Suffolk County authorities took the unusual step Tuesday of trying to dispel widespread rumors that a suspect has been identified in the Long Island Serial Killer investigation.
Robert Clifford, spokesman for District Attorney Tom Spota, in a joint statement with Suffolk police, warned that the rumors can pain those smeared as well as the victims’ families, who are waiting for closure.
“Unfounded, anonymous internet postings or rumors about who may be a suspect should be given the appropriate weight they deserve by those who read them,” the statement read. “It should be remembered that this type of unsubstantiated ‘gossip’ can cause substantial harm and emotional trauma.”
The rumors have led some to believe that a suspect was named and that he later committed suicide. The speculation was repeated via Internet posts and a comedy podcast claimed to have broken the news revealing the killer’s identity.
Clifford said he has received hundreds of media inquiries regarding the rumors in recent weeks. He reiterated that neither police nor prosecutors will comment on who is and isn’t a suspect.
He also reiterated that solving the murders remains a top priority, but authorities will not comment on the case “until we have some additional information pertaining to the investigation that serves the public or the investigation by its release.”
The most recent update on the case came last week when police announced that the county medical examiner declared the cause of death for Shannan Gilbert as “undetermined.”
The 24-year-old New Jersey woman, who worked as a prostitute, had met a client in Oak Beach on May 1, 2010 when she disappeared. Her body was found five months ago in a marsh near the home.
Police were searching for her when they found four young women dead off Ocean Parkway in nearby Gilgo Beach in December 2010. Police believe those four women may have been killed by a serial killer.
The remains of four more women, an Asian man and a female toddler were found in March and April 2011. Investigators are still working to identify three of the women, the man and the child.
Authorities have said they do not believe the Gilgo murders were committed by the same killer that dumped the six others on the barrier island. They have also said they believe Gilbert accidentally drowned, although her family still suspects foul play.
“While we are confident that this long, complicated, difficult investigation will eventually be brought to a successful conclusion, it will be the facts and evidence that will lead us to this conclusion and not internet rumors,” the statement read.