Mourning Slain Women, Families Hold Vigil on Long Island

Storm clouds swirled above and the wind proved too strong for their candles, but that did not stop a group of grieving families from holding a vigil on Long Island on Saturday for women who worked as prostitutes and are believed to be the victims of a serial killer. The remains of some of them have turned up in recent months on a desolate stretch of the beach in Suffolk County, near where the vigil was held.

“This is to all the girls,” Lorraine Ela, 44, said, as she released a balloon in honor of her daughter, Megan Waterman, the first of four women whose remains were identified after being discovered in the thick brush off Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach, in December.

Relatives of Ms. Waterman and of Melissa Barthelemy and Maureen Brainard-Barnes, whose remains have also been identified, and of Shannan Gilbert, who is still missing, also released balloons at the afternoon gathering, held in a parking lot along Ocean Parkway in Oak Beach.

Devastated family members, holding posters and wearing T-shirts in honor of the women, all of whom were in their 20s, collapsed into a group hug after Lynn Barthelemy, Melissa’s mother, read a poem. They played “Never Be Forgotten,” a country song performed by Jessica Andrews, and implored the public to remember the women for who they were, not what they did to make ends meet.

“We want people to see exactly who these girls are because that is the only way we’re going to get justice,” said Ms. Ela, who helped organize the vigil and came from South Portland, Me., to join the others, whom she referred to as “one big family.”

Ms. Ela’s words, along with those of the victims’ parents, grandparents and siblings, took on renewed meaning after law enforcement officials announced last month that the remains of a fifth woman had been found along Ocean Parkway, a thin peninsula that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Great South Bay and its sprinkling of barrier islands.

The authorities said they believed that the woman, Jessica Taylor, who also worked as a prostitute, was the victim of a second serial killer. Ms. Taylor, also in her 20s, was among six other people whose remains were found in different locations along Ocean Parkway in Suffolk and Nassau Counties, since the initial discovery of remains in the winter — bringing to 10 the number of human remains uncovered in the area since December.

“She is out there,” Mari Gilbert, 46, the mother of Shannan Gilbert, told reporters, holding back tears. “She is missing, and our family and our friends, we are going to find her, and we’re going to find out who hurt her and all the others.”

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