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Attorney: Police delayed action in Long Island murder case

By Nina Golgowski, CNN
  • NYPD initially gave no attention to missing person report, attorney Steve Cohen said
  • Cohen: It took call from Erie County Sheriff's Office to get action; NYPD defends its role
  • Melissa Barthelemy went missing on July 9, 2009
  • Her body, along with those of three other women, found on a Long Island beach

New York (CNN) -- An attorney for the family of a woman whose body was found on a desolate Long Island beach says the New York Police Department initially gave no attention to reports of a missing person.

Police waited about 10 days after Melissa Barthelemy went missing on July 9, 2009, before the Erie County Sheriff's Office put a call in to the New York Police Department, says Attorney Steve Cohen.

"The first 48 hours are essential. Failure to take it seriously at first caused the trail to go cold very fast," Cohen said.

Only after the Sheriff's Office put in a call to the NYPD did detectives take action, Cohen said. Since then, NYPD detectives "have been on it hugely."

Responding to the criticism leveled by Cohen, the NYPD has told CNN directly that "an intense investigation was conducted to locate Melissa Barthelemy."

Days after Barthelemy's disappearance, it's now reported the victim's cell phone was used to make taunting calls to her sister, a law enforcement official tells CNN.

Calls from her cell phone were traced to midtown Manhattan, the two last calls made around Madison Square Garden and Times Square. The caller hung up too quickly for authorities to pinpoint the exact locations of the calls.

It is not clear whether the calls made by Barthelemy's cell phone were by a killer who police believe is responsible for the slayings of four women.

Barthelemy was last seen in the Bronx and was identified among three others found within a quarter-mile stretch of Gilgo Beach. All four advertised themselves as prostitutes on the website Craigslist, police say.

Three of the bodies were identified earlier this week as:

-- Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Connecticut.

-- Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of Erie County, New York.

-- Amber Lynn Costello, 27, of North Babylon, New York.

Megan Waterman, a 22-year old mother from Scarborough, Maine, was identified last week.

The bodies were discovered by accident when police were searching for a missing woman, according to Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer.

The bodies were in various stages of decomposition and at least one could have been there for as long as two years, he said.

Allan Chernoff contributed to this report.