Archive for January 26th, 2011

Many think that assigning blame settles matters. –  Mason Cooley

I reckon the American yellow press is just reluctant to give up a good villain after spending so much effort creating it.  It’s been months now since Craigslist decided to stop being the whipping boy of every politician with an anti-whore agenda and every fourth-rate reporter hoping to lead a lynch mob, but apparently the New York Post (a tabloid rag in the grand old Hearst tradition) didn’t get the memo.  This article is slightly paraphrased to correct the Post’s clumsy grade-school level composition and remove inflammatory and unnecessary terms, but you can look at the original for the full effect.

All four of the corpses found near a Long Island beach in December were young prostitutes who advertised their services on Craigslist and were likely slain by a serial killer, authorities said Monday (January 24th).  After identifying one of the bodies as Megan Waterman, 22, of Maine, officials revealed that the three other skeletons found wrapped in burlap bags at Gilgo Beach were all Craigslist escorts who were killed shortly after meeting their murderer.  Using DNA evidence, the other victims were identified as Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Connecticut; Amber Lynn Costello, 27, of North Babylon, New York; and Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of Buffalo, New York.

The killer’s last known victim, Costello, disappeared from North Babylon only five months ago on September 2nd; Waterman was last seen at a Hauppauge, New York Holiday Inn on June 6th of last year, and Brainard-Barnes vanished from Manhattan in July 2007.  Barthelemy was last seen in The Bronx on July 12th, 2009 and was reported missing six days later after her mother and sister received calls from her cell phone.  “Do you know what your sister does for a living?” the male caller asked, according to Barthelemy’s mother.  “Your sister’s a whore, don’t be like your sister.”

Though my version sticks to the facts, that’s never good enough for the Post, which felt compelled to subtitle the article “Craigslist creep killed 4 hookers” and open it with the phrase “Craigslist was a hit list”; the rest of the article was peppered with boyfriends described as rappers, pimps and drug dealers.  Indeed, the serial killer himself is eclipsed by references to Craigslist, as though the Post were trying to blame the website for the murders; I daresay that’s a bit of a stretch even for a tabloid.  The AP version is, as you might expect, a bit more subdued, and contains additional details, including a number of brilliant and sensitive comments from the district attorney:

Investigators did not identify a suspect, or say how the women were killed, but were looking into what clients they might have met shortly before they disappeared.  One of the women was reported missing nearly 3½ years ago; another was seen as recently as last September.  “Their deaths are a direct result of their business as prostitutes,” Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota told reporters.  “I sincerely hope that people who are engaged in a similar business as these four young women would come forward.  They certainly must have some information.”

Police were looking for another missing Craigslist escort when they happened upon the bodies near the beach.  They have since said that the person they were originally looking for, a woman from New Jersey, was not among the dead.  Authorities said Monday that case is still under investigation.  Police Commissioner Richard Dormer initially suggested that a serial killer might be involved when the bodies were found in December, but detectives later became tight-lipped about the matter.  But on Monday, Spota said that “the actual cause of deaths appear to be substantially similar” and that “it appears the same person or persons are responsible.”  Spota and Dormer refused to say how the women died.  The case has some similarities to a 2006 New Jersey case, in which four prostitutes’ bodies were found in a drainage ditch just outside Atlantic City and about a mile from the beach; those killings remain unsolved.

District Attorney Spota says that the deaths of the women was a “direct result of their business as prostitutes”; obviously he must have the same words of wisdom for the families of cops killed in the line of duty.  Perhaps one day the gang of a criminal Mr. Spota convicts will kill him as well, and if that happens I’m sure he’ll accept his fate knowing that it was a “direct result of his business as district attorney.”  Brandy Devereaux had some choice words for jackasses like Mr. Spota, including a number of links to new stories about other people he would no doubt say deserved to die because of their choices to be highway workers, psychiatric counselors and Wal-Mart employees.  But please note that Mr. Spota’s second quoted sentence surpasses the first in sheer cluelessness; after telling sex workers it’s our fault if we’re killed, he suggests we come forward to be arrested (no doubt so he can increase his conviction rate).  I guess he thinks whores are as stupid as he is evil and pompous.

Interestingly, Police Commissioner Dormer had more sense and sensitivity:  “What activities these victims may have engaged in prior to their murders does not matter,” Dormer said Monday.  “They were young women whose lives were cut tragically short.”  At least Commissioner Dormer recognizes that murderers are responsible for murders; if the New York Post was in charge of the investigation it would no doubt be sending cops over  to interrogate Craigslist personnel, and if District Attorney Spota were running the show he would no doubt be subjecting hookers to the third degree.  Obviously those motivated by advertising revenues or votes would rather persecute those they can get their filthy hands on in lieu of the yet-unknown (and therefore inaccessible) party who actually committed the crimes.

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