Mysteries & Paranormal /

SHANE CASHMAN: The Long Island Monster — Part 2


In the land of gods and monsters / I was an angel / Living in the Garden of Evil / Screwed up, scared, doing anything that I needed / Shining like a fiery beacon

—Lana Del Rey

Part 2: The House of All Boogeymen

I told myself I wouldn’t become a desktop detective. I just wanted to know who these people were attaching themselves to a cold case, but there I was walking along the shoulder of Ocean Parkway, this desolate barrier island on the south shore of Long Island, following a map I found on YouTube, tracing the steps of a supposed serial killer. 

The map showed where the killer is believed to have carried their victims’ bodies from the car and dumped them only a few feet beyond the side of the road, one after another, across the sand and wrapped in burlap, near an area some local surfers like to call the Surf Capitol of the East. Even as autumn becomes winter and the sharp wind whips in from the water, there are surfers riding waves back to shore. 

For at least twenty years, no one knew there was a killer leaving bodies on the south shore until Shannan Gilbert went missing on the night of May 1, 2010. Shannan, a 24-year-old escort, advertised her services on Craigslist. She was last seen at her client Joseph Brewer’s house in Oak Beach, a small residential community right off Ocean Parkway. 

Something inside Brewer’s house freaked Shannan out. She called 911. Although police have not released her 911 tape, her mother, Mari Gilbert, had heard portions. She said her daughter was screaming, “They’re trying to kill me.” The they could refer to Joseph Brewer or her driver Michael Pak, but the Suffolk County Police Department has cleared both men in any wrongdoing. The police say she sounded psychotic — what they believe could be the result of a drug-induced episode. She ran from the house, away from Brewer and Pak, banged on neighbors’ doors, and then vanished. 

After months of nothing, the search parties slowed. Shannan’s family called out the police for not trying hard enough because she was just a hooker. Her family believed if she was any other young woman, the police would’ve tried much harder. 

Half a year later, on December 11, 2010, officer John Mallia and his cadaver dog, Blue, were training on Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach, just minutes from where Shannan was last seen, when Blue found the skeletal remains of a woman. What they thought were the remains of Shannan turned out to be that of Melissa Barthelemy, another escort who advertised on Craigslist, who had gone missing a year earlier. Officer Mallia and Blue would return to Gilgo Beach to find the bodies of three more young women placed only hundreds of feet apart. Each of the women were reportedly strangled and decomposed at another location, something some serial killers are known to do when they engage in necrophilia. Like Melissa, they were each found wrapped in burlap. 

But none of the remains belonged to Shannan. They were Amber Lynn Costello, 27, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, and Megan Waterman, 22. 

With a party of cadaver dogs, divers and helicopters, the Suffolk County Police would find at least six more bodies or body parts scattered along Ocean Parkway. Some of the remains discovered at Gilgo Beach would match the body parts found twenty years earlier on other parts of Long Island. There was a pair of hands and a skull at the beach that matched a mutilated torso in Manorville. There was a skull that matched a pair of legs that washed ashore on Fire Island in 1996. There was an Asian male, still unidentified, found in woman’s clothes. There was the corpse of a toddler wrapped in a blanket whose DNA matched that of another corpse, the mother, found a mile from each another. 

There are more unidentified victims than there are identified. After the latest discoveries, the Suffolk County PD struggled internally with this being the work of one killer or multiple killers. A single killer theory was easy to back when all the victims seemed like a similar type — petite escorts.  

They found Shannan a year later, in the nearby wetlands, further back from the road and badly decomposed. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning — overexposure to the elements. Still convinced she was in a drug-induced episode, police believe she ran through the swamps disoriented, collapsed, and drowned. The Suffolk County PD does not include her as one of the victims of the serial killer — something that her family and many who follow the case still struggle with. On one hand, they hope she wasn’t strangled to death. But how could it be a coincidence that a fifth woman, also a sex worker who advertised online, would wind up dead in the same area off Ocean Parkway that in the year since her disappearance had turned into a secret graveyard? 

When asked if the police were taking the case seriously enough because most of the victims were escorts, former Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer, who worked the case until he retired, made a point of saying he hung the photos of the young women in his office.

“They look like your neighbors,” he said. “Nobody deserves to have their life snuffed out. Police departments everywhere take murder very seriously. Doesn’t matter the occupation of the victim — if you were murdered we’re obligated to represent that person.” Then he gives his most honest answer, “What police officer, or detective, or police commissioner would not like to bring in a serial killer during their career?” 

