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Shannan Gilbert not among new LI bodies, police say

April 5, 2011 3:30:45 PM PDT
Investigators have found eight bodies so far between Gilgo Beach and Oak Beach, but none of them are Shannan Gilbert who sparked the search in the first place. They will return to resume their search on Wednesday. Police are up against miles of the densest brush you can imagine. Officers, cadaver dogs, even police recruits braved the raw wind to hunt for more bodies on a desolate stretch of barrier island that became a serial killer's graveyard.

"This is not like tv show. This is tedious work which will take time, but that's what detectives, homicide does," Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said.

The search area has expanded beyond two beaches in Suffolk County to the Nassau County line. And the mystery remains, is this the work of one serial killer?

The search all started with Shannan Gilbert's disappearance last May.

Gilbert, 24, was a Jersey City prostitute who visited a Craigslist client in Oak Beach and then vanished. The client, Joseph Brewer, has not been named a suspect and is said to be cooperating with police.

The initial search turned up four bodies last December, but no trace of Gilbert. The fifth body found last week was also not Gilbert. Authorities revealed on Tuesday that she was also not one of the three remains found on Monday.

The first four victims were found off in Ocean Parkway along Gilgo Beach. Last week, investigators found the fifth body about a mile east of where the first four were located. That discovery prompted police to resume a widespread search of a seven-mile stretch of the north side of the highway on Monday, a search that yielded the remains of three additional victims.

"It's a tough area," Dormer said. "It's very easy to miss something, but that's why we're doing it again."

The new discoveries Monday were due to a new tactic, as fire trucks from three towns used their extension ladders to put searchers 20 feet over the brambles, high enough to see ground disturbances.

"We found human remains, three human remains so far in the area between Oak Beach and Gilgo Beach," Dormer said.

Almost five months since the first discovery, the lingering question is do police have any suspects? So far they're been very careful to avoid releasing too much information in this case, but experts say it's likely they know much more than they're letting on.

"It's quite possible the police have more information, but they are holding back and that they have a suspect in mind," Dr. Larry Kobilinsky said.

Kobilinsky is an expert in crime scene analysis at John Jay College, and he says it's likely investigators already have solid leads.

The first four victims advertised their services on the online bulletin board Craigslist, which assigns unique email addresses to each posting.

When you respond to an ad, you leave an electronic footprint behind, and as officers have scouring the brush, Kobilinsky says it's likely they've been mining Craiglist's weblogs and email records as well.

"The police have some hard evidence to find the killer, provided they can identify the computer, its location and develop some linkage to the suspect," he said.

All of the killings are thought to be the work of a serial killer who is targeting prostitutes.

Detectives believe the crimes happened in the middle of the night and that the killer chose the same, desolate location, pulling-onto the shoulder of the westbound lanes, dragging the body out of his vehicle and dumping it no more than 25 feet off the roadside.

Of the four victims identified so far, Maureen Brainard-Barnes was murdered first. She was last seen on July 9, 2007.

Melissa Barthelemy was next, having disappeared almost exactly two years later, in 2009.

Megan Waterman vanished on June 6 of last year, and Amber Lynn Costello disappeared in early September of 2010.


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