Shannan Gilbert, who was 24 at the time she went missing in 2010, is one of many women whose deaths are connected to a serial killer who remains at large.
During the search for the sex worker in Long Island, police uncovered the remains of 10 other people, including four women in the area Gilbert disappeared who were identified as missing sex workers.
In December 2011, Gilbert’s remains were discovered not far from where she was last seen near Gilgo Beach.
Police initially suggested Shannan had accidentally drowned after getting lost in tall reeds and that her death wasn’t related to the others in the area, a stance they maintain today.
Speaking on Friday (13 May), Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said: “Based on the evidence, the facts, and the totality of the circumstances, the prevailing opinion in Shannan’s death, while tragic, was not a murder and was most likely noncriminal.”
But while a previous county medical examiner’s official autopsy found the cause of death to be ‘undetermined’, a private autopsy by Gilbert’s family ruled it as ‘consistent with homicidal strangulation’.
Gilbert called 911 from the Oak Beach home of one of her clients on May 1, 2010, before fleeing the house and banging on the doors of neighbours.
In the audio released by authorities, she can be heard repeatedly telling dispatchers: “There’s somebody after me.”
Police also released a video in which they give context to the audio file, explaining that Gilbert’s driver Michael Pak and her client Joseph Brewer can be heard as they try to get her to leave Brewer’s home.
When she left she ran to the home of Gus Colletti, who called 911 and said she was ‘running around here screaming and there’s some guy trying to follow her’.
The driver had attempted to find Gilbert but was left with no choice but to leave, with police determining that both Pak and Brewer cooperated with them in the investigation and neither are suspects.
The investigation in the Gilgo Beach case is ongoing. Harrison, who was sworn in as Suffolk’s police commissioner earlier this year, has promised to make it a priority.
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