Lorraine Ela, mother of Megan Waterman, told me she’s convinced the cops have put her daughter’s case on the back burner.

“This is too big a case for Suffolk County to handle,” she said.

She rarely hears from police anymore. Eventually, Lorraine and many of the other family members turned to websites dedicated to the case to find support. 

The first place I found well-researched user-gathered information regarding the case was the YouTube channel Gray Hughes Investigates. Gray made the video-map that I used to navigate Ocean Parkway. 

When Gray reads about a crime scene he logs into Google Earth and drops a pin. He replicates crime scenes with programs like 3D Studio Max and posts them to Youtube. He lets you know at the beginning of his videos that he’s not a medical examiner or a blood splatter expert. 

His interest started with the Jodi Arias case, when he got into a war on Facebook over his theory that Arias shot her boyfriend first, then stabbed him thirty times and then slit his throat. So he made a video to prove his point using actual crime scene photos that were made public. The video simulates Jodi standing over her boyfriend in the shower and shooting the gun — the bullet enters the victim’s right brow, moves left through the lobe, then downward, where it lodged into the left cheek. You see the bullet move through the skull from all angles — the victim’s face removed to see the exact trajectory of the bullet. 

Gray studied the incident report, the autopsy report, and photos of the corpse to get it right. He’s since replicated other crime scenes at the request of prosecutors and private investigators. He once simulated a scene where a woman’s leg was caught in an elevator as it went up seven flights shattering her bones. Now he live-streams three-hour-episodes on YouTube where he replays short video clips of things like the Delphi murder suspect –– a short, grainy Bigfoot-esque video of an unknown man walking. Hughes and his thousands of viewers deconstruct the footage, combing every detail for a clue. 

Gray’s not so much trying to solve the Long Island case, but perhaps his video will help people visualize the scene. For all he knows, it could trigger a memory in someone who knows the area, or visits the beaches, someone who might’ve seen anything suspicious. 

“I feel like it really gives the viewer a better feel of the area,” he said. 

It does. His Google Earth video’s point-of-view is that of someone standing on the shoulder — the same view the killer would’ve had when they pulled over with a body in the car. The video pans slowly left to right, scanning the landscape. The shadow of the Google Street View car with its camera fixed to the roof reaches out past the road giving his video the same extraterrestrial sensation as the videos sent back to Earth from the Mars Curiosity Rover. 

In the cold, when the beaches are deserted and the lifeguard chairs all huddled together in the parking lots, Ocean Parkway is so isolated that it’s not implausible for a killer to dispose of a body, or multiple bodies, even in the broad daylight. 

Paranoia is a form of currency that people seem to trade in the online amateur detective community. Fear has both fostered and destroyed relationships in this particular corner of the internet that wants to put a face to an invisible monster. These forums have bred a culture of distrust and misinformation. Clues and red herrings. Trolls and do-gooders. Victims’ families and complete strangers. 

It’s hard to get anyone’s real name here when you start to interact in these spaces. 

Zero was suspicious of me from the start.

“I’m a little curious about you,” he told me. “Your questions are so specific. I’m wondering if there is more to why you are looking into all this.”

I tell him he can Google me — possibly one of the worst modern sentences. Or I told him he could check my Facebook. I swore to him that I’m a real person, but even when I prepared links to my profiles for him to inspect, it dawned on me that I could’ve created all these aliases long ago to deceive anyone. I’ve seen rather elaborate dummy accounts myself. I sent him links to my digital footprint and hoped for the best. It was clear that Zero had gone deep down the Long Island rabbit hole, and seemed like a good source of information. I’d seen him pick fights with random users and also be patient and forthcoming with others. 

He told me he’s this cryptic with anyone who reaches out to him with questions. 

“I let them know that if they are playing games, that it’s best to just be up front with me,” he said, “And if you are a troll … I don’t care. I’ll talk to ya anyway. But your Facebook seems real…” 

To Zero, the odds of me being a troll were pretty great. Ever since he started blogging about the Long Island Serial Killer AKA LISK, he’d become a target of internet trolls. His WordPress blog, liskdotcom, is as much a museum of evidence scavenged from across the internet as it is an asylum for the paranoid. 

