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Long-time Jane Doe in Gilgo Beach serial killings is identified

Karen Vergata was 34 years old when she went missing. There have been no charges made related to her death.
Office of the Suffolk County District Attorney
Karen Vergata was 34 years old when she went missing. There have been no charges made related to her death.

"Fire Island Jane Doe" — whose remains were scattered between Fire Island and Ocean Parkway in New York — has been identified after nearly three decades. Her identity also comes just three weeks after a suspect in a string of killings in the area around Gilgo Beach was arrested.

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney announced at a news conference Friday that the remains belonged to Karen Vergata, a 34-year-old woman from Manhattan who had gone missing around Feb. 14, 1996.

That year, her legs and feet were found near Davis Park Beach on Fire Island. Fifteen years later, additional remains, including her skull, were discovered along Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach.

Authorities were able to confirm Vergata was Fire Island Jane Doe after developing a DNA profile last August from the remains, Tierney said. The FBI later used the DNA in a genealogy review and made a presumptive match. In October, officials took a swab from a relative of Vergata which definitively identified the remains.

Vergata's remains "significantly" expanded "the timeline and geographic reach" of the investigation into thestring of deaths on Long Island, Suffolk County police previously said.

She was one of 11 victims whose remains were found near Ocean Parkway between Nassau and Suffolk counties. The identities of remains belonging to three people — a female toddler, the toddler's mother and an Asian man — are still unknown.

The discovery of Vergata's identity comes three weeks after Suffolk County police arrested Rex Heuermann and charged him with the murders of three women — Amber Lynn Costello, Megan Waterman and Melissa Barthelemy — whose remains were found near Gilgo Beach.

Heuermann is slatedto next appear in court on Aug. 15.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.