Families, Cops Sharply Disagree On Cause Of Death In Case Of Gilgo/Oak Beach Remains

Medical Examiner Still To Determine If Shannan Gilbert Has Been Found

OAK BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There has been a major discovery in the Long Island serial killer investigation. Investigators believe they have found the remains of missing prostitute Shannan Gilbert, whose disappearance led to a series of grisly discoveries.

After meeting with detectives on Tuesday Gilbert’s weeping mother was escorted to the scene at Oak Beach where she fell into the arms of other victims’ families, reports CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

“If they started the search earlier and continued it longer than they did the first time, they would have found her sooner and this case would be so much farther ahead,” Mari Gilbert said.

The stunning announcement of the discovery of remains believed to be Shannan Gilbert’s came, ironically, on the one-year anniversary of finding the bodies of multiple sex workers wrapped in burlap at Gilgo Beach.

“Before this sick bastard is caught they are going to find more bodies out here in these woods,” victim’s mother Lorraine Ela said.

The remains of 10 people have been found, but to date only five have been identified. However, they may have gone missing forever, if not for Shannan Gilbert’s disappearance and an unprecedented search to find her. Last week, her cell phone, purse, jeans, shoes and lip gloss were found.

WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reports: Police Believe Search For Shannan Is Over

Then on Tuesday investigators found skeletal remains.

“The homicide squad with members of DPW were on an amphibious machine edging forward into thick brush when homicide detectives spotted the skeletal remains lying on the surface of the ground,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said. “The body was found approximately one-quarter mile northeast from where her personal belongings were located last week.”

“We’re obviously very glad that we found what we believe to be Shannan Gilbert,” Dormer told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “But it’s certainly a sad day for the Gilbert family and our condolences to that family on the death of their daughter.”

Dormer said everything still points to Gilbert apparently being trapped and not murdered.  He said if the body is Gilbert’s then “her location is indicative of her trying to make it to the causeway.” He added that the terrain would have made it impossible for Gilbert to reach the parkway.

Not everyone, however, accepts that she died accidentally.

“It was murder. I don’t care what anybody says, this was murder,” said Ela, whose daughter, Megan Waterman, was among the 10 victims found dumped along Ocean Parkway.

Melissa Cann

Melissa Cann puts up a cross for her sister Maureen Barnes along Ocean Parkway onDec. 13, 2011 (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

Mari Gilbert also took the news of the discovery very hard. The family said until the autopsy is in, the remains are identified and cause of death is confirmed as accidental, they will remain unconvinced.

“Until I hear positive confirmation that it is my daughter, I’m going to believe it’s not until I know for sure,” she told reporters, including 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.

The man who saw her running that night and called 911 has questions, too

“Did she drown or was she murdered?” Gus Colleti told CBS 2’s McLogan.

Dormer said a medical examiner will definitively determine if the remains do in fact belong to Gilbert and an exact cause of death.

Gilbert was last seen running and screaming for help in Oak Beach in May 2010. It was while searching for Gilbert on Dec. 11, 2010 when police found the first set of human remains along Ocean Parkway.

1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports: Police Say Everything Points To An Accidental Death

By April of 2011, police had discovered the 10 sets of remains on Gilgo Beach, all found about seven miles apart along Ocean  Parkway.

More: Map And Timeline Of Investigation

Tuesday morning, family members laid crosses at the crime scene along Ocean Parkway.

1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports: Families Of Gilgo Beach Victims Remember Loved Ones 

Police have said the remains belong to eight women, a man and a toddler. At least five of the victims were prostitutes, including Maureen Barnes, Melissa Barthemay,  Amber Lynn Costello and Megan Waterman The four women are the only ones police have positively identified.

For the people left behind, the pain is overwhelming.

“It’s something that you really can’t explain. It’s so hurtful, so painful,” Melissa Cann, sister of Barnes, told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey at a vigil on Tuesday night.

“My life will never be the same. My holidays … I don’t have holidays anymore. And it’s sad,” Ela added.

“It hurts,” Mari Gilbert said. “Shannan was a wonderful daughter. She was thoughtful, she was giving, she was caring.”

WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs With Reaction From Area Residents

Dormer has said he believes a single serial killer is likely responsible for the murders of all 10 victims, but said detectives now believe Gilbert likely fell into the marsh and drowned and that her disappearance is not connected to the serial killer case.

Please share your thoughts below…

  • p8nt

    In all honesty, the NYPD did not care about finding her, given how long it took for them to search the area. It was only until they started finding several bodies, that they got interested in the search. Would she have been alive IF they started to look around using a thermal imaging camera? Who knows. One thing’s for sure, if it was some under cover cop, or a person from a high profile family, this case would have been resolved within a weeks time.

