Top prosecutor on Long Island serial killer case identifies ‘Fire Island Jane Doe’

Harris Marley
Harris Marley

Global Courant

A woman whose legs and feet were found on a New York shore in 1996 has been identified as 34-year-old Karen Vergata, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney announced Friday at a news conference.

The DA, who heads the task force investigating the Gilgo Beach murders, declined to comment on whether Vergata is connected to accused Long Island serial killer Rex Heuermann.

The architect was arrested July 13 for the murders of sex workers Amber Lynn Costello, 27, Melissa Barthelemy, 24, and Megan Waterman, 22, whose bodies were found days apart on a stretch of Gilgo Beach in 2010. He is also the prime suspect in the slaying of 25-year-old Maureen Brainard-Barnes.

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Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney announced Friday that the Gilgo Beach task force has identified remains found on Fire Island in 1996 as Karen Vergata. (Suffolk County DA/Google Maps)

The women, known collectively as the Gilgo Four, are among 11 bodies that were found in the region, including “Fire Island Jane Doe.”

Tierney said Vergata’s severed legs and feet were found April 20, 1996, on Bay Shore, and she was dubbed “Fire Island Jane Doe.” More than 15 years later, in 2011, her skull was found off Ocean Parkway.

Vergata, who lived in Manhattan, was last seen on Valentine’s Day 1996 but was not reported missing. She was believed to be working as an escort at the time, Tierney said.

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Rex Heuermann, the architect accused of murdering at least three women near Long Island’s Gilgo Beach, appears before Judge Timothy P. Mazzei in Suffolk County Court on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023, in Riverhead, New York. (James Carbone/Newsday via AP, Pool)

“In August of 2022, approximately six months after we formed this Gilgo task force, a DNA profile suitable for genealogical comparison was developed for Karen Vergata,” Tierney said at the news conference. “In September 2022, the FBI was able, via a genetic genealogy review, to identify Ms. Vergata presumptively as Fire Island Jane Doe.”


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The following month, investigators used a buccal swab from a relative to definitively identify her.

Rebecca Rosenberg is a veteran journalist and book author with a focus on crime and criminal justice. Email tips to [email protected] and @ReRosenberg.

Top prosecutor on Long Island serial killer case identifies ‘Fire Island Jane Doe’

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