With the year anniversary of Suffolk County police finding the first of 10 victims of a serial killer now past and the long search over for the missing prostitute who sparked those discoveries, investigators will continue trying to answer a number of key questions in the largest-ever case of its kind on Long Island.
There are still five victims who remain unidentified, including three dismembered women, a toddler who is beilieved to be the daughter of one of those women and a man who was wearing women’s clothing. District Attorney Tom Spota publicly disagreed with Police Commissioner Richard Dormer’s latest theory that one killer was responsible for all 10 victims found between December and April on the barrier island south of LI.
And medical examiners have yet to determine a cause or manner of death for 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert of Jersey City, N.J., whose remains were found last Tuesday nearly a mile from the Oak Beach client’s home where she was last seen May 1, 2010. Dormer and other top investigators have said they believe Gilbert drowned in the marshland where she was found, but her family remains skeptical of that theory.
“Our condolences to the Gilbert family and her friends,” Dormer said in a statement Saturday upon positive identification of the remains. “We hope this brings them closure and peace.” A police spokeswoman said there are no more searches of the area planned this week.
Friend and family who update the “Praying for Shannan Maria Gilbert” Facebook page posted this message Sunday, apparently maintaining that she was a victim of foul play: “Justice will be served.”
Her mother, Mari Gilbert, rushed to the secluded seaside community after police announced they found the remains on the same day friends and family of some of the women were found nearby off Ocean Parkway were planning a vigil to mark the initial discoveries a year ago that day. She told reporters at the scene that is was a “sad, but happy moment.”
Two days later, Spota testified before the legislature’s public safety committee that he was unaware that Dormer believed all 10 victims previoulsy found between Jones Beach State Park and Cedar Beach were slain by a lone serial killer. The two top law enforcement officials had held a news conference in May in which they suggested there may be as many as three killers who used the area as dumping grounds.
The four slain online escorts found in December 2010 in Gilgo Beach were the only ones initially thought to have been victims of a serial killer since the method of disposal varied in the other cases. But Dormer said recently that the killer could have evolved.
“I would never even discuss this publicly, except I think that the facts that have been disclosed so far do not bear out the single killer theory at all,” Spota reportedly told the panel. He noted that since five of the victims have yet to be identified, it is impossible to say if they are tied to the sex trade like the first five women who have been identified.
Dormer suggested as early as September that the unidentified Asian man may have been an escort because he was found wearing women’s clothing but Spota said at the hearing that all cross dressers are not sex workers. A police spokeswoman has reportedly declined to counter Spota’s response.
The police commissioner, who will be replaced by an interim commissioner with the change in administration on New Year’s Day, has said the next press briefing in the case will include a sketch of one of the two women whose partial remains were found on the Nassau County half of the barrier island in April.
One of those women was killed as early as 1996, meaning that if there is a lone killer responsible, he has already gotten away with murder for at least 15 years.