6th victim of Long Island murders identified through genetic genealogy

AARON KATERSKY and ELLA TORRES

A previously unidentified victim of the unsolved Gilgo Beach murders in Long Island was named Thursday, nearly two decades after her partial remains were first found, police said.

Valerie Mack was identified as the victim previously known as "Manorville Jane Doe" or "Jane Doe #6," the Suffolk County Police Department announced. Mack was identified through genetic genealogy technology.

Mack went missing in 2000 when she was 24 and working as an escort in Philadelphia, according to police. Her partial remains were found that same year in a wooded area off Halsey-Manor Road in Manorville. In 2011, her dismembered remains were found along Ocean Parkway in Gilgo Beach.

PHOTO: Valerie Mack was identified as the victim who had been previously known as Jane Doe #6. (Suffolk County Police Department)

The murders have never been solved, and, until Mack's identification, half the victims had not yet been identified.

MORE: What we know and don't about Long Island's suspected serial killer case

In 2010 and 2011, the remains of 10 people were discovered in Gilgo Beach in weedy sections of Ocean Parkway near Jones Beach. Police have said most of the victims were sex workers. Four victims remain unidentified.

No suspects have been detained, but police previously told ABC News they're working under the assumption a serial killer is to blame in some, if not all, of the killings.

Police made the grisly discovery while searching for a missing sex worker, Shannan Gilbert. Her body eventually was found in December 2011 in nearby Oak Beach, which is also along Ocean Parkway. Police don't believe her death is tied to the others because she "doesn't match the pattern of the Gilgo Beach homicides," but they've also said her death is part of the active investigation into the Gilgo Beach murders.

PHOTO: In this April 15, 2011, file photo, the area near Gilgo Beach and Ocean Parkway on Long Island is shown where police conducted a search after finding ten sets of human remains in Wantagh, NY. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images, FILE)

In January, police released what they called a "significant piece of evidence" involving the murders. The evidence was a photograph of a black leather belt embossed with the letters "WH" or "HM," depending on how it's held.

MORE: Previously unidentified victim of Gilgo Beach murders to be identified

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said at a press conference she believed a suspect in the murders "handled" the belt, but would not elaborate.

Hart on Thursday said she hopes the identification of Mack will bring some sense of closure and peace to her family.

It is believed to be the first time a law enforcement agency in New York state has used genetic genealogy to identify an individual as part of a police investigation, authorities said. Police had announced last week that they made the identification, but did not immediately name Mack.

Hart said that Mack was last seen by her adopted family in the spring or summer of 2000 in the area of Port Republic, New Jersey, where she was living with a boyfriend. Her family never reported her missing, according to Hart.

Authorities identified her after she was matched to an aunt in New Jersey through a public genealogy site. The aunt was one of seven sisters, and investigators eventually found Mack’s mother, which led them to her adopted family.

"They had 20 years of not knowing" and "were very thankful" when family members were told of her identification, Hart said. "That was very meaningful to the investigators."

Mack had no apparent ties to Long Island. She was from a town near Atlantic City, and Suffolk police are in contact with Atlantic City police, but there is no known connection to the 2006 deaths of four prostitutes in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. The so-called "Eastbound Strangler" has not been caught.

There is no familial relationship between Mack and Jessica Taylor, another Gilgo Beach victim, despite her Melissa Taylor pseudonym, according to Hart.

6th victim of Long Island murders identified through genetic genealogy originally appeared on abcnews.go.com