Lynn sees many things differently now. Going through Melissa’s belongings after she disappeared, Lynn found a letter Melissa wrote to her pimp telling him he was taking too much money and she was tired of working for him. “She once told us she was walking home at night and someone tried to steal her purse and he had a knife and she took the knife away from him and stabbed him,” Lynn says. Years later, Lynn heard the thief was a john.
Melissa’s sister Amanda had visited Melissa twice in New York and knew everything. “She didn’t really come out and say it,” she says. “But I’d hear her on the phone calls or see her posting on Craigslist.” Seven days after Melissa disappeared, the phone rang at Lynn’s home in Buffalo. The caller I.D. displayed the number of Melissa’s missing cell. Amanda picked up. The voice was self-assured. “Is this Melissa’s little sister?” he asked. “I hear you’re a half-breed.” Amanda’s father is black. Whoever was calling knew what Amanda looked like.
There were seven calls in all. Once, the caller seemed to toy with Amanda, asking if she knew what Melissa did for a living. Another time he said, “Are you gonna be a whore like your sister?” Police traced some of the calls to midtown Manhattan and another to Massapequa. In the last call, in August 2009, he told Amanda outright that he had killed Melissa. Lynn and Amanda started to worry that the caller knew where they lived. A short time later, they moved.
Megan Waterman vanished next, on June 6, 2010. Moon-faced and bubbly, Megan lived in working-class Scarborough, Maine. She had been more secretive about escorting than Shannan and Maureen; her family learned about it only when her mother, Lorraine Ela, had a chance run-in with a grocery-store checkout clerk who had heard about it secondhand. Ela says she missed out on a lot of her daughter’s childhood “because I was a drunk.” She says she got sober eight years ago, when Megan was 15. Two years later, Megan became pregnant and moved in, and the two grew close. “Megan was fun, caring, a loving mom,” Ela says. “If you ever met Megan, you would fall right in love with her.”
Ela believes Megan was forced into prostitution. Her boyfriend, Akeem Cruz, worked as her pimp, accompanied her on calls, and posted Craigslist ads for her (Hi my name is lexy i have blond hair blue eyes great attitude. i love what i do ur time with me is never rushed…). Ela calls Cruz “a scumbag.” But Ela says Megan denied being a prostitute. “She tried to tell us for the longest time that all she was doing was dancing. But we knew different. We told her, ‘It’s not safe. You need to think of your daughter.’”
Megan was last seen at the Holiday Inn in Hauppauge, Long Island, on a Craigslist call. Cruz came with her; he had been arrested on a cocaine charge in Maine but was out on bail. He usually stayed with Megan on calls, but that night he left her alone. Cruz is reportedly back in prison now and is said to have been less than cooperative with detectives about what he knows about that night. Ela finds his behavior that evening suspicious: “He leaves her in the room alone that night, and she goes missing?”
Ela says that Megan had her own struggles with alcohol, and that that might’ve had something to do with why she stayed with Cruz. Since Megan disappeared, Ela’s mother, who took care of Megan while Ela was drinking, is looking after Megan’s daughter. “I have more bad days than I have good ones,” Ela says.
The most recent victim, Amber Costello, was last seen in North Babylon, Long Island, on September 2. Her sister, Kimberly Overstreet, makes no effort to sugarcoat her story. “Amber was a basket case,” she says. “She struggled most of her adult life with drugs. She was addicted to heroin. That was the biggest strike against her. Secondly, I was involved in this.” Trim, toned, and dimple-chinned, Overstreet has been escorting on and off since she was 18, and she’s the one who brought Amber into the profession. “I’ve done this, and it isn’t really about being naïve,” she says. “In the beginning you make the money, and you’re making it without the drugs and without the bullshit. And then you get addicted to the money.”
Amber and Kimberly grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, and lived on and off together in Florida, then for five years in Long Island, about a twenty-minute drive from Gilgo Beach. “When she first moved to Suffolk County, Amber made $3,500 a week, easy,” says Overstreet. “In four months, it was $7,000. We traveled all up and down the East Coast doing it—Hilton Head, Florida, New Orleans.” Much of that was with an escort agency, but eventually Amber switched to Craigslist. By last year, Overstreet was getting out of the business, tapering off to about ten calls a week—she had three children—but Amber was desperate, making five calls a night. “She was doing calls for under a hundred dollars just to keep her drug habit going,” Overstreet says. “She was shooting bags a day, a bundle a day—a lot.”