, Melissa was openly breaking their arrangement, bankrolling in the process. When Amanda went home to Buffalo, she continued to stay mum about her sister's activities. She had no idea how to even breach such a subject with her family.
Posting under the name Chloe, Melissa advertised for outcalls only. This means that she only went out to meet her clients. They never came to her. She charged $100 for 15 minutes, $150 for 30 minutes, $250 for an hour, and $1000 for overnight. That year at Christmastime, she went home to Buffalo ready to pamper her family. She took her mother and sister for massages at a spa and bought iPod Touches for Amanda and all of their cousins. Melissa was finally living the life that she had always wanted for herself. She wasn't worried about price tags and she was treating her mother to all the things she felt she deserved.
A few weeks after returning from her Christmas vacation, Melissa finally faced the consequences of going against Blaze. While a man stood nearby watching, a group of women jumped Melissa and beat her up. The man was later identified as being Blaze. Witnesses heard him say, "That's what you get for disrespecting me." When one witness tried to give Melissa her phone back, she was curled into a ball, too frightened to take it.
On July 11, 2009, Amanda got a late-night text from her older sister. What had become an annual trip to the city was being planned once again. Melissa was just firming things up for her upcoming visit. The following day, July 12, a security camera at a local bank caught her depositing $1000 into her account. Before leaving, she withdrew $100. That same day she was seen sitting on the curb outside of her building on Underhill Avenue in The Bronx. Her phone records show a call to Blaze that lasted under a minute. Possibly just a voicemail.
Blaze would later claim to be aware of a $1000 date that she had lined up for the following night. He offered her a ride, but she turned him down. By July 13, she was no longer responding to calls or texts. Amanda's trip was called off and Lynn and Jeff began calling hospitals, looking for her. Known for taking in every stray cat she came across, Melissa's landlady became concerned when she heard the cats crying and scratching at the door. Melissa would've never let her rescued pets go without care.
For three days, Lynn and Jeff tried to file a missing persons report, but were deflected by the local police. She was a 24-year-old woman with no history of mental health issues and in no need of medication or treatment of any kind. The police said that just because Melissa couldn't be found, it didn't mean that she was missing. Lynn worried that her daughter's case wasn't being taken seriously because she was a prostitute. It would soon be made clear to Melissa's family, and others, that this was the case.
When Melissa stopped responding to her calls and texts, Amanda knew it was time to tell the truth. Lynn and Jeff were reasonably shocked to learn of her lifestyle, but it didn't change their view of her in the least. They still fought to bring her home all the same. For days, it looked as though they weren't going to receive any help from the police in finding her. That was until the phone calls started coming in.
Amanda started receiving harassing and menacing calls from the person that claimed to have killed Melissa. Only 15-years-old, Amanda was forced to listen to graphic, sexual details of the things that had supposedly been done to her sister. Over the course of several phone calls, this man would also threaten to do the same things to Amanda. It was still a full ten days before an investigation was launched into her disappearance.
To this day, no one knows who made the calls, but Amanda received eight of them in total. He made it clear that he knew what she looked like when he referred to her as such racial slurs as "half breed." The fact that this man knew what she looked like and had her phone number scared her to death. She didn't know what to think. Had this man kidnapped her? Was he holding her somewhere? Was she already dead?
For reasons known only to the caller, he only wanted to talk to Amanda when he called. On the one occasion that Lynn answered, he hung up without a word. He always called in the evenings and spoke briefly and calmly every time. The family's lawyer, Steve Cohen, made police aware of the calls. Now that a teenage girl was being harassed with the details of her sister's gruesome murder, they were finally interested in the case.
It was after the third of these disturbing calls that police started trying to trace them, using Amanda as bait. Since she was the only person he would speak with, they had no other choice if they wanted to find the origin of the calls. The unidentified man was anticipating the efforts to locate him. He kept his calls short, making it difficult to narrow down his location. The calls were traced to a cell tower in Times Square and Madison Square Garden, but couldn't be narrowed down any further.
Wondering if this man could possibly be working in midtown and living out on Long Island, they began circulating her picture at strip clubs in the area. DNA was taken from her toothbrush, her phone records were subpoenaed, and her neighborhood was canvassed. Phone records showed that Melissa had accessed her voicemail on the night of her disappearance. These calls were traced back to a cell tower in Massapequa, Long Island. Police waited nearly two weeks after going through her phone records to visit two nearby motels. They spoke with staff and viewed security footage from the Budget Inn and Best Western and found nothing to suggest she'd been to either location.
