'Long Island Ripper' may be linked to old murders

The hunt for a suspected serial killer in Long Island took a dramatic new turn yesterday when the discovery of eight bodies were linked to murders of four prostitutes in Atlantic City, in neighbouring New Jersey, in 2006.

Long Island residents were put on alert after police this week found the remains of four murder victims on a lonely beachfront road where the decomposed bodies of four others – all identified as female prostitutes – were found last December.

A police spokesman said officers would return on Monday to the same area of scrub close to Oak Beach on a barrier island barely 50 miles east of Manhattan that appears to have been the killer's dumping ground. The county police are tight-lipped about the case, but there was word of a possible link between this alleged killer – dubbed the 'Long Island Ripper' by the New York Post – and the unsolved murders in Atlantic City.

Contacts were established with detectives in New Jersey after it emerged that one victim lived on Long Island shortly before she was murdered in Atlantic City. Kim Raffo, who had a history of turning tricks and drug abuse, travelled there by bus after a row with her husband.

On Long Island, the fear that came with the discovery of the first four bodies before Christmas returned after police found three bodies on Monday and another on Wednesday, bringing the total to eight. All the women found last year were escorts who generally used Craigslist, the website for classified advertising, to make contact with their customers. They all disappeared between July 2007 and last September.

"We tell people they should be careful with any contact they make with strangers," said Richard Dormer of Suffolk County Police. Detectives more or less stumbled on the first bodies last year while looking for clues in the case of a prostitute, missing since last spring. Shannan Gilbert, a 24-year-old from New Jersey, was last seen on 1 May 2010. She has not been among any of the victims found. There was still no word yesterday on the identities of the victims found last week, nor could police confirm they were prostitutes, or even that they were women while autopsy results were pending. But it seemed, that they may have been deposited in the area at an earlier date than the four women found in December.

Most puzzling to police is why a serial murderer would discard his victims so close to one another. "Any time you have an abundance of bodies found in the same vicinity, it's very unusual," Jay Salpeter, a former New York City homicide investigator told the Newsday newspaper "If you look at other serial killers, most times bodies are left in different locations."

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