A woman from Hell’s Kitchen has been identified as one of the Gilgo Beach victims after being missing for 27 years, Suffolk County officials announced on Friday.
- Karen Vergata, a 34-year-old woman from W45th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, has been identified as one of the Gilgo Beach victims after disappearing in 1996. Her remains were found in multiple locations years apart.
- Vergata was identified through genetic genealogy after a suitable DNA profile was developed from her remains. Her identity was confirmed via a DNA sample from a relative.
- Vergata disappeared in February 1996 and was believed to be working as an escort at the time. No missing person report was filed. Authorities have not released details about her cause of death or any potential suspects.
* This summary is made with the support of Claude.AI and quality checked by W42ST staff.
Karen Vergata, 34, who lived on W45th Street in Hell’s Kitchen at the time of her disappearance in 1996, was known for years only as “Jane Doe #7” or “Fire Island Jane Doe.” Authorities reported that segments of Vergata’s body, specifically her legs and feet, were unearthed in Davis Park, Fire Island, in 1996. Her skull was found close to Gilgo, at Tobay Beach,15 years later.
Vergata was officially identified through genetic genealogy after a suitable DNA profile was developed from her remains last August, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney.
The FBI then used that profile to identify Vergata in September 2022. Her identity was confirmed in October through a DNA sample from a relative.
“We were able to definitively identify her,” Tierney said at a news conference.
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Vergata disappeared on February 14, 1996 and was believed to have been working as an escort at the time, Tierney said. No missing persons report was filed when she went missing.
Officials released a photo of Vergata at the news conference but declined to provide details about the cause of her death or any potential suspects. “It’s important to note there are no charges at this time,” Tierney said.
Newsday reported that Vergata was born and raised in Glen Head on Long Island, according to her stepsister, Brenda Breen. She attended North Shore High School. After graduating, Vergata struggled with “issues” and had infrequent contact with her family, according to a former classmate. Between 1991 and 1995, Vergata was arrested more than a dozen times on various charges including drug possession, prostitution and loitering.
Her father, Dominic Vergata, said in court papers that the last time he spoke to his daughter was on his birthday in February 1996, shortly before she disappeared. He hired a private investigator to try to find her and turned over DNA samples to authorities but was never able to locate her.
In 2017, more than 20 years after she went missing, Dominic Vergata successfully petitioned the court to have his daughter declared legally dead. He died in December 2022 at age 87.
Vergata’s partial remains were found in 1996 on Fire Island by two brothers searching for firewood. Additional remains were discovered near Jones Beach in 2011 and linked to her through DNA.
She was previously known as both “Fire Island Jane Doe” and “Jane Doe No 7”
The identification provides some closure for Vergata’s family, who assumed she was deceased after having no contact for two decades. “We wondered what happened to her,” Breen told reporters. “But she had a habit of just not being in contact.”
Vergata’s case has not been definitively linked to suspected serial killer Rex Heuermann, who was charged last month with murdering several other Gilgo Beach victims.
The Gilgo Beach investigation remains ongoing, with at least one victim still unidentified. Tierney said Vergata’s murder will be pursued vigorously despite the decades that have passed.
“We are going to continue to work this particular case as we did the Gilgo Four investigation,” he stated. “We’re going to have no comment on what, if any, suspects we’ve developed at this time.”