In 2006, the discovery of four women’s bodies in a drainage ditch outside of Atlantic City was startling news. The seaside casino resort was inundated by international media. More than one hundred detectives and prosecutors were tasked with the investigation. However, as the years passed, the public’s attention and dread waned, and the Eastbound Strangler case, so named because the victims’ heads were facing east, remained unsolved.
The arrest of a man accused of killing three women whose bodies were discovered on a Long Island beach in 2010 has revived a long-dormant case with obvious parallels; the Gilgo Beach serial killings involve a total of 11 victims, the majority of whom were young, female sex workers. Yet the recent breakthrough and renewed public interest only serve to emphasize a painful reality: Many cases identical to the one in Atlantic City remain open.
The FBI would not disclose the number of unsolved sex worker murders in the United States. Nine women whose bodies were discovered along highways in Massachusetts, eleven women whose bodies were discovered in New Mexico, and eight more women whose bodies were discovered in crawfish farms and marshes in southern Louisiana are among the many unsolved cases reported by the media and local authorities. Additionally, the murders of sex workers in Chicago, New Haven, Connecticut, and Ohio remain a mystery.
Gary Ridgway, the notorious Green River killer convicted of 49 murders in Washington state, stated during his 2003 guilty plea hearing that he targeted sex workers because he knew they would not be noticed immediately, if at all. In November 2006, two women on an afternoon stroll near Atlantic City discovered a cadaver in a ditch. They contacted law enforcement, who swiftly located three others nearby.
The $15-per-night motel in Egg Harbor Township where four bodies were discovered is no longer standing. In an effort to clean up a seedy area notorious for crime, narcotics, and disturbances – as well as the murders of Barbara Breidor, 42, Molly Jean Dilts, 20, Kim Raffo, 35, and Tracy Ann Roberts, 23, it was demolished. Phoenix Calida, a former Chicago sex worker who now advocates for them through the Sex Workers Outreach Project, echoes this sentiment. “This is commonly referred to by police departments as a ‘NHI’ case: no human involvement,” she said. The Massachusetts State Police are investigating nine unsolved homicides that may have been committed by the same individual, according to a spokesperson for the agency.
According to him, two additional cases of missing persons may involve homicides related to the other nine. Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos stated that the New Mexico cases are still being actively investigated by multiple detectives. According to investigators, all eleven victims were involved in drug use and prostitution.
$100,000 Reward Offered in Decade-Long Unsolved Cases of Young Victims
For information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case involving two 15-year-old victims, a reward of $100,000 has been offered. Despite a decade of efforts by a local, state, and federal task force, at least eight apparent homicides of sex workers between the ages of 17 and 30 remain unresolved in Louisiana.
William Reynolds, the prosecutor for Atlantic County, stated that detectives have been assigned to the four cases stemming from the drainage trench outside of Atlantic City, but he would not specify how many. As we are not involved in the Long Island case, he declined to comment. Police in Las Vegas, where Heuermann owns a timeshare, have stated that they are investigating Heuermann’s possible involvement in slayings of sex workers.
In the months following the discovery of the bodies near Atlantic City, the local prosecutor’s office and a dozen other law enforcement agencies assigned 140 employees to the cases, former prosecutor Ted Housel said in 2008. By the first anniversary, the number of investigators had decreased to 85, and they were also working on other cases.
Calida, a former sex worker from Chicago, stated that women involved in the sex trade are frequently robbed by individuals who know they are carrying currency and are occasionally compelled to take part in sexual activity in order to avoid arrest.
Three of her companions who worked as prostitutes in Chicago were also found dead. “We would all go out and search for them, and a few days later a body would be discovered. And we question, “Will law enforcement take it seriously because it’s ‘just another sex worker?'”