Melissa's family was struggling in the wake of her disappearance. Amanda had been psychologically tormented for weeks after her sister went missing. The final phone call came in on August 26, 2009. The message was short. He told the helpless teenage girl that he was watching her older sister's body rot. As Amanda suffered the torment this man put her through, she was also grieving Melissa and carrying the guilt of keeping her secret. All of this while she was at such a delicate age. She should've been figuring out who she was and who she wanted to be in her adult life rather than dealing with this kind of trauma.
As Amanda began missing school, Lynn and Jeff were struggling to stay afloat in open waters. They threw themselves into work as Jeff closed his original diner and opened a new one at a new location. JJ's Texas Hots opened just east of Buffalo in Cheektowaga. Lynn retired from her side job making meals at the Manhattan Manor to help him run the new restaurant. The opening of the diner couldn't have come at a worse time as they had taken money from relatives to open up. Shortly after, the market crashed and their relatives lost their life savings. Even still, they never asked for a dime of the money back and always insisted on paying for their meals when they visited the diner.
JJ's Texas Hots became the center of the family's financial anxieties. They dedicated themselves to keeping the doors open while still searching for Melissa. That was their life for more than a year. When they learned of the discovery on Ocean Parkway on December 11, 2010, they hoped and prayed until the confirmation was made. Melissa had been the first of the four bodies found that day. Though their search for Melissa had come to a devastating end, their fight was far from over.
Another of the poor girls found on Ocean Parkway was named Megan Waterman. She had been raised by her grandmother, Muriel Benner, in Portland, Maine. Of Muriel's six children, Megan's mother, Lorraine, had been the most troublesome. Muriel had always known Lorraine to be a difficult child to deal with. That did not change as she got older. She was only 20-years-old when she got pregnant with Megan's older brother, Greg. At the time, she was high school drop-out working for a small company that cleaned offices and the airport while also working towards her GED. She had recently left home to move into a room at the YMCA in downtown Portland.
It was while working for the small cleaning company that Lorraine met Greg and Megan's father, Greg Gove, from Wilmington, Maine. Recently tossed out of his mother's house for not wanting to get a job, Greg was supporting himself on odd jobs when he met Lorraine. Before meeting Greg, Lorraine had never had a boyfriend before. Even though the two had nothing in common, she moved in with him within just a month of meeting. They rented a room in a rough section of town on Sherman Street. The cockroach infestation drove them out and into a room at the Westbrook Days Inn that they rented by the week.
After meeting Greg, Lorraine began drinking heavily. Coffee brandy was her drink of choice as she used to sneak sips of it when she was growing up from one of her mother's boyfriends. Muriel had once had a string of men in and out of her life, many of them leaving their glasses of liquor on the table unattended when they visited. While Lorraine sampled all of the drinks left behind, it was the coffee brandy left by one man in particular that she enjoyed the most. When Greg turned out to be an abusive boyfriend, it seems that Lorraine sought out a way to cope in the drink she enjoyed sneaking the most as a child.
Within months of the volatile relationship's start, Lorraine got pregnant with Greg. During the pregnancy, she left him for a while, but returned in time for Greg's birth. They broke up again when Lorraine was eight months pregnant with Megan. With her second pregnancy nearing its end, she left her job at Burger King and applied for welfare. She rented an apartment and tried to prepare for her second child.
While Lorraine may have been done with Greg, he wasn't through using her. At the end of Lorraine's pregnancy, he returned with his new girlfriend, Karen, asking to move into her apartment with her. Instead of paying rent or bills, they would provide childcare in return for a couch to crash on. Lorraine said yes to the confusing arrangement. This would be the chaotic household that Megan was born into on January 18, 1988.
Lorraine's entire family was disgusted and horrified at the stories they heard coming out of her apartment. Megan's diaper wasn't being changed all day long, Lorraine would slap little Greg, and he had even been seen toddling by an open oven with gas drifting out. The poor little boy had also been seen eating cereal from off the floor. One day, Greg and his friends were tossing little Greg around the room. One of Greg's friends spun the toddler around too quickly, too close to a door casing. Little Greg's nose smacked the door casing, leaving a big bruise across the bridge of his nose. It was after this incident that Muriel started a file on her daughter.