Liskdotcom is not the easiest site to navigate. Zero says it mimics the way the conspiracies have splintered across the web. From police cover-ups to demon worshippers to death orgies on the south shore. It’s all there, in an almost stream-of-conscious narrative. His emails to me are the same. Giant, unindented blocks of information. It’s a delirious amount of information — truth and conspiracy theory — all condensed into madness. But once you start to get a handle on all of the moving parts, and you attempt to tell people the intracies of this case, you find yourself sounding just as mad. 

Zero’s collection of everything LISK ranges from hundreds of emails between him and persons of interest, possible witnesses, other desktop detectives, the families of the victims, to screenshots of almost everywhere on the Internet that mentions LISK. 

His blog was born from the ashes of another website: LongIslandSerialKiller.com, a now defunct site that went live in the days after the first bodies were found at Gilgo Beach. The website became popular amongst people worried about the case. Its chat room, however, became a snakepit. There was no moderation. People started accusing other people of being the killer. Everyone I’ve spoken to about LongIslandSerialKiller.com believes the serial killer not only observed the forum, but might’ve actively posted. Of course, no one knew for sure. The fear grew as certain commenters banded together and started to think the killer was actually stalking them — even if they lived in different states across the country. 

The creator of LongIslandSerialKiller.com was overwhelmed and eventually had to shut the site down. New blogs popped up to replace it. Like the blog, Catching LISK, created by MysteryMom7, where her saga of paranoia was on full display. At some point she thought the killer had sent a drone to spy on her. She claims it crash-landed in her backyard. 

Before LongIslandSerialKiller.com shut down for good, Zero took screen shots of entire sections of the website. He thought the information shouldn’t go to waste. Even with all the name-calling that became a staple of the site, there seemed to be some solid theories discussed by people who genuinely wanted to help solve the case. 

Two camps would go on to frequent Zero’s liskdotcom. There were those concerned with solving the case — people like Linda, who after a bad accident spent a year holed-up in a cast, surfing the Internet for the first time in her adult life. She became engrossed with the complexities of the case. Then there are those who visit the blog who come wielding conspiracies. Zero and Linda have made it their goal to keep the latter group from spreading misinformation to the victims’ families — something that started early on at LongIslandSerialKiller.com. 

Zero has spoken with Mari Gilbert, Shannan’s mother, and offered her his time to make sure certain people aren’t “in her ear,” as he put it. He’s the keeper of the trolls — trying to vet and debunk them before their theories give anyone hope in what’s become a hopeless case. 

Understandably, Mari pursued any shred of hope. She began to cast a wide net. She contacted people like Jerrie Dean, founder of Missing Persons of America. Dean has compiled an almost Bible-sized list of missing people in America. Some entries date so far back the victims were last seen on stagecoaches. Dean told me the same thing she told Mari. She thought something set Shannan off in the house, which led to a dissociative break. That’s her guess, anyway. She thought Shannan’s death was accidental. However, she also believed Suffolk County Chief of Police James Burke was, in her words, lazy.

“He brought in a drug sniffing dog to search for cadavers just for show for the media,” she said. “He didn’t care about [those young women.]” 

(Put a pin in Burke’s name for now — he will return.)

Zero has picked through five years’ worth of comments on multiple websites trying to make sense of the case. “Comments,” he said, “are the most important things to read.” 

According to comments across the internet, the Long Island Serial Killer is a clean-cut scumbag, first-class shoe freak with a nice car, family, and kids. He is local, religious, bi-sexual, and well spoken. A doctor and a periodic drunk. He is a bald narcissist. A carpenter. Corporate and charming. A utilitarian monster. A sociopathic fisherman with a truck. A cop who keeps corpses for sex. A transient, blue collar, fifty-year-old white male. A psychosexual, sadomasochist who summers on the south shore. 

The internet also says it could be multiple killers working in tandem. It could be MS-13. It could be Biker Gangs — Colleen McNamee, a victim of John Bittrolff’s, was working for the Pagans — a rival gang of the Hells Angels. Some think these young women are the victims of satanic sacrifices, and yet some think they could’ve fallen victim to a snuff club that meets in secret in the shadows throughout Long Island to taunt, kidnap, maime and discard of young women.  

