Long Island Serial Killer: Did Police Corruption Investigation Derail?
In December 2010, law enforcement found four bodies along a brush covered highway on the south coast of Long Island. The following spring, six more sets of human remains were found in the same area. Six of the victims were identified as young women who were sex workers. Four, including a toddler and a male anatomy, remain unidentified. At the end of 2011, the authorities ad they were looking for a murderer responsible for all the deaths. A decade later, the mystery, known as Long Island Serial Killer case, remains unresolved.
A new podcast explains why. Hosted by Crime Podcast Veterans Billy Jensen (The murder squad) and Alexis Linkletter (The first degree), Untangled: Long Island Serial killer – and its accompanying television special premiered March 9 on Discovery + – examines how corruption in Suffolk County Police The department may have hampered the investigation of one of the biggest homicide cases in Long Island history and is questioning what the police were trying to hide.
The series centers on scandal-ridden former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke, who infamously banned the FBI from the case shortly after taking office in 2012. Linkletter and Jensen interview people who knew Burke, including former cops who worked with him. and a sex worker who says she had a disturbing encounter with him. (The hosts contacted Burke’s attorney and their request for an interview was denied. They also knocked on the door of Burke’s last known address, but were told he no longer lived there.)
In Episode 1, listeners hear Christopher Loeb, a childhood friend of Linkletter, who tells the full story of his meeting with Burke for the first time.. The same year Burke became police chief, Loeb, who was then using heroin, was arrested for stealing a gym bag from Burke’s car. The bag, Loeb said, contained sex toys and pornography, and what he claims appeared to be a snuff movie. (Rolling stone After the theft, Loeb was quickly apprehended and taken away. While Loeb was in custody and shackled to the floor of an interrogation room, Burke violently beat and threatened him. “When Chris first started calling me back in 2013, his story was pretty well known, even the broad outlines of his claims that he was beaten by the police chief,” Linkletter said. “But over time he became more and more credible because his case ultimately went to a federal judge and Burke pleaded guilty.” In 2016, Burke was sentenced to 46 months in prison for violating Loeb’s civil rights and for pressuring police witnesses to help him cover up the assault. Loeb received a three-year sentence for the theft of the gym bag.
The series also investigates Burke’s close ties to former District Attorney Thomas Spota, who was convicted in 2019 for helping cover up Loeb’s assault. Linkletter says Loeb was afraid to speak up earlier because he feared retaliation. “As soon as Burke fell and now that Spota, the prosecutor, awaits his conviction, many people have been much more emboldened to speak their truth about their experiences under this law enforcement regime,” says it. “I think he feels free to share details that he was too scared to say at first.”
The hosts hope the podcast will put pressure on Suffolk County law enforcement to move the ten-year-old case forward. They also want listeners to better understand the damage corrupt leadership can do in situations like this. “The project is really a study of power,” says Linkletter. “The political partnerships and alliances that form go beyond budgets, votes and elections. It is a tangible demonstration of what corruption can do. Lives are lost, cases go unresolved. The Suffolk County Police Department is a microcosm for what is happening on a larger scale. “
What does this affair mean to both of you as people who grew up on Long Island?
Linkletter: The Long Island serial killer case really hangs over Long Island. It is a tarnish that needs to be repaired. For me, the importance of this kind of overlaps because I mean, I went to high school with Chris Loeb, and I had no idea that there were corruption issues, especially police corruption. , when I grew up there. I really thought it was this idyllic and beautiful place. It is important to expose the corruption of the old police regimes and help explain why this case has not been resolved.
Jensen: Growing up on Long Island and starting my career on Long Island as a real criminal reporter, I was working on this case even before it was the Long Island serial killer case. I was working on the story of the woman whose torso was find at Hempstead Lake State Park, recreating his tattoo, trying to see if anyone could identify him.
Tell me more about this case from the standpoint of corruption within the Suffolk County Police Department. Why was this approach important now?
Linkletter: Actually, I didn’t start by digging into the Long Island serial killer case; I really left to tell Chris’ story. But as soon as I pulled that thread and realized who was responsible for beating Chris, it kind of got us there.