One of Lorraine's sisters worked with Muriel to document the abuse and neglect. They wrote down everything they saw, not missing a thing. When accused, Lorraine just did what she always did, she shifted the blame. Everything around her was everyone else's fault. She was never responsible for her life, or even her children. As her mother gathered intel on her, Lorraine's negligence hit its crescendo.
When Megan was born, she had an abnormal blood test, something that needed to be monitored. Instead of bringing her daughter back for the required follow-up visit with the doctor, Lorraine dodged social workers. When Muriel learned that her granddaughter was in the hospital with respiratory distress, she applied for custody of the children. While her application languished in the system, the kids were placed with a very nice family in foster care.
Though Lorraine's visits were few and far between, Muriel and her husband, Doug, saw the children every Sunday. Each week they drove an hour north to the city of Naples to see their grandchildren. Soon they had befriended the family watching over them and gained their trust, getting to take them for weekend visits. After three months, they were allowed to keep the kids for an entire week.
For someone that didn't seem all that interested in visiting her children, Lorraine had a lot to say about her mother's bid for custody of them. She said that her mother's only motivation to take her children was the fact that she was about to lose out on a monthly check when her youngest son turned 18. Without a dependent child, Muriel would not only lose the check, she would lose her home at Avon Place, a low-income housing subsidy. Lorraine's sister, Ella, acknowledged that the government support did help Muriel to make her decision, but at the end of the day she did truly love those children. She didn't want to see them anywhere else than with her.
When Muriel got custody of the kids, Lorraine got a lawyer to fight and get them back. When the court date arrived, she was pulled aside by her mother before the proceedings began. Muriel offered up an ultimatum. Either sign over custody of the kids and still be allowed to visit them, or lose in court and never see them again. Not knowing what else to do, Greg and Lorraine signed over their rights. When their lawyer arrived, he told them that they shouldn't have done that. Without a third option and no way to disprove the claims of neglect against them, they really didn't have much of a choice.
Once the kids were placed with their grandmother, Jo Moser was assigned to their case by social services as a parenting coach. She never forgot the day she met Megan and her brother as they fought in the kitchen over a piece of toast. During the knock-down, drag-out match, the social worker noticed how evenly matched the brother and sister were, though Megan was a year younger and smaller. Jo also noticed how over her head Muriel was dealing with the volatile children. Her husband had heart problems and she was a soft touch when it came to disciplining them. The family was already under financial stress, living from check-to-check each month when Megan and Greg got there.
Jo started taking them out to an all-you-can-eat buffet at the China Wall near the Maine Mall in Portland. The two couldn't get enough to eat when they went. For the first few years, she saw the kids two to three times a week, staying for a few hours each time. Megan was quite resistant to Jo's visits at first, until she explained that she may not get to stay with her grandmother unless she cooperated with her. That seemed to change her attitude entirely.
Megan's grandmother was her biggest champion, always rushing to her aid when she got into trouble. This was a constant occurrence. Megan was well known for her flaring temper. She could easily go from zero to sixty in under a minute, getting into a fistfight. She could also quickly reel it back in when she got in trouble to get herself out. When she was unable to do so, there was Muriel to the rescue. Though Muriel was unquestionably by her granddaughter's side no matter what, Megan seemed to flip-flop on how she felt about her. At times she would claim to hate her grandmother, others she would cry about how much she needed her in her life.
Even while attending Reiche Elementary School, Megan was feared by her peers. She was known for being even more threatening than her older brother. On one occasion, she even defended him from a group of four or five boys that were trying to gang up on him. As soon as the boys saw her coming, they ran away. There didn't seem to be a kid in school that wanted to mess around with Megan.
The first time the police were called on her, Megan was in the first grade. She had climbed over a thirty foot railing and refused to come down. By the time she reached the second grade, she was diagnosed with ADHD. When she was in the fifth grade, she was transferred from Reiche Elementary to a school for troubled children called Prep. Megan was finally kicked out of public school when she dunked another kid's head underwater in the school's swimming pool to make the other kids laugh. She didn't even seem to realize that what she had done was dangerous.
Muriel was unable to control her, so she just bailed her out of trouble and always let her have her way. It wasn't too hard to figure out where Megan's anger stemmed from. She never talked about her mother or how she felt about her. Instead, Megan just allowed her rage to boil over at school or at the skating rink when she would get into fights.