The Internet has various specific persons of interest. There’s Joseph Brewer, the john who solicited Shannan Gilbert. There’s Michael Pak, Shannan’s driver the night she disappeared. There’s someone known as “the drifter,” who claims to have partied with Brewer and even self-published a “fictionalized auto-biography” about the supposed drug and sex parties at Brewer’s house. 

A possible police cover-up is a theory rooted deep in the blogs. This theory started with the fact that the killer used Melissa Barthelemy’s cell phone to call and taunt her little sister. Her sister received phone calls from a calm-sounding man telling her that her sister was a whore and that he was watching her rot. He called several times. Police tried to trace the number. People believe he is somehow connected with law enforcement because he’d hang up in less than three minutes each time, just before the calls could be traced. When police were able to ping the general location of the phone, it turned out the killer had made the calls from crowded places like Times Square or Madison Square Garden. Former Commissioner Dormer dismisses this theory. He says anyone who’s seen any cop show knows that protocol. 

Another reason people subscribe to the police cover-up theory is that the former Suffolk County Chief of Police, James Burke, had been nothing short of a menace to the entire investigation. Not only does he have his own dark past that people seem to project onto the unsolved murders, but we also know now that Burke actively pushed the FBI out of this case. 

Shortly after coming up short in the Gilgo case, Burke was arrested for beating up a young man who stole ammo, viagra, pornography, and sex toys from Burke’s SUV. Burke’s past doesn’t help the theorists that want to pin him for mishandling the case — or for even being the killer. When Burke was a sergeant, he was caught having sex with a known drug dealer and prostitute. Even still, he rose to become Chief. 

What also makes the families and Internet suspicious is the fact that when Burke was a boy he testified in court against his friends, whom he watched beat a boy to death in the woods and stuff rocks down the boy’s mouth. 

It happened in Smithtown, New York on April 20, 1979. John Pius, a thirteen-year-old, went missing. A search party was formed after the boy never came home. The next day, his body was found in the woods behind Dogwood Elemebtary. Investigators would later learn that Pius was beaten, dragged, and had rocks and dirt shoved down his throat.

That Burke stood there, supposedly doing nothing to stop the violence, seems like an indicator that the boy inherited a penchant for violence at an early age.  

Once Burke was charged with beating up the young man who broke into his SUV, he resigned, served 46 months in federal prison, and is currently doing three years of probation. As of August 2021, Thomas Spota, the 79-year-old New York prosecutor who helped cover up the way Burke beat up the man who broke into his SUV, would also be sentenced to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine. 

U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack said this at Spota’s sentencing, “This was not a momentary moral lapse, but years of criminal cover-up.” Spota was known to be a kind of mentor to Burke. 

People are not done with Burke. State Senator Phil Boyle held a press conference on Gilgo Beach in June 2021. He demanded to have Burke investigated for the murders, too; saying if he’s innocent of them, then he should be cleared. 

Mari Gilbert’s attorney, John Ray, who has made a habit of holding press conferences to keep attention on the case, introduced a woman by the name of “Leanne” to local reporters. Leanne claims to have been paid by Burke for sex at a party in Oak Beach. 

“[Burke] was my very first encounter with pay-for-sex,” she claimed. “He started to do things like rub his hand up my leg. I’m a woman, I know when a man wants sex. I kinda took the cue and he guided me to the bathroom where we started to engage in sexual behavior. He was frustrated because he could not consummate the act, and he began to get really aggressive. And he used the term that I was ‘not a good whore.’”

She also mentioned that she witnessed Burke grab a woman by the hair and drag her down. 

Only because John Ray seems like the kind of attorney who enjoys putting on a performance for the camera, it’s hard to trust the entire story. It seems almost too perfect for their case against Burke. Not unlike the horde of comments on the blogs, it can be hard to distinguish the real from the sensational.  

“Jimmy Burke has now moved into the circle of suspect in direct relation to the deaths of those victims… and for Shannan Gilbert,” John Ray said at the press conference. “When you take that and also combine that with his relationship that we now know exists with Dr. Peter Hackett, it certainly puts him right at the center of the pool of suspects for the death of Shannan Gilbert.”

A reporter asked John Ray, “are you outright accusing Jimmy Burke of possibly being the Gilgo Beach Serial Killer?” 

“Yes,” he said. 

“But you’ve previously maintained that it was Peter Hackett,” the reporter followed up. 

“I say it can be more than one,” Ray said. “He can be the prime suspect with an accomplice or it can be vice versa. Or there could be others as well.” 