    • The Realist

      Why would the NewYork CITY Police Department be involved in a suburban case?

    • Yo Yo Ma

      It wasn’t the NYPD> It was and is the Suffolk County P.D.

  • Dalby Jason

    In may at 5am its about sun up. If she runs from anyone and tells first person she sees “they are trying to kill me” then vanishes. Then about a year later you find her clothes and then find her body 1/4 mile away sounds to me its no accident. A helicopter flying over area in may with a heat image thing would of found her that day. The day before you find her personal property you say a helicopter was in the air 3 months ago and found this spot but due to poison ivy you had to wait till it got cold and died? Its sad to say but being a sex worker might of been her down fall. Because if this was a regular person/kid they would of found them that day…

  • The Realist

    If the Gilbert family and the other families actually believe that Shannan was murdered, then they should present their SPECIFIC forensic evidence instead of holding on to it for later profit.

    • nrichard

      wow – really? From where do your sweeping assumptions come from?

  • pontia

    Shannon Gilbertt did NOT die by accident. That is ABSURD. Why was she running for her life that night?

  • Peter

    Does it make a difference if she is white or black?Does every news story have to refer to the victim as a prostitute?She was a young woman who did not get the chance to live her life to the fullest.My condolences to those who loved her.My wish is that Shannan Gilbert’s afterlife is peaceful and happy.

  • SokrMom

    It’s silly to think that this one body of all those found in this location resulted from an accidental death. Also, whether Gilbert was a prostitute or not, there is a murderer who needs to be found. The toddler victim was obviously not a prostitute. Moreover, lots of other serial killers have started with prostitutes and eventually branched out, whether deliberately or mistakenly, so no one is safe while the murderer remains uncaught. I think what is needed here is some kind of joint state-federal task force with the resources to go over this wild area with a fine-toothed comb. There is no way any other murder spree involving at least 10 people would be investigated in this on-again, off-again, leisurely way.

  • Mr Turkey

    In response to DianeD: guess someone disagreed a bit too much with my comment that she kind of looked black in one of the pics. And then decided to report my post which was subsequently deleted.

    And didn’t post as “DP”. That is someone else. Why would I call myself an idiot? You, however, seem to be such.

    Gobble gobble.

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Police Commissioner Richard Dormer is the killer its so clear by how much information he is giving out to the press

  • ANYA


    • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

      these girls loved and took the shaft for a few dollars

  • Surfin Bird

    It is very sad that this girl got into prostitution..

    The fmaily is supposedly gonna hold a vigil for her.

    Maybe a group can be started for those involved in prostitution to get seek help and get out of it.

  • Yankee Fan

    The article chooses to describe her as a Prostitute. She can be no more than 20 which means most of her life she was not a prostitute. Why hurt her family with such a description.

    And for those of you who have racist and bigot comments I ask one question? Is there not enough pain in the world already? Why not spend your time and thoughts on how to help, heal, and nurture those less fortunate than you. Love is the answer. Not hate, no matter if you are black, white, or purple

  • Harlem Professional

    it’s a cop or a law enforcement professional who knows how to leave no trace evidence.

    • Jean

      Well, they screwed up this time because although it took a while they found her, didn’t they? Her “profession” is extremely risky and dangerous and hundreds of women die every year due to being involved in prostitution. I’m sure the johns know how to kill as well

  • The Good Samaritan


    The Good Samaritan is saddened.

  • Lawn-Guy Land

    Supposedly, they stopped the investigation to protect the local residents’ property values. What changed?

  • dp

    And your post would let us all know that you’re a racist idiot….

    Go back to school !

    • DianeD

      changed from Mr. Turkey to DP???? Read below, my comment was a reply to what someone by the name of Mr. Turkey had posted, which for some reason, has been taken off this blog….bunch of jerks, all of you!!!!!!!!!

  • DianeD

    She looks white on the pix that showed up in this article as I read it! I feel sorry for you Mr. Turky….you must the the bigotted Archie Bunker in your neighborhood!

    • DianeD

      How convenient that what “Mr. Turkey” left here as a comment, which I replied to, was taken off this page! Now, nobody knows what prompted me to write the above, which was in reply to bigotted Mr. Turkey.

  • Dee madison

    They were all someone’s daughters. RIP

    • nrichard

      Thank you!!!! I am not sure why what someone does makes them less of a human being in some people’s eyes. Sad commentary on some of the people in this world

  • bullett

    If the remains are that of Ms. Gilbert, maybe it will help to bring some type of closure to her family.

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