As she finished junior high, her and her brother were uprooted when Muriel and Doug moved them to Scarborough, Maine. The affluent area was filled with farmlands that had been converted into McMansions over the past few decades. There, the family moved into a trailer park called Crystal Springs. Their trailer was one of just ten that were completely surrounded by woods on all sides. Megan didn't care for her new, snobby classmates from rich, well-to-do families. They considered her to be white trash from the moment she walked into school the first day.
Soon after enrolling in her new school, Megan was sent to special education classes. When she started high school the following year, she was placed in an alternative part of the school for troubled youth. It was known throughout Scarborough High School as the Basement.
In an attempt to keep up with the wealthier kids at school, Megan was caught shoplifting at Walmart on several occasions. Usually, she just stole cosmetics. These offenses piled up and landed her in the Youth Center, a jail for youthful offenders. The facility was set up much like a group home, with the kids being able to come and go as they pleased. At first, Muriel was relieved that she was there, but it didn't take long for that to change. She ran to her granddaughter's defense once again, saying that she deserved another chance.
The Scarborough police became well acquainted with Megan and her grandmother. Officer Doug Weed dealt with her the most often and met her the first time in 2002, when she was 14. He received two calls from a girl that claimed Megan was stalking her after a feud between them. In 2004, a neighbor requested a restraining order against the teenage girl. Just a year later, she was caught with drug paraphernalia and forced into juvenile rehab. Robert Kolker speculates in his book that she was probably caught with a marijuana pipe. The following November, she was kicked out of the rehab program and sent back to her grandmother. Soon after, Muriel called the police to come get her.
Officer Weed wasn't only a compassionate officer, but a dedicated husband and father. He couldn't have possibly imagined his children growing up without him. When he saw kids like Greg and Megan acting out their frustrations at their parents' absence, he felt bad. He could see that Megan didn't have a father in her life to help keep her in line. It was because of this that he gave her many breaks when he caught her.
At 17, Megan quit going to school, taking on odd jobs while still living with Muriel and Doug. After leaving school, she started getting picked up by the police more often. Mostly for shoplifting or alcohol. She was also arrested with her friend, Lashonda Gregory, when the pair grabbed a credit card left by a customer at a Mr. Bagel that they worked at. They used the stolen credit card to go shopping for Lashonda's baby shower.
Officer Weed was still a big part of Megan's life at this point. He felt for her, having grown up with so little, and still wanted to help her. He gave her his phone number if she ever needed him, even if it was just to talk. The calls always seemed to pick her up when she was upset. Even if he didn't answer, Weed always called back and talked to her, even if just for a few minutes.
They never talked about her boyfriends, and Weed never asked. She did, however, tell him when she found out she was pregnant. The father was a 32-year-old DJ from New Hampshire that already had a child. They had hooked up in a bathroom at a club in Portland. She was unsure about how to handle the pregnancy when Weed told her from his own experience as a father of five that children are the greatest blessing of all.
With Muriel's consent, the same judge that sent Megan to juvenile rehab ordered her to stay at St. Andre's, a home for unwed mothers. She was only to stay throughout the duration of her pregnancy. The entire time she was wracked with nerves, panicked that her baby would be taken from her. She watched baby after baby taken from their mothers while staying at the facility. She just knew that her fate was to lose her child, though Muriel and the staff members tried to reassure her otherwise.
During her time at St. Andre's, Lorraine decided to float back into her life after spending years out of it. A year after Megan was born, she had another daughter named Allie. A few years later, she gave birth to twins named Stephanie and Bethany. Lorraine didn't keep the girls for long, losing them to the state a few years after the twins were born. Megan couldn't believe her mother would have more children after signing her rights off to her and her brother. She had not been very receptive of her mother before, but living away from Muriel for the first time in her life, she was beginning to come around.
Megan asked her caseworker if she would be allowed to leave the facility to stay with her mother. Lorraine was eager to jump at the chance to help her daughter the one time that Muriel would not. Lorraine was sober at this time, but had not grown out of her habit of shifting blame. Megan would listen to her mother's rants about Muriel and how terrible of a mother she was. Megan wasn't blind, though. Muriel had been there for her, taking care of her when her own mother wouldn't.
In the summer of 2006, Megan gave birth to a healthy baby girl that she named Liliana. She had already left Lorraine's house by the time her daughter was born. When she returned to Scarborough with her baby, Lorraine was crushed by her decision to go back to Muriel's. Even still, a door had been opened through which the two would remain in contact until her death.
