The remains found Tuesday morning in the Oak Beach marsh have been identified by the Suffolk County Medical Examiner as those of missing New Jersey prostitute Shannan Gilbert, Suffolk County police said on Saturday.
The cause of death has not been determined, police said.
The news comes just days after the one-year anniversary of when an officer and his cadaver dog found the first of 10 victims along the barrier island, and when police officers came upon three more killed escorts in Gilgo Beach.
“I think it is obvious to all that the Suffolk County Police Department has expended an extraordinary amount of time and resources over the past year and a half to locate Shannan Gilbert,” Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said in a statement. “Difficult terrain was searched and re-searched. The last leg involved amphibious vehicles and divers in wet suits who searched over a hundred acres of marshland. Our condolences to the Gilbert family and her friends. We hope this brings them closure and peace.”
Last December, police found the bodies of Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of the Bronx; Amber Lynn Costello, 27, of North Babylon; Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Maine; and Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwhich, Conn.
Gilbert was last seen running on the night of May 1, 2010. Her remains were found less than a mile from the Oak Beach home where she was last seen that night. Police said this week that they believe that she ran into the quicksand-like area, got stuck and drowned.
It was the investigation of Gilbert that led police to 10 bodies that were later discovered.
Detectives riding in a vehicle spotted the skeletal remains at 9:14 a.m., about ¼ mile northeast of where they found Gilbert’s purse, jeans, shoes and lip gloss last week, Dormer said.
“We obviously are very glad that we’ve found who we believe to be Shannan Gilbert,” Dormer said earlier in the week. “It is certainly a sad day for the Gilbert family and our condolences to that family on the death of their daughter.”
Investigators started searching the area again last week when they came upon several items that belonged to Gilbert. They took a break over the weekend and resumed the search this week.
Dormer has said that police believe that a serial killer didn’t kill Gilbert, but her family said they still believe she was murdered.
-With Timothy Bolger