The search for her would yield the grisly discoveries of nine other bodies along a stretch of highway near Gilgo Beach; four of them were sex workers who were found strangled and dumped in burlap sacks less than a mile apart.
Nearly a decade later, police are sharing what they describe as a "ly undisclosed piece of evidence" in their quest for answers -- and a new commitment to share information with the public on their continuing investigation into the years-long mystery of those finds on Ocean Parkway. That new piece of evidence is a picture of a belt spotted at one of the crime scenes.
Authorities declined to say where exactly it was recovered but said they believed the belt -- one made of black leather with the letters HM or WH embossed on it -- was handled by the killer and did not belong to a victim.
Police refused to elaborate any more on the belt Thursday, declining to answer a question about the size of it. Gilbert's body was found in a swampy marsh about a year and a half after she disappeared. She had called from Oak Beach and said someone was trying to kill her; that call lasted about 22 minutes.
There were three other calls. Despite efforts from the attorney of her now-deceased mother Mari Gilbert to have the calls released -- and a court order to do so -- they have never been made public. The Suffolk County Police Department appealed a court's decision to compel the release; the Appellate Division Court is expected to rule on the appeal next week, according to longtime Gilbert family attorney John Ray. At his own press conference at Suffolk County Police Department headquarters ahead of investigators' briefing Thursday, Ray condemned the police department for an "inadequate and negligent job" of trying to track down the killer or killers of Gilbert and the other women.
He accused Suffolk County of covering up the facts, as he has ly, and vehemently dismissed cops' longtime contention that Gilbert died of "natural causes" while being lost in the swamp after fleeing some unknown threat. The search for the missing year-old sex worker led law enforcement to the grisly discoveries of 10 separate sets of remains, most of whom were also believed to be sex workers.
On Dec. Two days later, officers discovered the remains of three other missing prostitutes -- Megan Waterman, Amber Lynn Costello and Maureen Brainard-Barnes, all of whom advertised their sex services on Craigslist.
Those four bodies had been dumped within a quarter mile span, about feet apart. The following April, authorities found a partially dismembered woman, later identified as another prostitute, Jessica Taylor, an unidentified Asian man, two unidentified women and an unidentified female toddler. The toddler was determined, through DNA testing, to be the daughter of the woman discovered about 7 miles away see map above.
They have not been identified. Authorities said they were the victims of homicides -- and of a possible serial killer.
No suspects have ever been publicly named in any of the cases. She was found in a swamp rampant with thorny brush and police said they believed Gilbert drowned by accident. A medical examiner's autopsy proved inconclusive.
Suffolk's police commissioner reaffirmed that on Thursday, saying they didn't believe the pattern and circumstances to be consistent with the deaths of the other women. That said, the police commissioner added that authorities won't exclude any possibilities.
Gilbert's mother, Mari, refused to let the case drop out of the public eye and pressed law enforcement for a homicide investigation that never matured. Mari Gilbert died in Julyallegedly stabbed to death by her other daughter, Sarra, who suffers from schizophrenia. They declined to answer additional questions about other evidence or possible suspects, citing the ongoing nature of the probe.
Gilgo Beach. What to Know Police are providing in their years-long investigation into the bodies found along a stretch of highway near Gilgo Beach The search for Shannan Gilbert, a missing sex worker, from New Jersey led law enforcement to the discoveries of 10 separate sets of remains, most of whom also were believed to be sex workers Gilbert's body was found a year after the others; authorities have refused to confirm a link between her death and the other bodies.
An autopsy for her proved inconclusive. Suffolk County Police Department map of locations of bodies and dates of discovery in Gilgo probe.
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