Getting to know her mother and also having her baby all at once was a big eye-opener for Megan. The birth of her daughter chastened her some, while her experience with Lorraine gave her the resolve to live her life differently. She loved Liliana more than anything in the world and wanted to be a better mother than Lorraine had been to her. All of Megan's rage just melted away when her daughter entered the world. Those who had once been intimidated by her were amazed at how tender and sweet she was with her child. Her brother, Greg, said that her baby was everything to her. The entire family noticed how happy and proud she was to be a mother.
As joyous as motherhood had been for Megan, she was also feeling the immense pressure to provide. Her monthly government check was only $400. That wasn't nearly enough to support both of them. After living her entire life on welfare, Megan wanted more for her child. There was also something more that she was in need of. Something she had searched for unsuccessfully since she was a teenager.
Lorraine and Greg Sr.'s abandonment of the children had left a void within Megan that she had been searching to fill with love. Even the love of her daughter wasn't enough to fill the void left behind by her parents. It was this need that drove Megan into the arms of many men. She was well aware that the young black men that came over from New York to sell cocaine were only there to make their money and collect trophies. Megan didn't see herself as a trophy since she was collecting notches on her bedpost as well. Though Liliana's father had been from New England, every other man that came into Megan's life afterward was from New York. All of her old friends fell away, but she still had her New York boys, and there were a few.
Akeem Cruz, known by everyone in Portland as Vybe, was the most serious and the last of Megan's New York boyfriends. She considered him to be the love of her life. He was a year younger than her and had grown up in Brooklyn, where his mother still lived at a housing project near Coney Island. In June 2008, when he was 18-years-old, Vybe was arrested in Brooklyn and charged with reckless driving, unlawful, possession of marijuana, illegal signal, failure to stay in a single lane, and criminal possession of a weapon. Rather than face the music in Brooklyn, Vybe absconded to Portland. He and his crew became known in the area for selling cocaine, but no one knew which of the crew members were leading them. Vybe seemed too laid back to lead a criminal outfit.
When Megan first met him, she was already involved with a man named Banks. As her younger sister, Allie recalled, it was Banks that arranged Megan's first escorting gigs. Vybe was known by all the ladies in Portland as a good listener. Talkative and funny, he was a hit with the women. It didn't hurt that he also had a reputation for being generous. Vybe was a friend of Banks when Megan met him. After Banks became abusive, he drove her straight into his friend's arms.
It seemed as though he was saving her from a tumultuous relationship. He gave her refuge, and I'm sure a listening ear. The two grew very close quite quickly. Her grandparents even found him to be very respectful. When Megan would yell at Muriel, he would tell her that she shouldn't speak to her grandmother in such a way.
The money Megan had made escorting paid for her to move out of Crystal Springs and into her own apartment. She got a place at a complex called Brick Hill in South Portland. Muriel and Doug were convinced she was dancing at a club called Platinum Plus. Even without her cover story, they were too cowed by her to ask any questions. By the time she had moved to Brick Hill, Liliana was already six months old and spent most of her time with Doug and Muriel. Megan would come back to Crystal Springs for a night or two at a time to cuddle and spend time with her daughter before returning to her apartment.
Megan was enjoying the sweet taste of her new-found freedom. She threw parties where drugs were normally present. For a little extra cash, she would sell some of the drugs she came across, like Suboxone or OxyContin. Previously, her drug of choice had been vodka, but things changed once she started hanging out with her New York crew. Cocaine and ecstasy became her new preferred drugs.
Online, she mostly went by the name Lexi. She would rent out hotel rooms for her calls and stay in the rooms with Vybe. While he played Madden NFL, she would paint her nails to pass the time. Much like Pretty Woman, Megan didn't allow kissing on her dates. She wasn't going to do anything that she wasn't comfortable with, either and she always used protection. For an entire hour she charged as much as $300. A half an hour cost $150 and $100 could buy a john 15 minutes of her time. On a busy night, Megan was bringing home $1500.
She only remained in contact with one friend from her adolescence, named Nicci. The two had met at the Youth Center as youthful offenders in their teens. As adults, Nicci had become Greg's girlfriend and mother to their two children, bringing her into the family's fold. When Megan decided to let her old friend in on how she'd been making her money, she was taking a big risk of her older brother finding out. Nicci eventually let the cat slip out of the bag, giving Megan's secret up. Greg was infuriated, but Megan thought he was just being paranoid. When he tried to press the issue, she stopped him dead by informing him that enjoyed sex. Why not get paid to do it?
