Detectives probing the deaths of eight people found dumped steps from a highway leading to the popular Jones Beach wrapped up a four-day search of a seven-mile stretch of the road Thursday, while authorities in a neighboring county prepared to pick up the search in their jurisdiction next week.
Authorities believe the deaths may be the work of a serial killer, although they have yet to name a suspect.
Suffolk County police Commissioner Richard Dormer said although investigators failed to turn up any signs of Shannan Gilbert, a Jersey City, N.J., prostitute missing since last May, they intended to follow any leads that develop in her case. It was Gilbert's missing persons case that led investigators to search the area and the subsequent discoveries of the eight bodies.
"Our search for her, as well as the investigation into her disappearance, will continue as a very active, ongoing investigation," Dormer said.
The search for additional bodies will resume next week in neighboring Nassau County, which borders New York City. A spokesman said county officers would be assisted by a contingent from the state police. The search was stretching west to Nassau out of an abundance of caution, police said.
Police discovered the first of the eight bodies in December while looking for Gilbert, a 24-year-old who was last seen in Oak Beach, a seaside enclave several miles from where the victims were located. Three more bodies turned up two days later, and all four were later identified as prostitutes in their 20s.
A fifth body was found last week about a mile east of the first four, and police located three more on Monday. Police have not identified any of the most recent victims and have not definitively linked them to the remains found in December. All eight bodies were within three miles of each other on the north side of Ocean Parkway.
Authorities quickly ruled out Gilbert as any of the eight victims because of forensic evidence they had on file in her case. Gilbert had been in Oak Beach to meet a client. Police have not named the client as a suspect in her disappearance, and he has cooperated with investigators.