A serial killer may have abandoned four badly decomposed bodies, each apparently dumped from a car, along a desolate, wind-swept stretch of highway not far from Long Island's Jones Beach, police said Tuesday.

Police found the remains, feet from the roadway, near Cedar Beach as they searched for a missing prostitute last known to be headed to Fire Island, said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer. At least two of the bodies are female, but authorities haven't determined the gender of the other two, Dormer said.

Investigators were taking DNA samples and examining dental records to try to identify them.

"We're looking at that — that we could have a serial killer," Dormer said in response to a reporter's question.

The beach is about three miles from where the missing woman was headed when she disappeared May 1, but Dormer said there was no indication yet that hers was one of the four bodies.

Dormer said the four appeared to have been killed elsewhere and then brought to the site, a strip of land less than 1,000 yards wide that divides the Great South Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. The roadway connects the landmark Jones Beach State Park with several state and town-run beaches to its east, including Cedar Beach.

The remains were badly decomposed, but appeared to have been dumped over an 18-month period, Dormer said. The first set of remains were found Saturday as police were following up on a missing-person report. The three other bodies were found Monday.

Jersey City, N.J., police identified the missing prostitute as 24-year-old Shannon Gilbert, of Jersey City. Dormer said Gilbert worked as a prostitute and arranged through Craigslist to meet a client on Fire Island.

The popular summertime vacation resort of Fire Island is actually a 30-mile strip of villages located just east of Cedar Beach. While some parts of western Fire Island are accessible by motor vehicle, most visitors travel there by ferry.

Police officers returned to the scene Tuesday with a cadaver dog, searching the area for additional bodies. Despite a howling wind, temperatures in the low 20s and a coating of snow on the ground, Dormer said the dog would still be able to do its work. He said the search of the vast, remote area could take days or longer.

The discovery drew comparisons to a 4-year-old New Jersey case in which four prostitutes' bodies were found in a drainage ditch in Egg Harbor Township, just outside Atlantic City and about a mile from the beach. Those killings remain unsolved.

Atlantic County Prosecutor Theodore Housel said Tuesday that Atlantic County detectives were still investigating the bodies found in November 2006 and had spoken with authorities in New York about their case.

"We have been in contact with authorities in Suffolk County, New York," he said. "It would not be fair for us to comment on their investigation." He would not comment further.