Megan and Vybe made their first trip to Long Island in the spring of 2009. They told Muriel and Doug that they were going to Brooklyn to visit some of Vybe's family. Instead of Megan meeting her boyfriend's family, Lexi posted an ad on the Suffolk County section of Craigslist on May 13. She posted ads on this page again on May 16 and June 23, before going back to incalls only on September 2. Her Suffolk County outcalls were priced at $300 per hour depending upon the location.
When she posted her September 2 ad it was by the name Tiffany. By this point her ads were reaching a much broader population of men. Thanks to this increase, she was nabbed by an undercover officer working with the Nassau County department. She never served any time after this arrest and her family never learned of it. While working out on Long Island, she was robbed twice by two different johns. Before that point, Greg and Nicci were under the impression that Vybe was present to protect her on these dates. The revelation that she was on her own didn't make them feel any better about her line of work.
Lorraine learned of what her daughter was doing while in line at the supermarket one day. The cashier was a former girlfriend of Greg's and remembered his sister quite well. She had seen an ad with Megan's picture on Craigslist and felt that she had to tell Lorraine all about it while checking her out. She wanted to hear none of it, though. At first, she refused to believe that her daughter would ever do such a thing. Once she got home, Lorraine began scouring Craigslist until she finally ran across it.
When confronted with the information, Muriel didn't want to hear or believe it, either. The family convened at the home of Lorraine's sister, Ella. They gathered around Ella's computer screen, scrolling through Craigslist until they found the ad they had hoped not to find. The secret was out. When her family confronted her, she stuck to her guns. She was only dancing, that's all. Vybe was always there to protect her and they had big plans for the money they were making. They were going to get a place, move in together, and get married.
If Muriel had had a rough time keeping control of Megan, then Lorraine didn't have a leg to stand on at all. Her family could protest all they liked, when it came down to it, Megan was a grown woman. She couldn't be told what to do. She could only be warned of the dangers, warnings she didn't want to hear.
Lorraine took her daughter to look at some apartments. Megan's criminal record presented an issue at every turn in her life. This was no different. There was also the issue of Vybe's pending charges in Brooklyn that he fled from in 2008. An apartment that would allow them to move in without a background check would be very pricey. To be closer to Greg and Nicci, the couple moved into a room at a Howard Johnson in Westbrook. Vybe only left the hotel room when he absolutely had to since the police were starting to follow him around.
The inside of their room was usually piled with electronics. DVD players, cameras, video game systems, laptops. Whenever Vybe needed something, he would make a trade for it. Greg recalled him once trading a $2500 laptop computer for $100 worth of cocaine. He was still heavily involved in the cocaine trade and Megan had her part to play in the enterprise as well. She would stash drugs at her grandparents trailer in Crystal Springs. Keeping everything well hidden in compartments inside the trailer, Muriel and Doug never suspected a thing. While Megan was helping her boyfriend sell, she also became one of his best customers.
No one in Megan's life was more angry about her cocaine use than her boyfriend. Especially when bags of his product came up light. Her sister, Allie, remembered occasions when drugs came up missing around Megan. She said Vybe would be incensed at the breach of trust. It was on these occasions that their relationship would turn violent.
In the winter of 2009, an old friend of Megan's brought her daughter for a visit to her house on Boyd Street. She was waiting on her boyfriend to return with some heroin when she heard a scream from outside. She ran out to see what was going on to find Vybe beating a woman up. She witnessed him grab the woman by the hair and start slamming her head into the side of the house. Megan's friend screamed at the brutal sight. It wasn't until after he got done beating her that Megan's friend realized the woman he'd been battering was Megan. A bloody and bruised Megan was shocked to see her old friend standing there as she cried. Vybe just made a cold comment about her ripping him off.
Her friend called an ambulance and accompanied her to the emergency room. Megan wouldn't talk about the altercation. When her friend tried to ask questions, she snapped back at her. The two never spoke or saw each other again after that day.
Things improved between Megan and Vybe for a short while. Until the following spring things seemed almost domesticated. Megan and Liliana both received presents from him for Christmas that year. The bliss wouldn't last though. By April 2010, Megan was asking her old friend, Nicci, to help cover her ass.
