NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New independent autopsy results found that the death of a New Jersey prostitute, whose body was discovered on Long Island near 10 other victims of a suspected serial killer, is “consistent with homicidal strangulation,” the family’s lawyer says.
Shannan Gilbert’s official cause of death was classified as “undetermined” back in 2012. But attorney John Ray said Friday that a new private autopsy concluded “that the evidence is consistent with the fact that Shannan was strangled to death.”
Suffolk County police have long held the position that she was not an 11th victim of the suspected serial killer, but fell and drowned in a drug-induced panic in a marsh, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
“There is no evidence whatsoever that Shannan Gilbert died a natural death,” Ray said. “There is no evidence whatsoever that Shannan Gilbert died from an overdose of drugs and there is no evidence whatsoever that Shannan Gilbert died by drowning.”
The autopsy was conducted by former New York City medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden. Ray said the new findings, which were consistent with homicidal strangulation, “significantly changes the case.”
“Shannan’s bone in her neck, which is known as the hyoid bone, was in some way disfigured — in two ways actually. One end of the broken hyoid bone was rough-edged and the middle of the hyoid bone had a hole right through the center of the bone as if it were drilled or hole-punched into the throat,” Ray told 1010 WINS. “We know from scientific evidence that virtually every woman who is strangled or hung breaks her hyoid bone and in this case, this was ignored by the medical examiner of Suffolk County and here Dr. Baden instead says it’s an indication of strangulation.”
Gilbert’s family said they have been haunted every day since the 23-year-old’s death and are angry that police believe it was accidental and not criminal, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, emotions were still raw for Gilbert’s family, six years after the escort disappeared.
“I miss her so much and I don’t even know what to say because I am so angry because she’s taken from our life,” her sister said.
Gilbert was last seen running and screaming for help in Oak Beach back in May of 2010.
The first body was found on Dec. 11, 2010 while police were searching for Gilbert. By April, police had discovered the sets of 10 remains on Gilgo Beach, all found about seven miles apart along Ocean Parkway.
“We’re looking at that we could have a serial killer,” then Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said.
Five of the 10 victims have yet to be identified.
With the notorious mystery unsolved, Police never connected Gilbert’s death with the others. Her mother said they missed obvious suspects.
“If they catch the person who did this to Shannon they will catch the killer of the other victims and stop a serial killer,” Marci Gilbert said.
The investigation has been under a cloud since the arrest of former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke in a beating and cover up. Burk allegedly kept the FBI out of the case for years.
“I am angry that anyone who knows the truth and is not saying anything because it’s just selfish,” Gilbert’s sister said.
Last month, Suffolk Deputy Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the FBI would be assisting in the Gilgo Beach case.
Suffolk County Police said they will review the autopsy and are doing everything they can to solve the murders.
Gilbert’s family wants to know what took so long. The family has gone to court to have access to Shannon’s frantic 911 call in which she allegedly screams, “they are trying to kill me.” A judge is expected to rule next month.