Few noticed when prostitute Shannon Gilbert disappeared in New York a few months ago, but her case suddenly became big news when her body was found on a beach on Long Island--along with three others. Why are people suddenly so interested? Sadly, it's not because of the women, The New York Daily News' Michael Daly writes.

"If one prostitute disappears, the world shrugs as if it were just the wages of sin," Daly says. But if multiple victims are found together, "we suddenly want to know who they are and when they were last seen. ... It is just the chance they were victims of a mythic specter, the subject of countless books and movies--a serial killer." If the bodies had all been male, people would assume the beach was just a dumping ground for gangsters or some other criminal for whom killing is just "a means to an end," like silencing witnesses.

But, Daly continues, "Even in this age of equality, there do not seem to be enough pragmatic reasons for killing four women. Cops and everybody else cannot help but think it is the work of someone who views killing as an end in itself. ... If any good can come from the specter of a Long Island 'Ripper,' it is the sudden interest in the two prostitutes who might be among the victims."