That day, Megan was selling coke to a man she'd known since childhood named Wayne. They ended up doing the entire stash between them before they stopped. To avoid another beating, Megan called her brother's girlfriend to aid in her cover. She needed Nicci to back her up and tell Vybe they had been out drinking together the night before. Later that day, Nicci received a call back from Megan saying that he hadn't hit or choked her. In fact, he clotheslined her. While Greg was angered to hear that his sister had been hurt again, he hoped that this incident would serve as a wake-up call to her.
Megan didn't see him again for a while after the incident, but the two stayed in touch. Vybe went to stay with an ex-girlfriend of his named Ashley Carroll. She would listen to his side of the phone calls between the estranged couple. Just their conversations were volatile, with Vybe threatening to set her things on fire one minute before apologizing and telling her that he loved and missed her the next. He even told Megan that they would have a baby together, a comment that she took to heart.
While the two were apart, all of the attention Vybe had attracted dealing, pimping, and trading stolen goods finally caught up to him. His hotel room was raided and he, along with three others, were arrested. Weapons and drugs were seized during the raid. Megan worried and cried for him while she stayed with a friend, Shareena. There seemed to be no reason for concern as the men had no trouble paying their $50,000 bonds. In the end, the case was thrown out because no search warrant had been issued for the raid.
When he was released, Megan walked two miles to meet him at the jail when he walked through the gate. All seemed to be forgotten when they embraced for the first time in weeks. The very next day, they were preparing for their final trip to Long Island. Megan needed just enough money for Liliana's daycare and an apartment for the three of them to move in together. She was elated that Vybe wanted to have a baby with her. Though she hadn't planned on having any more children, she was excited at the prospect of having his child.
She arrived in Long Island on Friday afternoon, June 5, 2010 and checked in at the Holiday Inn Express in Hauppauge. The hotel is located on a bare stretch of the Long Island Expressway. Vybe had gone to Brooklyn a few days earlier to see his family. At 8:00 that evening, Megan was seen on the hotel's security footage leaving with Vybe. At 8:30, she returned alone.
From inside her room she made some phone calls, first to Lorraine at around 10:00. At around 11:00, she tried to call Nicci, who was too tired to talk and said she would call back the next day. Just before midnight she talked to Muriel, saying that Vybe had gone out with some friends, but she was staying in the room to get ready for bed because she was tired. When she asked if her daughter was still awake, Muriel reminded her that it was midnight. Sometime after her midnight call to her grandmother, she posted an ad to Craigslist as Lexi. She spoke to Vybe at around 1:20 that morning then ten minutes later, at 1:30, she was caught on camera leaving the hotel. A witness would later say that she was walking down a service road, leading to a nearby convenience store. This would be the perfect spot to meet up with a john that doesn't want to risk being seen.
The next morning, Vybe called Megan's friend, Shareena, saying that she and her phone were both gone from the hotel room. At first, Shareena didn't think much of it. She had probably just gone out for some breakfast. Before he contacted Muriel, he needed to prepare a cover story. He told her that while out drinking with the friends that night, Megan had called to say she was going out for something to eat. She was supposed to call when she returned, but she never did. He figured that she went back to her room and crashed.
According to the story he gave Muriel, Vybe decided to go by her room and check in on her at 6:00 that morning. He claimed that the concierge wouldn't allow him in the room, but opened the door for him to peek inside and see if she was there, asleep. She wasn't there, leading him to panic.
Due to his charges in Brooklyn, Vybe didn't risk going to the police department, but he did call them. He informed them that she had been wearing a silver garnet ring, silver hoop earrings, and a silver necklace. For the next week, he became a very hard man to track down, dodging everyone. The few people that he would talk to, he would not disclose his location to. He became the hot topic of conversation in Portland, with many speculating that he knew something, at the very least. While friends of both Megan and Vybe speculated along with the rest of the community, Megan's family was also becoming more and more suspicious.
Soon after returning to Portland, a girl that Megan was not particularly friends with accused Vybe of slashing her tires and threatening her. He was arrested and charged with criminal menacing with a dangerous weapon. This girl was dating one of Vybe's friends and the two had been telling people around town that they suspected him of Megan's disappearance. Before he was able to post his bond, Vybe's old Brooklyn charges finally caught up to bite him in the ass. He managed to get out, but was arrested again in another hotel raid. This time, police had a warrant to search and they seized 13 grams of crack, worth $1300.
At first, Muriel and Lorraine seemed to be able to cooperate just fine in their efforts to find Megan. It didn't take long for that to fall apart, though. When Lorraine found out that Muriel was working with one of her sisters to take custody of Liliana, she was furious. Her sister, Liz, was more than happy to help as Muriel was getting too old to take care of such a small child all on her own.
