Suffolk police released video Tuesday that shows Gilgo Beach homicide victim Megan Waterman in a Hauppauge hotel just before she disappeared almost 12 years ago.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison said the department released the video to enlist the public’s help in solving the killings of Waterman and 10 other people whose remains were discovered in the Gilgo Beach area beginning in December 2010. Waterman and most of the other victims, according to authorities, had been sex workers.
“We believe she left the hotel that night (June 6) to meet her killer,” Harrison said Tuesday during a news conference in Oak Beach.
The video, taken in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express in Hauppauge between June 4, 2010, and June 6, 2010, shows Waterman arriving and leaving the hotel. Waterman’s remains were found six months later.
“The public help in identifying potential suspects or additional leads is critical,” Harrison said.
Newsday reported two weeks ago that Harrison said he would release video evidence from the Gilgo probe if it did not hinder the homicide investigation. Harrison said the department is also considering the release of 911 calls made by Shannan Gilbert, a sex worker whose disappearance more than 11 years ago sparked the search along the Ocean Parkway that resulted in the discovery of human remains authorities suspect are victims of a serial killer.
John Ray of Miller Place, the Gilbert family attorney, has called on Suffolk law-enforcement officials to release the 911 audio for years. He said the decision to release the video was a positive development but didn’t go far enough. Releasing evidence, Ray said, will push the killer or killers into missteps that could lead to their apprehension.
“This is the first step, but it is a very small baby step, toward what should be done, which is to bring the public into this case,” Ray said Tuesday.
Ray said he is barred from discussing what is on the 911 recording but said the public will be “shocked at what they hear.”
Lorraine Ela, Waterman’s mother, did not return calls for comment. Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer, the commanding officer of the Suffolk homicide squad, said police told Waterman’s family that they would release the video.
“We spoke to the family,” Beyrer said. “We explained to them what is on the video and explained to them why we are releasing these photos and video. They were very receptive and in the very near future we plan on seeing them in person and explaining it further.”
Harrison also announced that Suffolk County Crime Stoppers doubled the reward for information may lead to the arrest and conviction in the Gilgo Beach investigation, from $25,000 to $50,000. The department has also revamped its Gilgonews.com website, he said.
“This represents the highest Crime Stoppers reward in Suffolk County history,” Harrison said. “We make this announcement in hopes that additional video and photo evidence, which can be located on the updated Gilgonews.com website, with raising of the reward, will result in somebody, someone, coming forward with information to help us find the person or people responsible for these homicides.”
It was police attempts to locate a missing Gilbert in 2010 which led to the discovery between late 2010 and 2011 of numerous other remains of victims in what has become one of the country’s most infamous serial killer cases. Gilbert’s remains were finally discovered in December 2011 but her cause of death remains unclear.
In the early days of the investigation into the deaths of 10 Gilgo Beach victims, Suffolk Police were cautious and parsimonious about the information released. But in early 2020, then-Suffolk Police commissioner Geraldine Hart began to take a different approach.
Hart released a belt buckle bearing and insignia and set up a website about the case. Then, in May 2020, Hart revealed that genetic genealogy had confirmed the identity of one of the unidentified victims as being Valerie Mack, whose remains were discovered in 2000 and 2001 in two locations.
Three sets of remains, including that of a toddler, a woman believed to be the child’s mother, and an Asian man remain unidentified. Investigators have said that those remains contain DNA which is more degraded and proving to be a challenge to analyze with genetic technology.
After Harrison got the job as commissioner in late 2021, he announced that the Gilgo investigation was a priority. He recently set up a task force involving the FBI, Suffolk County sheriff and other law enforcement agencies to help with the probe.