BABYLON, N.Y. — The mother of a missing Maine woman last seen working as an escort in New York submitted a DNA sample Wednesday to authorities trying to determine the identities of four women whose bodies were found dumped on a deserted beach highway on Long Island.
Meanwhile, the FBI offered its assistance with the investigation by Suffolk County authorities, who suspect they may be dealing with a serial killer.
Authorities obtained the DNA sample from Lorraine Ela and will ship it to New York in an effort to determine whether one of the bodies found is that of the woman's daughter, said Robert Moulton, chief of the Scarborough, Maine, Police Department.
Megan Waterman, who advertised her escort services on the online classifieds site Craigslist, was last seen in June at a Hauppauge, N.Y., hotel where she went with her boyfriend. The hotel is about 15 miles from where the bodies were found this week.
"There's definitely a possibility, but we're on hold at this point," Moulton said of the suspicion that one of the victims is Waterman.
Investigators are looking into the disappearance of both Waterman and a 24-year-old Jersey City, N.J., woman who was last seen on May 1. Shannon Gilbert was working as a prostitute, authorities said, when she disappeared not far from where the bodies were found.
Suffolk County police discovered the first body on Saturday and the other three on Monday while following up on a missing-persons report for Gilbert. A Long Island resident recalled seeing the woman believed to be Gilbert briefly at his door around 4:45 a.m. May 1.
"I heard screaming at my front door," said Gustav Coletti, who lives in Ocean Beach, about three miles from where the bodies were found.
"She was saying, `I need help, I need help, they're after me,'" Coletti told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. He told the woman he was calling the police, but she immediately turned around and fled, he said.
A few moments later, a man in a sport-utility vehicle drove past the house and told Coletti he was looking for the woman. Coletti said the driver told him they had been at a party and the woman had become upset.
"He took off after and I waited for the police," he said. That was the last he saw of either the driver or woman, said Coletti, who could not offer details on the SUV or the man.
Juan Cosme, who lived across the hall from Gilbert and her boyfriend in Jersey City, said he often heard the couple fighting loudly through a shared wall.
"They were always arguing, like curdling screams sometimes," Cosme said. "I called the police a few times when they went at it at three in the morning and there was like a loud banging on the walls; I don't know if the police ever came."
Cosme said that when he saw Gilbert alone she rarely made eye contact and would only occasionally mumble "hello."
The four bodies were systematically dumped, perhaps over a period of 18 months or longer, along a desolate, windy stretch of highway east of Jones Beach State Park on Long Island's south shore, police said. Because the bodies were each just off the highway and within a quarter-mile of each other, police suspect the deaths are connected.
"We're looking at that – that we could have a serial killer," Dormer told reporters Tuesday. "I don't think it's a coincidence that four bodies ended up in this area."
Family members became worried about Waterman after not hearing from her during a trip to New York in early June, her mother told the AP. Waterman always called three times a day to speak to her 4-year-old daughter, Liliana, but the last call came on the night of June 5, she said.
When police searched the hotel room they found Waterman's clothing, makeup, cell phone and other belongings, Ela said.
Liliana is now staying with Ela's mother in the Portland area.
Police did not search along the Long Island highway, about 45 miles east of Manhattan, on Wednesday, but a spokeswoman said it was likely investigators would return there in the coming days.
Detectives believe the four were killed elsewhere and then taken to the site, a narrow strip of land that divides the Great South Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. The four-lane parkway runs through the middle, connecting Jones Beach State Park with several state- and town-run beaches to its east.