When the media began seeking out a grieving mother, Lorraine was all too happy to step up and assume the position. When she made her first appearance, the rest of the family had no idea she was going to be on television. They were shocked and appalled to see her speaking with CNN's Jane Velez-Mitchell about Craigslist. None of them could believe she was suddenly acting as the family's spokesperson, never having done a thing for her children before this. This wouldn't be the last time Lorraine appeared on national television to talk about her daughter.
The family pulled together to hold a vigil at the bandstand area of Congress Square in Portland on June 25, 19 days after she was last seen. Megan's family was in no kind of condition to rally search efforts for her. Volunteers took to the Scarborough Walmart parking lot the day after her vigil to hand out posters with her picture. A few weeks later, others including her brother, Greg, and friend, Nicci, did the same thing in Hauppauge. While the rest of the family was making a real effort to find her, Lorraine was just pointing her finger at Muriel and smiling for the cameras.
Lorraine laid the blame for Megan's disappearance squarely at her mother's feet. According to Lorraine, Muriel had been too overprotective. Instead of letting Megan face the consequences of her actions growing up, she ran to her defense every time she got into trouble. Had it not been for Muriel, she claimed, Megan would've had no choice but to learn better. While this could be argued, it can also be argued that, once again, Lorraine doesn't have a dog in that fight. It makes it much harder to criticize someone's parenting when you have never parented your own children. A co-worker of Lorraine's named Rachel Brown was quoted in Lost Girls as saying that she wasn't even aware that she was Megan's mother until after she saw her on TV.
During Lorraine's first television appearance, she ended up victim-blaming her own daughter in what appeared to be an effort to make the family look better by throwing Megan under the bus. She told of how the family had tried to stop her and warn her of the dangers of her chosen lifestyle, but she would hear none of it. While this may be true, the rest of the family was aghast that she would air their dirty laundry on national television. After this misstep, the rest of the family, as well as Lorraine, had to work very hard to make the media see Megan as a victim. Her CNN interview had made it seem as though her daughter had brought her fate upon herself.
You would think after making such a large mistake in her first interview that Lorraine would've backed away from the cameras. She would do no such thing. Instead of stepping back into the shadows like she should've, she decided to speak with another reporter in September 2010. In this interview she outright lied, saying that Vybe had gotten her daughter into escorting, though she had already been involved before meeting him. She claimed that it had been her boyfriend/pimp that had dazzled her with all the money she could make. Before she knew it, she was "hooked on Craigslist."
There weren't many in Portland that believed Vybe knew something more. Megan's family had become convinced that he was involved. He not only knew something, he had to have set this up. They likened him to a Romeo pimp, thinking he had romanced Megan into control. It was their fear that she had been taken to Hauppauge for the purpose of being abandoned. By all accounts, Megan was not cowed by anyone and not easily controlled. There's also the fact of her previous experience in the sex trade. By the time she began working for Vybe, Megan wouldn't have needed to be tricked because she already understood the game and her role within.
Later that fall, the family planned a spaghetti dinner and silent auction with door prizes, a raffle, and a DJ. They were hoping to raise enough money for a reward for information leading to Megan's whereabouts. In the midst of planning the fund raiser, Lorraine learned of Muriel and Liz's attempt to take custody of Liliana. The ensuing family drama put an end to any plans for a fund raiser for Megan. Her entire family ended up on the outs. By the time the bodies were discovered, it seemed that no one was talking to one another.
After the discovery of the Gilgo Four, Lorraine shocked and angered her family again when she appeared on Nancy Grace. They were outraged as they all watched from their respective homes. When the positive identification came through, Lorraine was informed in-person of the DNA match on January 20, 2011. It was the day after what would've been Megan's 23rd birthday. After receiving the information, Lorraine got a tattoo on her left arm that read "Megan RIP." Her family managed to set their differences aside long enough to plan Megan's funeral. That wouldn't last, though.
This is where we will leave the story for now. In part two we will dive into the backgrounds of the other two victims, Maureen Brainard-Barnes and Amber Lynn Costello. We will also get into the investigation, the conspiracy theories, and the uphill struggle to search for Shannan, leading to the discovery of more bodies. This case only gets bigger as the story unfolds so please come back to find out what happens next in this ongoing investigation into a serial killer.