Some people are natural followers. In a case like this, with multiple suspects, a variety of personalities, figures and public images, it’s hard to determine just who, in reality, is at the rotten center of the apple. That said, the figure I refer to as The Purse - he’s a hanger-on.
I call this individual The Purse because they aren’t quite at the same monetary level as The Banker or even The Gentleman, but is following in their footsteps, trying to keep up, and impress them, using his monetary value, and his position as a businessman to help pay for escorts, hotels, homes, etc. The Purse, unlike the potential solo killers mentioned previously, is part of a duo or possibly group of killers. He’s not one to do any of this on his (or her) own. He’s not a leader. The idea to commit these crimes may have been in his mind for years, but he never had the guts to do it, until he saw others doing it.
Michael Maccoby wrote about the idea of followers, and more specifically, the power of transference, in 2004. He highlights the idea of power and its influence fairly succinctly for the Harvard Business Review, and shines a light on the potential psychological connection(s) between The Purse and one or more of the other suspects.
“More influential, much of the time, are the irrational motivations that lie outside the realm of our awareness and, therefore, beyond our ability to control them. For the most part, these motivations arise from the powerful images and emotions in our unconscious that we project onto our relationships with leaders,” (Maccoby 2004). These “irrational motivations” most likely stem from years of friendship or connection to one of the other suspects in this case. The Purse emulating this figure during these moments that resulted in the deaths of the Gilgo Beach 4 (GB4).
I believe The Purse has been connected to one or more of the figures in this case since childhood. I see them growing up together, playing sports, chasing girls, raising hell, doing all the things young men typically do. But at some point, that developmental phase of their lives becomes corrupted and once they enter their twenties, a darker connection forms between them. As Mark Van Pugt wrote in 2012, “... our hardwired tendencies to follow backfire when we are exposed to the wrong sorts of models, particularly in childhood.”
One could also look at this theory of influence or transference in terms of the case itself.
A theory is presented, in this case, by police commissioner Richard Dormer, that Long Island had a serial killer on its’ hands, and everyone following the case, myself included, began to think that a lone killer in the night was stalking these women or hiring these women, killing them, and dumping their bodies along a secluded beach. If you look on popular social media groups about the case, or follow along over on a site like Websleuths, the lone killer theory is still the most prominent.
Many highlight the possible theory that Shannan Gilbert was murdered by the figure known as The Purse, however; I do not. In terms of the “pair of killers” theory, this makes sense, that the most famous of the girls found at Gilgo Beach would’ve been the sloppy work of a frenzied Purse, makes sense, however; while I believe The Purse was possibly there the night Shannan disappeared and died, I do not believe The Purse was the one to do it. Remember, The Purse is a follower. For him to suddenly take charge and execute a plan or act on his emotions would be somewhat out of character. That doesn’t mean The Purse is innocent of any wrongdoing, he still helped set up these girls for his partner, he still helped dispose of the bodies, and he still hid the truth from authorities.