Authorities have linked an unidentified woman’s torso found 19 years ago in Rockville Centre with skeletal remains discovered on Ocean Parkway amid the Long Island Serial Killer investigation, the Press has learned.
Nassau County and New York State investigators reported that DNA evidence confirmed partial skeletal remains found in the brush near Zach’s Bay at Jones Beach State Park in 2011 belong to an unidentified woman whose torso was found in Hempstead Lake State Park in 1997. Investigators have said the Jones Beach remains, which authorities had dubbed Jane Doe No. 3, was determined via DNA evidence to be the mother of Baby Doe, a toddler whose skeletal remains were found east of Cedar Beach on April 4, 2011.
“They call her ‘Peaches,’ Eric Smith, a forensic medical investigator in the Nassau County Medical Examiner’s office, previously told the Press, referring to the torso that had a bitten heart-shaped tattoo of a peach with green leaves on top and droplets below it on her left breast. When asked Tuesday how the connection helps the case, Smith said: “Each additional piece of information helps in getting an identification.”
The revelation—which comes on the week of the sixth anniversary of police discovering the first of 10 sets of remains in the Long Island Serial Killer (LISK) case—means that Peaches is Baby Doe’s mother, although both remain unidentified. It’s also the biggest revelation in the case in years—indicating that the mother and child were either slain by the still-at-large serial killer responsible for the Gilgo Beach murders or died at the hands of another assailant that used the same dumping grounds as LISK.
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A hiker found Peaches’ remains stuffed in a black plastic bag inside a green Rubbermaid container in a wooded area of the park off Park Drive in Rockville Centre on June 28, 1997. A maroon towel and a dark-colored apparent pillow case adorned with flowers were found with the torso. Investigators said that Peaches was black, between 20 and 30 years old and had a surgical scar indicating that she had a Cesarean section, but her head and some of her limbs have yet to be recovered.
“Somewhere out there she has a child, and at this point, that child is at least 13 years old,” then-Nassau Homicide Squad Lt. William Brosnan, who has since retired, told the Press in 2010, a year before Peaches’ child was found dead on Ocean Parkway. A police spokesman declined to comment on the news, citing the ongoing investigation.
Since Peaches’ skull has yet to be found, investigators have not been able to put together a composite sketch of what she looked like. But her case had aired on America’s Most Wanted and her tattoo was published in a tattoo magazine, which prompted a tip from a Connecticut tattoo artist, the ex-detective had said. The artist recalled that Peaches was visiting from LI with her aunt and cousin and mentioned having boyfriend trouble, Brosnan had said.
Both the extremities discovered at Jones Beach and Baby Doe were found with similar gold jewelry. The skeletal remains of Baby Doe—estimated to be between 1 and 4 years old—were found wrapped in a blanket with a 16-inch gold-colored chain and two gold-colored hoop earrings. The Jones Beach extremities had two gold bracelets.
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Suffolk police and prosecutors said in 2011 that they were unsure of Baby Doe’s cause of death. This week, police told the Press that her death has been ruled a homicide. Suffolk authorities had also said that they believed the child was a girl, but records show county medical examiners listed Baby Doe’s gender as “unsure.”
Investigators revealed the link between Peaches and Baby Doe in a recently updated case file listed in NamUs, a federal database used to help identify Jane and John Does nationwide. The case file was updated following inquiries from Josh Zeman and Rachel Mills, filmmakers who produced The Killing Season, a docu-series about LISK and similar cases nationwide that recently aired on A&E. The duo, who produced a bonus video about Peaches in which they interviewed her tattoo artist, said they hope the new info will help both investigators and the Websleuths community crack the case.
“I think in so many ways this changes the case quite considerably,” said Zeman, who provided emails showing that he asked the Nassau medical examiners office to update NamUs with more information on Jane Doe No. 3 days before the case file was clarified. “While it provides some clarity, it also deepens the mystery of the Long Island Serial Killer case.”
Mills noted that Peaches is the only victim found on Ocean Parkway who’s identified in NamUs as African American. She also noted that while Peaches’ torso and extremities were found 15 miles apart, the mother and child were discovered nearly 10 miles apart on Ocean Parkway and the tot was dumped about 150 feet from another unidentified victim dubbed Jane Doe No. 6.
Mills and Zeman additionally share the Press‘ observation that the conditions of Peaches’ remains and the method in which she was dumped most closely resemble the plight of Jane Doe No. 6 and Jessica Taylor, a 20-year-old sex worker. Taylor’s decapitated and handless torso was discovered in Manorville in ’03, three years after Jane Doe No. 6 was found in similar condition a quarter mile away. Both of their skulls and limbs were found on Ocean Parkway in ’11 during a massive search sparked by the May 2010 disappearance of Shannan Gilbert, another sex worker who was found dead in Oak Beach.
Authorities have said that two or more killers have used Ocean Parkway as a dumping ground. One killer is believed to be responsible for four female sex workers found dead in Gilgo Beach in December 2010 and another is suspected of killing Taylor and Jane Doe No. 6, according to Suffolk prosecutors. Whether another killer or killers are responsible for the other four victims—including Peaches and Baby Doe—remains to be seen.
The remaining two sets of remains found on Ocean Parkway in ’11 include an Asian man wearing women’s clothing dubbed John Doe No. 8—the only man among the group—and the skull of Fire Island Jane Doe, whose severed legs were found in Blue Point Beach, just west of Davis Park, in ’96. Police have said they suspect Gilbert drowned, although her family believes she was murdered.
No arrests have been made and police have not named a suspect in any of the cases.