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Solving Gilgo killings grows more complex

Originally published: May 10, 2011 10:53 AM Updated: May 10, 2011 12:26 PM

Solving the Gilgo Beach killings has gotten more complicated.

"This is not an episode of 'CSI' or 'Criminal Minds' that is going to be solved in a one-hour period," Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said Monday. "The investigation is multifaceted, multijurisdictional and most likely is going to take a very long period of time to complete."

Spota said because multiple killers are believed to have used the strip of brush and sand spanning two counties as a dumping ground for human remains, it's "a very complex criminal investigation."

Experts who have studied serial killers and investigated past cases agreed.

In fact, they said, multiple killers will force investigators to rethink the entire case and form new partnerships. And, just as key, they said, investigators need to hope that on Gilgo Beach or maybe somewhere else, they will catch a break.

"It's very common in these cases to have many investigations inside one investigation and because of your research you may come up with other crimes," said Mary Ellen O'Toole, a former FBI agent who consults in serial murder cases. "It's manpower-intensive and they are going to have to bring in more people to work on those cases."

The new developments in the investigation are not necessarily a bad thing, the experts said, because it shows that investigators and prosecutors are not locking themselves to one theory of the crime.

"I find it most likely what we have here are a bunch of unrelated homicides because this has always been about a desolate and remote area that nobody is checking," said Barbara Kirwin, a Huntington-based forensic psychologist who testified on behalf of convicted Long Island serial killer Joel Rifkin.

But the longer the case goes unsolved, the harder it is for detectives to connect all the dots and find one, or more, killers.

"Time does complicate things," said Vernon Geberth, an expert homicide investigator retired from the NYPD. "People's memories fade, relationships fade and in this case you now have to get back to gals murdered . . . and find out who knew them and what other clues were there that might have been missed."