OAK BEACH, NY (CBSNewYork) – Shannan Gilbert was the catalyst for what has become Long Island’s largest homicide investigation. Police now not only believe that they have found her body, but that her death was accidental.
On Tuesday, police found what they believe to be Gilbert’s remains in a marshy area on Oak Beach about a quarter-mile from where her cell phone, purse, jeans, shoes and lip gloss were found last week.
The theory put forward this week by Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer suggests that Gilbert accidentally drowned on the morning she disappeared.
Erin Moriarty from 48 Hours Mystery sat down with Dormer in his first one-on-one interview since Tuesday’s announcement.
Now, 18 months since Gilbert disappeared, many are asking could police have done a better job searching for her?
When asked if Gilbert would still be alive today if police had done a more exhaustive search the day she made a frantic 911 call from Oak Beach, Dormer said “that’s speculation.”
But friends and family don’t believe her death was an accident and insist that the fact that her clothing and purse were found far from her remains, suggests foul play.
“You know, that’s explainable because she’s hysterical,” said Dormer. “We know that and she’s discarding her possessions as she moves along. Her jeans could have come off moving in that environment. We’ve looked at this very carefully and that is a possibility, that the jeans came off and she kept running, kept running towards the lights. Obviously, she was disturbed that night.”
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, that police found the first set of human remains along Ocean Parkway.
By April of 2011, police had discovered the 10 sets of remains on Gilgo Beach, all found about seven miles apart along Ocean Parkway.
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.
Dormer said a medical examiner will definitively determine if the remains do belong to Gilbert and an exact cause of death.
There’s no word on when those results will be released.
48 Hours Mystery airs Saturday at 10 p.m. on CBS 2.
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