Jensen: As Alexis discovered more and more information, my jaw dropped. I had never seen anything like it before. You know, the police chief engages in nefarious activity and excludes the FBI – the most sophisticated crime resolution unit in the history of the world – from the investigation into the Long serial killer. Island. Why is he doing this? And the police are so discreet with so much information. They held back so much. Why were they holding him back at first? Why are they holding him back now? We felt that the families of the victims and the general public need to know why this case has not been resolved, and that is because the people who were initially in charge of the investigation put up a lot of roadblocks.
So what did you find when you started digging? And how did people in the police service react when you started asking questions?
Jensen: The people who would write to the record explained how, if you were on Burke’s wrong side or saw you as a threat, he would run into you. He ran the Suffolk County Police Department as if he was the Prince of Suffolk County. If you ever wanted to have a place where you could set up a small fiefdom, it would be in Suffolk County because it’s wealthy, it’s the 11th largest police department in the country, and Long Island is a dead end. You don’t cross Suffolk County to go anywhere else. So if you kick out the feds, it’s not like a feds is going to come and roam there unless they’re really called out there. I can’t help but think of the cases that weren’t resolved under him, besides the serial killer case, because he didn’t want anyone to interfere in his business.
Linkletter: We also spoke to several people who spoke about Burke’s sexual inclinations, and almost every time, with him, sex mixed with violence. We heard he broke the arm of a sex worker, we heard he strangled a stripper at a club. Every time we found out about sex, there was violence. Take that for what it is. But if you’ve got this man in charge of a police department, that’s just a recipe for utter chaos when it comes to law enforcement, because, as Billy said, his only reason for deporting. the federal government was to protect its wrongdoing. , and whether it is as extreme as murder or just brutalizing sex workers, it explains why the case has not been resolved.
Jensen: If the chief of police treats a lot of women like he does, how are we supposed to think he cares the least about solving this case? And he didn’t.
Do you do you think citizen detectives could play a bigger role in this case?
Jensen: I think with this case the citizen detectives will really only be as good as the information provided. So you know, having come out with nothing but a few jewelry, a belt – and they didn’t even take out the whole belt. You know, if they’d released that belt right after it happened or even six months after it happened, after it was discovered? [rather than in 2020], you would have had people trying to figure out who could have made belts like that at the time. The further you get away from it, the harder and harder it is. There are a lot of different things out there that Citizen Detectives could be crowdsourcing on. They just don’t have the information because the police haven’t released it.
How do you see this case resolved?
Jensen: From talking to them, I don’t think they’re close. I think this is going to be resolved by using the audience and posting these details. Like, we know that [at least six of the victims] were all little women who were sex workers, and all disappeared during the summer months. What if law enforcement had been very clear about the days these people went missing and published it on the front page of the newspaper – who was acting weird on those days? These are the kinds of things you need to have to jog people’s memories. There is still a chance someone will remember it. We’re behind ball eight, with a 10-year absence, but it’s certainly a soluble case. There are enough of them there.
Linkletter: I think geography also plays a role. The bodies were found in these specific locations. We have been told that when we conduct the interviews, District Attorney Tim Sini relies quite heavily on the cell phone data dumps they do, and they are using this new technology to analyze various cell phone data in the area. region. I guess it’s software that goes through all of this and looks for patterns that might help point to someone.
What do you hope the podcast and the TV special will achieve?
Linkletter: I’m just thinking about the responsibility. Holding the feet of the Suffolk County Police Department on fire over reasons they fail to release evidence 10 years later. Time is running out to resolve this matter. This corruption has existed since the 1970s, there have been several internal reports that have been made public. I love Long Island. I love Suffolk County. And I hope that will give them a new trajectory to try to progress, to be responsible and to do better for the community.
Jensen: I also explain to listeners that the police do not always have the best interests of victims at heart. The murders of sex workers have always taken a back seat. What if it wasn’t for podcasts like that and for the people who make movies about it, keeping this story in the mainstream, I don’t think they would put the resources behind it. I really don’t. We must therefore keep our feet on the fire. You just have to do it.