True crime podcast and Long Island jeweler team up
It was a strange coincidence when Jac Vanek, a popular clothing and accessory designer, and Long Island raised Alexis Linkletter, an investigative journalist and television host, began the “Long Island Serial Killer” series in their podcast The First Degree, two months before Massapequa Park resident Rex Heuermann was arrested in the murder of three woman. He is the prime suspect in the murder of another woman.
In addition to a podcast series that discussed the case, Vanek and Linkletter led deep dives of who the victims were, complete with interviews with victims’ family members. And to raise awareness, and funds, for sex worker protection, The First Degree teamed up with Jimmy Toast, a Long Island-based jeweler who has worked with celebrities like Noah Cyrus, in the creation of a jewelry collection called The Heavy Metal Project that honors the victims found on Gilgo Beach. All of the net profits are donated to the Sex Workers Outreach Project, “A social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of people involved in the sex trade and their communities, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy.”
Linkletter had actually been a co-star and executive producer in Discovery Plus’ Unraveled: The Long Island Serial Killer series.
“Me being someone who had always been invested in that case, being from Long Island and into true crime, when I found out someone I knew did a piece on it, we reconnected,” said Jamie Quilisadio, the designer behind Jimmy Toast. She has been friends with Linkletter since elementary school. “We were supporting each other and a couple years down the road, it was December of 2022… I was coming up with a new jewelry line and a lot of the jewelry that I make is inspired by my surroundings… A lot of the jewelry is inspired by where I live, a lot of ocean elements and metal that resembles the dead trees in the winter, and Herkimer diamonds from [upstate] New York.”
After being enamored with a handmade gift, Quilisadio first started dissembling and reconstructing jewelry as a hobby, eventually beginning a successful career as a jeweler in New York City. With 10 years in the business, Quilisadio decided to start her own brand, Jimmy Toast, in 2019.
With Gilgo Beach on her mind, she had an idea in December of 2022 to make 10 necklaces in honor of each of the victims found there. She reached out to Linkletter with the idea to see if she’d be interested in writing a paragraph about each of the victims. Linkletter wanted to take the idea even further by creating the podcast series that would go with the project.
Currently, all the necklaces are sold out. The necklaces will be making a comeback for the holiday season, this time through another project with the sister of Megan Waterman, who was found at Gilgo Beach. To learn more about the project, visit theheavymetalproject.com.
“Megan Waterman’s [necklace] has a charm with the same tattoo as her, which is her zodiac sign and she loved things with hearts on them,” Quilisadio said. “A lot of them include their birth stone. Valarie Mack’s mother gave her a black onyx ring and when she was found, she was wearing it. There’s black onyx [in the necklace]to represent her mother’s love for her. [I include] things like that to bring out their personality, not just their names. They were people. They had lives and they were taken too soon.”
When the last podcast and necklace of the series was about to drop, Heuermann was arrested.
“We had no idea it was coming,” Quilisadio said. “For all we knew, it was a cold case from 13 years ago.”
In December of 2010, remains of mostly sex workers began to be found along Ocean Parkway in Gilgo Beach. For the next 13 years, the case went unsolved amid a negative narrative around sex workers and corruption within the Suffolk County Police Department. The Gilgo Beach Homicide Task Force was formed after Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney took office in January of 2022, focusing on the disappearances and murders of Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, Amber Lynn Costello and Maureen Brainard-Barnes. A joint investigation using evidence from witness statements, phone records and even DNA from discarded bottles and a pizza box led to the arrest of Heuermann on July 13. His next court appearance is Sept. 25.
Read more about the investigation.