Still Looking for Judy: One Woman’s Quest to Find Her Missing Sister

As FBI helicopters were conducting flyovers of Jones Beach Island and a dive team scoured the bottom of Hemlock Cove this past April searching for more possible bodies along Ocean Parkway where 10 sets of human remains were found, at least four of which are believed to be the victims of the same killer, Maureen Sanchez anxiously awaited the release of the identities of the so-called Long Island Serial Killer’s victims.

This article was originally published in the Long Island Press.

The first woman, 22-year old mother Megan Waterman, was identified, followed by Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25; Amber Lynn Costello, 27; and Melissa Barthelemy, 24. Maureen thought her sister Judy O’Donnell, 19, could be one of them. Like Judy, all of these women had worked as prostitutes in New York at the time of their disappearance, before they were found within a mile of each other in the brush of Ocean Parkway.

Weeks later came another ID—Jessica Taylor, 23.

Taylor, who also worked as a prostitute in the days leading to her disappearance, even worked the same streets near the Port Authority in Manhattan as Judy did, before her head, hands and leg bone were found in a plastic bag, just down the road from the head, hands and leg bones of another woman, who remains unidentified, all in line with the first four victims, along Ocean Parkway.

Taylor’s decapitated, nude body had been found in the Manorville Pine Barrens in 2003. The decapitated, nude body of the unidentified woman, was also found in the Pine Barrens, not far from where Taylor’s body was discovered, in 2000. Both of their cases had gone cold. Both of them weren’t Judy.

“That’s someone’s daughter,” says Maureen. “For many people this is such an awful story and it’s horrifying, but for other people like me, it gives me hope that maybe my sister could be put to rest appropriately.”

Two more of the bodies, while still unidentified, were determined by medical examiners to be that of an Asian man and a little girl. Still not Judy.

Maureen is now waiting for the final two IDs to be made by investigators.

But there is one major difference between Judy and the Long Island victims so far. Judy went missing 30 years ago.

“She would be 50 years old today,” says Maureen. “She’s been missing longer than we had her here.”

The last time Maureen saw her sister it was a few days after Thanksgiving, in 1980, she tells the Press. Maureen was 14 years old and in the middle of her freshman year of high school. She and her family, in Baltimore for the holiday, dropped Judy off at the bus station and hugged and kissed her goodbye, then made their way back upstate by car to their hometown of Oswego.

Judy was headed back to New York City, still hoping to become an actress and a singer. Maureen was supposed to see her again in a few weeks for Christmas and would no doubt talk to her on the phone before then. But the calls never came and, when Christmas arrived, neither did Judy.

For the past three decades, Maureen has been waiting for her sister to come home.

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