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Hunting a Serial Killer: Truth, Lies, Narcissism, and Fear

Billy Jensen and Alexis Linkletter discuss the Long Island Serial Killer case.

Key points

  • The case of the Long Island Serial Killer (LISK) remains unsolved more than ten years after the first bodies were found.
  • Investigative journalists Billy Jensen and Alexis Linkletter suggest the case my be unsolved due to systemic corruption.
  • These investigations often take them on emotional rollercoasters of sadness, anger, and compassion.
  • The case features examples of narcissism, psychopathy, and promising leads, but the question remains: "Will it ever be solved?"
Source: Mz.Kristin12/Flickr

More than a decade has passed since ten bodies were discovered along Gilgo Beach on the southern shoreline of Long Island. This week, new video was released by the Suffolk County Police Department that may help to identify the killer.

The case could have been solved years ago—or at least, that is the central thesis of Unraveled: Long Island Serial Killer, a podcast series and documentary by Billy Jensen and Alexis Linkletter. I sat down with Billy and Alexis at this year's CrimeCon, a mega-fan fest for all things true crime. Here's what they had to say about the Long Island Serial Killer (LISK), corruption, narcissism, and motivation.

What emotions do you experience as you work through a story like this? Do you feel sadness, anger, excitement, etc.?

Billy: The first thing I feel is curiosity. But as you start talking with people, particularly if you are talking with the victims' families, then you start getting into sadness. You start getting into heartbreak and hopelessness, and then you realize what your role is.

Many of these people are powerless and you must be their voice. This can lift you up so you can channel the energy, the sadness, and the empathy. But what you really want to be able to do is just get angry, and that's usually where I go. I get angry at a certain point, and then that's what drives me to do things like confront the people in power and ask them questions that they might not want to hear.

Alexis: I think Billy and I are so different in our emotional journeys through this. I start with the research and the obsession and the intrigue, and I start building that way. And then once we're in it, I cry through almost every interview I do.

Those emotions are just under the surface for me all the time. I consider myself a deeply compassionate person and I am trying to understand cruelty and the driving force behind it. And like Billy said, the curiosity, the tenacity, the anger is there; the frustration is there. Our emotional roller coasters for these stories are so different because he's more confrontational and I'm more healing. I'm not sure how to explain it, but I'm like the bleeding heart, and he's sort of like the fist.

Billy Jensen and Alexis Linkletter / Twitter @Billyjensen
Source: Billy Jensen and Alexis Linkletter / Twitter @Billyjensen

Are there specific images or memories that you draw upon to keep yourself going even on the tough days?

Billy: I think that whenever you're dealing with an unsolved murder victim, there is always that one picture you see of a victim that comes up over and over again. And you hear about certain detectives who might be really dedicated to a case, always having that picture on their desk or in their folder. It reminds you that this is not just a number. This was an actual person; you can imagine what that person was thinking the day the picture was taken, when obviously they were so alive. And now we're trying to find out who did this to them and why the case hasn't been solved.

Alexis: I picture what it would feel like if it happened to me, or my sibling, or my parents. I can't imagine the frustration and agony of not only having your loved one murdered but not having anyone be accountable for it. That would drive me insane if it was me. And I think that goes hand in hand with the emotional aspects that I feel with it, too.

Do you see any patterns of narcissism or psychopathy in the Long Island Serial Killer case?

Alexis: I think every killer is a narcissist. To have entitlement to somebody else's life and the audacity to take it, I think it's the most narcissistic you can be. Your needs are more important than this person's life. So, whether it's a serial killer or a one-and-done predator, I think feeling entitled to someone's life is about as narcissistic as you can be.

The case is now more than a decade old. Why do you think it has not been solved? Do you think it will ever be solved?

Alexis: Well, that was really the thesis of this show—not who did it, but why has it not been solved? We have ten victims on this tiny stretch of beach near a cluster of mansions, and you would think that it would be a top priority for law enforcement to work on that. And it wasn't. Everything fell through the cracks.

There was no transparency. I really think it wasn't one piece of evidence that has made it not solved, but the loss of time in this case. Twelve years later, it's just so much more difficult. And that seemed to be by design because the police chief who was overseeing the bulk of the investigation was hiding his own indiscretions and sacrificed the integrity of the case to do so.

Billy: The fact that they didn't make anything public is problematic. The only thing that people knew about the crime scene was that the bodies were found in burlap, and that bit of information was leaked out. And the fact that the police had a belt that was supposedly handled by the killer and had initials on it. They showed it to us ten years later! During that time, people have died, and people have moved away. They could have used the news media in order to get it out there and try to figure out who this was. And they dropped the ball every step of the way.

What is next for you?

Billy: We definitely want to go back to Long Island. We still have a lot of unanswered questions. We got so many tips. We got so much new information that we want to be able to follow and share and go back to Long Island and try to get answers and keep holding this administration. Our show was able to push this administration and the new administration into releasing more information, which is one of the things that we wanted, but we’ve still got to hold their feet to the fire.

©2022 Kevin Bennett Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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