I am not convinced that Burke is a serial killer. I think he might be another one of those people in power who get off on maintaining a life above the law. I think it’s possible he mishandled the LISK case and pushed the FBI away because he had been with the sex workers before. We know he has a history of hiring sex workers while on the force. I think he’s a corrupt and depraved individual, but he seems too obvious a character to suspect. If we do ever find out who the killer is, I believe that person will have had a freakishly clean record. Someone who has figured out how to operate undetected. 

When people online talk about a snuff club or these drug-induced orgy parties on or around Oak Beach, it might be reasonable to think that someone like Burke could’ve played a part in those parties, or at least knew to look the other way if he had friends and colleagues involved in those parties. 

Another theory that seemed to take hold the most early on in the Long Island blogs was that of Dr. Charles Peter Hackett being the serial killer. He was a resident of Oak Beach; a middle aged, overweight man with a prosthetic leg. The loudest groups of commenters have worked hard to prove that Hackett is at least responsible for the death of Shannan Gilbert. 

Hackett became the Internet’s #1 person of interest because Mari Gilbert said he called her after Shannan went missing. She said that he told her he ran a “home for wayward girls.” Though he had supposedly given Shannan shelter, he denied that he ever called Mari or hosted Shannan. But when phone records were released, it was confirmed that Hackett did, in fact, call Mari. 

Gilbert had since filed a wrongful death suit against Hackett. When I reached out to Mari in an effort to learn more about the lawsuit, she only forwarded me her attorney’s contact information. Her attorney’s office has failed to respond to any of my requests. 

Zero believes the lawsuit is the result of the slander that started on LongIslandSerialKiller.com. 

“They made him pay for sticking his nose in,” he said. 

With the help of MysteryMom7, Mari created her own website, OfficialShannanGilbert.wordpress.com. The homepage used to feature a quiz, asking: Who Killed Shannan? 

Suspects listed were Michael Pak, The Drifter, Joseph Brewer, Dr. Hackett and an unknown. 45.52% of visitors believe it’s Hackett. 

To me, Hackett also seems highly unlikely. I see him as a nosy and sad man that can’t help but make himself feel important by latching onto the deaths of these women. 

Zero also disagreed with the Hackett theory, but he didn’t blame Mari for grabbing at any theory that seems rooted in even a little truth.  

I asked Zero what made him start looking into this case. 

He told me about another unsolved serial killer case in Atlantic City — referred to as the Atlantic City 4 or AC4. Four escorts were found dead behind The Golden Key Motel in 2006. The Atlantic City victims would later be connected to the Gilgo Beach murders by way of mysterious Facebook pages. Someone — authorities still don’t know who — made fake profiles of the AC4. Each fake profile had “friended” one another. The fake profiles started commenting on memorial pages of other murder victims. Authorities later realized that one of the victims from Gilgo Beach also had a fake Facebook profile and was “friends” with the bogus AC4 profiles. 

Paranoia isn’t the only thing driving so many of these online detectives. For some, like Zero, there is a past trauma that guides their curiosities. When Zero was sixteen, living in California, his best friend’s mom was killed by William Lester Suff, a serial killer, known as the Riverside Prostitute Killer. Suff raped, killed, and mutilated anywhere between a dozen and twenty women between 1974 and 1992. He was a county stock clerk and it’s said he would deliver supplies and furniture to the authorities investigating his victims’ murders. When the cops finally caught him, Zero said his friend immediately recognized Suff — a quiet, friendly neighborhood man who wrote poetry and often carpooled. 

Zero loves his day job but is reluctant to talk about it on his blog. He doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea about him. He works at the now defunct Fright Dome, a once popular haunted house in Las Vegas. His character has long, craggily hair, wears white face paint with fake blood smeared over the mouth, and the Manson family X on his forehead. I understand why some people might see him blog about serial murder and think he’s into this case because of the gore factor, like it’s a thrill for him — and maybe there is some truth to it – but from what I’ve gathered, he wants justice for the Gilgo Beach women. He knows first-hand the trauma that comes in the aftermath of a serial killer. 

I think he’s some sort of cyber-masochist because he entertains every speck of information that comes through his website. He’s been accused of devil-worship and had his name posted all over various websites and Facebook memorial pages claiming that even he is the killer. This mostly stems from someone I’ll call $, who believes the Long Island serial killer is her ex-husband. 

