OAK BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police on Long Island have a new theory about a missing New Jersey prostitute after making a number of new finds Tuesday and Wednesday during their Oak Beach search.
Wednesday afternoon, the Suffolk County Police Department acknowledged they found a pocketbook and personal items — including jeans, shoes and a cellphone — they believe belong to Shannan Gilbert, 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported.
1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera Reports On The Latest Finds
Authorities also said there was identification belonging to Gilbert in the pocketbook, Rivera reported. Officials say they may be able to find Gilbert’s remains soon.
WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall Reports
Gilbert was last seen in Oak Beach running and screaming for help in May of 2010. Police now say they believe that Gilbert was hysterical that night and fell and drowned in a marshy area near the beach.
“The items were found a distance apart, in an oblique manner, of someone just running wildly into this marshy area in the very early morning, dark hours. We won’t know for certain until we find the body…we do expect to find the remains in that area,” Suffolk County Police Chief of Detectives, Dominick Varrone said.
That marshy area used to be a lake, but is now cleared out and not submerged any longer. Police say the finds are significant because it tells them Gilbert’s disappearance was not murder.
“We believe that Shannan Gilbert ran into that area the night that she disappeared. It’s very easy to get engulfed with water, muck, fall down and not be able to get out of there,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said. “We surmise that’s what happened to Shannan.”
On Wednesday, Suffolk County police brought in bulldozers and other heavy equipment to remove marsh and brush in a swampy area that was previously inaccessible. They also spent the morning searching with K-9 and marine units as well as metal detectors and amphibious vehicles.
While officials now do not believe Gilbert was met with foul play, her disappearance was what triggered a search and chain of events that turned into a massive hunt for a serial killer.
Ten sets of human remains have been found in the area since last December. Police have said the remains belong to eight women, a man and a toddler. At least five of the victims were prostitutes.
Dormer has said he believes a single serial killer is likely responsible for the murders of all 10 victims.
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