Sister Called From Missing NY Prostitute's Phone

Crime, Law and JusticeSocial IssuesProstitutionJustice SystemCell PhonesSuffolk County (New York)

The teenage sister of one of fourprostitutes found slain on Long Island received a half-dozen callsfrom the victim's cell phone in the six weeks after she disappearedin 2009, her family said Thursday.

Melissa Barthelemy's sister, Amanda, who was then 15, got thefirst call from an unidentified man a few days after Barthelemy waslast seen in New York City on July 12, 2009, said their mother,Lynn, and her fiance, Jeff Martina.

They said the last call came on Aug. 26, soon after they told aBuffalo TV station about the calls.

The pair said police advised them not to reveal the contents ofthe calls, which they described as crude.

"It's nothing that we can say on the air," said LynnBarthelemy, whose youngest daughter stood in a corner crying at thefamily's lawyer's office in suburban Buffalo. "It wasn't nice, itwasn't nice."

"You can see her (Amanda's) condition right now in the room, itjust had a devastating effect," added Martina as he glanced backat the 16-year-old. "The content of the calls were horrible."

A law enforcement official has told The Associated Press thecaller referred to Barthelemy in the first call as a "whore."

The bodies of Barthelemy and three other prostitutes were founddumped on a desolate stretch of beachfront on Long Island inDecember. Police officials suspect the slayings were the work of aserial killer. They have not specified yet how the women werekilled.

On Monday, Suffolk County officials identified Barthelemy's bodyand those of two other women, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, of Norwich,Conn., and Amber Lynn Costello, of North Babylon. The body of MeganWaterman, of Scarborough, Maine, was identified last week.

Barthelemy, 24, a trained hair stylist, moved to New York Cityin 2007, worked at a barber shop and later was hired as an exoticdancer, her mother said. She said the family didn't realize untilafter her disappearance that she had turned to prostitution.

"We were upset, but she's still our daughter and she's awonderful person," she said. "Melissa was a good girl andsomebody manipulated her into doing this and scared her."

Barthelemy had dreams of returning to Buffalo someday andopening a hair salon, and she was happily anticipating a visit fromher little sister the weekend after she vanished. "I mean, thankGod this didn't happen when (Amanda) got there - I mean, I couldhave lost both of my daughters," their mother said.

"We want to get justice," she added. "And we'd like to get itout there to these girls that are working in that type ofprofession, don't think you can't go home to your parents becausethere's something called unconditional love. You can go home nomatter what happens."'

Barthelemy had a very loving family who were in constant contactwith her, and she was working as an escort "to supplement herincome from hairstyling to pay her rent," said the family'sattorney, Steven Cohen. "She wasn't in it for very long. She wasnot heavily entrenched in this lifestyle."

Barthelemy's family faulted the police for delaying the initialsearch for her. But New York City police said they had begun totrack her cell phone signal within a week of her being reportedmissing.

"Missing persons launched an intensive investigation as soon asthey received the case," chief NYPD spokesman Paul Browne saidThursday.

Police tracked the signal to midtown Manhattan and searchedareas near Pennsylvania Station and the Port Authority busterminal, but the signal went dead, according to an official whohad direct knowledge of the case but was not authorized to speakpublicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Later, cell phone records obtained through a court order showeda call to her voicemail was made in Massapequa, a hamlet not farfrom where her body was found, on the day she went missing, theofficial said.

Investigators canvassed nearby hotels, restaurants and thebeachfront. Later, detectives gave Barthelemy's toothbrush to theSuffolk County police in the hope of identifying her, andeventually turned the thick case file over to the police departmentthere.

They also discovered another phone once belonging to Barthelemyand tracked it to a convict who said he picked up the phone aftershe dropped it in a fight with another woman. Authorities in NewYork also located Barthelemy's pimp, who corroborated the man'sstory, saying he had ordered the other woman to fight Barthelemybecause he was upset she had been seeking clients on her own, theofficial said.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Crime, Law and JusticeSocial IssuesProstitutionJustice SystemCell PhonesSuffolk County (New York)
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