How The Long Island Serial Killer Wound Up With The Craigslist Ripper Nickname

For nearly 20 years, police, self-styled internet sleuths, and grieving families have worked to unmask one of this country's most-prolific, active serial killers (however, with a suspect's arrest in mid-July, 2023, we may finally be closer to finding the answer, via the NYT). Known by several monikers — the Long Island Serial Killer (LISK), Gilgo Beach Killer, and Craigslist Ripper among them — the person (or persons) responsible is believed to have killed somewhere between 10 to 16 people from 2010 to 2020, reports CBS News.

Many (though not all) of the murders have shared a striking number of similarities. Many were sex workers and (at least among the first set of discovered remains) shared a similar petite physical frame. The victim's bodies were often found wrapped in burlap sacks and all were found along Long Island's South Shore. The remains were found in different "groupings" as the investigation went on and several — including the bodies of a man and young child — are frequently disputed as being part of the official tally.

What distinguishes some of the murders is the manner of death and the treatment of the body afterward. Some of the victims were only strangled before their body was disposed of, while others were dismembered, The Criminal Code explains. It's perhaps this last cruel detail that landed the murderer the "Ripper" epithet.

Here's why LISK is sometimes called the Craigslist Ripper

True crime aficionados (which is somehow, let's face it, most of us these days) know that the term "ripper" is not a particularly unique one applied to killers. Ever since "Jack" (or someone claiming to be him) gave himself the nickname in a letter to the media claiming credit for the murders of sex workers in Victorian London, the name has stuck around in our consciousness. "My knife's so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance," was his chilling message to the public, reports BBC America.

So, if "ripping" is to be taken literally, wouldn't it follow that the LISK (who, you'll recall, only dismembered some of his victims) doesn't really fit the stereotype? It turns out the nickname may be a bit more about marketing than matter-of-fact. While there's no denying the ripper overlap in LISK's tendency to target sex workers (several of whom were solicited via Craigslist, hence the other part of the name), the term does tend to gain traction whenever there is a particularly flashy series of murders that captures the public's attention.

A few other infamous Rippers

As Ranker points out, there have been at least a dozen noteworthy "rippers" whose names have made the papers of their day, including England's Yorkshire Ripper (maybe you've seen the recent Netflix documentary), Joel Rifkin (another New Yorker, dubbed Joel the Ripper), and the Blackout Ripper, who killed women during the lights-out days of the London Blitz.

Depressingly, it seems like you can throw a dart at a map and find a ripper for just about any locale. Hollywood, Ypsilanti, Athens, Dallas, Rostov, Bavaria — you're all sadly represented. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of law enforcement, the Craigslist Ripper remains at large — which is not to say we don't know any names. It's easy enough to find possible suspects in the case on various internet forums (along with plenty of online drama) but, as The New York Times notes, the police have never officially named a single suspect, nor (remarkably) do they have any DNA evidence to work from (that we know of). But older and colder cases are still being solved (witness the arrest of the Golden State Killer). Hopefully, the victims' families will one day know the true identity of the Craigslist Ripper.