Megan Waterman of Scarborough would have turned 23 on Tuesday — the day when New York City’s medical examiner told police and prosecutors that hers was one of four bodies found last month on Long Island.

Detectives in Suffolk County waited until Wednesday to break the news to Waterman’s family that DNA from relatives’ tissue samples had matched one of the bodies found Dec. 11 near a beach on Long Island’s south shore.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said Wednesday that authorities expect to identify the other three women soon. Authorities declined to disclose how Waterman died, but did confirm it was a homicide.

Soon after being briefed by New York authorities, Scarborough Police Chief Robert Moulton said, “We’ve turned any information we have over to them.”

For the seven months since Waterman was last seen, his department had investigated her disappearance as a missing-person case.

With 2,500 officers, the Suffolk County Police Department is one of the nation’s largest. Police Commissioner Richard Dormer has named a task force to investigate the slaying, which apparently are the work of a serial killer.

Waterman’s family gathered Wednesday at the home of Muriel Benner, Waterman’s grandmother, to grieve and to remember a strong-willed and vivacious woman, and to console her 4-year-old daughter, Lily.

Elizabeth Meserve, Waterman’s aunt, said she hadn’t believed that her niece was among the bodies found in New York.

“I never did, even for a minute. I remember them saying at the beginning it was highly unlikely,” she said.

Other family members have said they hoped against hope that she was alive, but confirming her death would let them begin to grieve, and heal.

Benner got a call Tuesday from the New York detectives, who let her know they would come to Maine to speak with her on Wednesday.

Meserve said, “I just thought they were coming to tell her it wasn’t (Megan).”

The family was planning a gathering Jan. 29 at the Happy Wheels Skate Center in Portland to keep attention focused on Waterman and raise money for a reward for information about her disappearance.

That attention remains important, Meserve said.

“It’s not finished yet until we know what happened, and once we find out who is responsible, that that person or people has paid for it,” she said.

Benner said the gathering will go on, as a memorial, a celebration of Waterman’s life.

She said police have provided few details about her granddaughter’s death.

Police discovered the bodies apparently by accident. They were searching for a New Jersey woman who worked as an escort and was last seen at a house in that seaside area of Long Island. An officer with a dog was searching the side of a road when he discovered the four bodies — unburied, but some wrapped in burlap.

A comparison of medical records showed that the missing New Jersey woman was not among the bodies. And at one point, police said the bodies appeared to have been there longer than the six months Waterman had been missing, some as long as 18 months.

Waterman was last seen June 5 at a hotel in Hauppauge, N.Y., where she was staying with her boyfriend, Akeem Cruz, 21. Cruz now is in the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, serving 20 months for drug trafficking.

Moulton said he didn’t know whether police had interviewed Cruz in connection with the bodies. Cruz refused a request for an interview by The Portland Press Herald last month on the advice of his lawyer, prison officials said.

Waterman went to New York with Cruz and was advertising as an escort on Craigslist. The couple had been going to New York for a couple of weeks every two months or so, family members said.

Her friends and family say Waterman agreed to work as a prostitute at the urging of Cruz, out of devotion to him.

“She was kind of doing it to please him,” Nicci Haycock, Megan’s best friend and her brother’s girlfriend, said in an interview last month. “He wasn’t forcing her, but at the same time he was all about the money: get those calls, don’t turn those down.”

The couple had a fight, but then reconciled.

“She said, ‘He came back. He’s the one,’” Haycock said.

She said Cruz, whose nickname is “Vibe,” came from Brooklyn and made her uncomfortable. “Girls were just an object to him. He even kind of treated me like that, using foul language,” Haycock said.

Waterman met Cruz while she was living in Portland. Cruz was in a group of friends who came to the house to visit her then-boyfriend. After that man was arrested, she and Cruz began dating. They moved out of the apartment in Portland because of the volume of drug activity there, Haycock said.

She said her first thought when Waterman disappeared was that she was being held against her will for sex trafficking. That frightened Haycock.

“There’s no way she would be alive for long,” Haycock said. “Nobody is going to keep her around, because she’s a fighter. She would fight to the death.”

That was one reason Waterman’s sister, Allie Pertel, wasn’t worried.

“Megan was a very strong person. She was very independent. She knew how to hold her own, so I never was really scared for her,” Pertel said last month after the bodies were found.

Pertel was not impressed by Cruz and her sister’s relationship with him.

“You can’t tell a girl you love her and watch her do this,” she said. “She thought she loved him. I don’t know if that feeling was mutual. I don’t know how you could love somebody and have them be in that lifestyle.”

The realization that her sister is dead is painful. “I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the stomach,” Pertel said Wednesday.

“She made a mistake. Who doesn’t? She doesn’t deserve this,” she said. “Nobody does.”

The family had created a couple of Facebook pages to ask for help in finding Waterman, and for friends to post supportive messages. On one of those pages, Waterman’s mother, Lorraine Ela of South Portland, announced her daughter’s death.

Within moments the pages became memorials, with friends posting condolences and offering prayers.

One post, attributed to Waterman’s brother Greg Waterman, said, “I have no idea who would do such an evil act to a human being,” and he vowed that justice will be served.

He expressed relief that, at least now, his sister can be laid to rest.

Greg Waterman also promised to look after his young niece, to screen the men she meets and make sure she doesn’t suffer the same fate as her mother.

Megan Waterman attended Scarborough High School but left before she graduated. She worked occasionally in sandwich shops, but didn’t enjoy it.

She was a fan of the television program “Jersey Shore.” She enjoyed the drama, Haycock said.

Whatever happened to Waterman shouldn’t overshadow who she was, Haycock said.

“Everybody is focusing on the escort and prostitute thing, but Megan was way more than that,” she said. “She was a person. She liked being around people. Our favorite thing was doing stuff with the kids — Halloween, Easter, fairs in the summer, going to beaches.”

The celebration of Waterman’s life will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 29 at Happy Wheels, 331 Warren Ave. Admission is $5.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

 


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