Prostitute's remains found; case triggered serial-killer search
The skeletal remains believed to be those of Shannan Gilbert, the so-called Craigslist prostitute whose disappearance touched off a search for what authorities later said was an unrelated serial killer, have been found in a swampy Long Island area, police announced Tuesday.
The remains were found at 9:14 a.m. Eastern, a spokeswoman for the Suffolk police said in a telephone interview shortly after county police commissioner Richard Dormer briefed reporters on the find at a news conference. Authorities will test the body to formally establish the identity and the cause of death, the spokeswoman said.
But police believe the remains are Gilbert because they were found about a quarter of a mile from where Gilbert's purse, identification and shoes were recently located. The area was searched recently, but no remains were found until the brush and bramble were cut back, the spokeswoman said.
In addition, the area was drained last week. Police used an amphibious vehicle for their latest search, which yielded the remains Tuesday.
Gilbert, who had a metal plate in her jaw, had advertised on Craigslist before she disappeared in May 2010. Police have theorized that the 23-year-old woman from New Jersey was fleeing the home of a male customer in the Oak Beach community of Long Island when she became entangled in the overgrown marsh.
It is unknown why she may have been fleeing, but the latest find is consistent with the police theory, officials said.
“We are not changing our theory,” Dormer told reporters. “She traveled at least a half mile, three-quarters of a mile on foot through that muck,” he said. “It would be very easy to get exhausted and fall down and not be able to move any further.”
“It is certainly a sad day for the Gilbert family, and our condolences go out to that family on the death of their daughter,” Dormer said.
The search for Gilbert led officials to the discovery of 10 other sets of remains that authorities believed were tied to a serial killer. But officials abandoned the idea that Gilbert’s death was linked to the others.
Police still believe the other bodies are the victims of a serial killer. The 10, linked in some way to the sex trade, include a young woman, a toddler (believed to be a victim's daughter) and a male transvestite.
-- Michael Muskal
Photo: Crime scene investigators use metal detectors to search a marsh for the remains of Shannan Gilbert in Long Island's Oak Beach, N.Y. Police announced they have recovered what they believe are Gilbert's remains. Credit: James Carbone/AP/Pool.