She also claims to be working with the FBI. Zero didn’t think she could be real at first — just another troll. But he Googled her name and found the bank she worked at. She used her real name. He called the bank to see if she was who she says she was. He even got her on the phone once. What really pissed him off was how normal she sounded. He said that she thought she’s sincerely helping the case. 

Zero says $ and MysteryMom7 eventually joined forces: “I contacted Long Island Homicide once, because they insisted I was endangering them,” he said. $’s theories connect everyone from Chief Burke to Zero to Hackett … to the actor Michael Fassbender.  

She has commented extensively on Zero’s blog and the Facebook memorial pages. She wrote about a group known as the Carney Construction Corp. She alleges that this group of men from Long Island kills women for sport. She believes her ex-husband and Dr. Hackett are members of Carney Construction Corp (or CCC). It sounded like more of her devil-worshipping theories until people claiming to be part of CCC began leaving vague threats on Zero’s and MysteryMom7’s blogs. 

Zero looked at the IP addresses. He said they could actually be from people in Long Island. Not the usual IP addresses of $ or MysteryMom7. He showed me some of the comments the supposed Carney Construction Corp guys left on his blog and the Catching LISK blog:

Teps: Disregard everything said about the CCC. All falsification and wishful thinking. Go about your regular business and leave the CCC out of this.

Lightweight: CCC got no beef with you. Why you dragging CCC through the mud?

452inLondon: Carney Construction Crew after you? Do not take any chances. Shut down this website & the Facebook & Twitter. Take it to the pavement where it is more private.

The comments read like exaggerated versions of cartoon villains. They could be anybody — they could all be one person swapping usernames and hopping from IP address to IP address. Or, maybe, there is such a thing as the CCC, a group of no-good losers who find pleasure in harming women. 

Or — I can’t help but think this is all just Zero screwing with me. It’s not unreasonable to think he’d only projected his suspicions onto me because he, himself, is the most suspicious. I don’t think that’s the case. After speaking with Zero for months online, I tend to believe he has a good heart, with a bent toward the neurotic. 

When Zero shared the threats from the CCC, it reminded me of the old New York Times cartoon of a dog sitting at a computer. The dog says to another dog: On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. 

Zero thinks there might be something to the CCC. He says the site Websleuths might know more about their authenticity. He also said Websleuths might’ve had a hand in shutting down the original LongIslandSerialKiller.com. Supposedly, MysteryMom7 stole some of their work and posted it on her blog as her own. When that happened they started messing with her — and possibly may have been the ones who pretended to be the killer “stalking her.” 

When I attempted to leave Zero’s orbit, another possible troll had got a hold of him. This one said he saw someone dumping bodies off Ocean Parkway in June 2010. 

“It was 2 am and pitch dark,” the person told Zero. “A 1970’s club wagon with safety flares on a desolate roadway.” 

He supposedly saw a person vanish off the side of the road. He claimed to have called the tips hotline. And that he even met Chief Burke on Ocean Parkway to show him what he saw and exactly where he saw it. He thought Burke didn’t take him seriously because he dressed like a metal head. 

Burke was still in jail when Zero was talking to this new so-called witness, and he’s certain that if this person was telling the truth that this information was never passed along. The person told Zero he wants to call the FBI, but only felt safe leaving comments on Zero’s blog. It seemed like the only place someone would take him seriously. 

“It’s my fault for engaging these people,” Zero said.

He’s flippant about it, but I also know he will search down every aspect of this new person’s story to the best of his ability. He’s jumped down so many rabbit holes in this case that I’m not sure he even takes time to come up for air. 

I asked him if he ever thinks that he’s just talking to the same person the whole time. 

“My wife told me that at the very beginning,” he said. “That’s probably why I hit it so hard at first, to see if these people were real.” 

Zero was the first person who sent me in the direction of Websleuths — the online forum that has been trying to solve everything from the Jon Benet Ramsey murder to the Long Island Serial Killer. It is when I descend into the rabbit hole of Websleuths that I encounter my own monsters. Where I stumble onto a depraved website that helped men on Long Island rate, purchase, and gossip about sex workers — where some even discuss how they like to beat the women they hire.  

I told myself I was immune from the paranoia. Instead, I become the one frantically calling the FBI hotline. 

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