The serial killer who dumped his victim's bodies in the thick brush along several miles of New York's breathtaking beachfront may have dismembered several of them, law enforcement authorities have told ABC News.
The grisly twist was the latest revelation as police continued to uncover the murderous path carved along Long Island beaches by at least one killer.
Investigators have determined that bones found Monday were human, bringing the body count to nine and possibly 10 victims. It's still not clear whether a skull found alone Monday was part of victim number 9 or would be victim number 10.
The bodies were strung out over a 3.5 mile stretch of beach with five of the bodies spaced out about 500 feet apart, police said.
The possibility that some of the skeletal remains were dismembered came as police were considering clear cutting the thick brush that has made seaching the area difficult. Police fear that when the brush starts blooming in the coming weeks the search would become even more difficult. Police divers are also preparing to dive in order to search bay waters for more bodies.
Searchers have used cadaver dogs, horses and fire truck aerial ladders to scour the thick vegetation for victims. Faced today with slashing rains and swampy ground, a helicopter was used for today's dragnet.
While at least several of the victims appear to have been killed and dumped by a serial killer, authorities had not yet ruled out the possibility that more than one killer was responsible for the growing pile of human remains, which included those of a child.
At Least One Victim Was Asphyxiated
Suffolk County police, who are being assisted by Nassau County cops as well as state police and the FBI, have been tight lipped about the investigation. ABC News has learned that at least one of the victims died by "homicidal asphyxiation," which could mean strangulation or being smothered.
Sources also downplayed the possibility that the serial killer may be in law enforcement or is a former law enforcement official, although several persons of interest also have been described to ABC News as having links to law enforcement or emergency services.
The increasingly gruesome news from the Long Island beaches has been difficult for the families of the four victims who have been identified so far. With each new corpse uncovered they are struck by fresh grief and reach out to each other for solace.
"Every time they find more, it's like it starts the whole tragedy all over again. It's like we find out it's our own child that they found over again," said Lorraine Ela, the mother of murder victim Megan Waterman.
Ela's 22-year-old daughter disappeared last June and her body was discovered in December. As the investigation continues, Ela said that she sends Facebook messages to other victims' relatives daily and has developed a strong bond with them.
"They're like family. We're like one big family," she said.
As a sign of solidarity, several of the relatives have used the photos of the four victims identified so far -- Megan Waterman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Amanda Costello and Melissa Barthelemy -- as their profile pictures on Facebook.
Ela will meet the sister of victim Maureen Brainard-Barnes tonight. "I'm very emotional, but I'm also excited," she said.