Police investigating the deaths of 10 people in a suspected serial murder case on Long Island unexpectedly deployed divers and K-9 units Tuesday to a marshland and adjoining waters near where a prostitute went missing 18 months ago but said no human remains were found.
A top police official declined to comment at a late afternoon briefing on whether any "significant items" linked to the disappearance of 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert of Jersey City, N.J., had been uncovered. Suffolk County Police Inspector Stuart Cameron said teams would return Wednesday with heavy equipment to chop down tall reeds and other obstacles along the shorefront to enhance the search effort.
Gilbert's disappearance from the Oak Beach gated community on May 1, 2010, prompted what has become one of Long Island's largest-ever police investigations. A police officer and cadaver dog were searching for evidence in the woman's disappearance on Dec. 11, when they uncovered the first of what would become 10 homicide victims. Their remains were strewn along several miles of thicket adjacent to the Ocean Parkway that leads to Jones Beach.
Officers searched 90 specific locations in and around the highway on Monday but declared the probe over at that time. Those locations were mapped after FBI took high-tech surveillance photos of the area this year.
Cameron said temperatures in the 60s on Tuesday and low tide conditions in the area contributed to the decision to resume searching. Several media reports indicated that some evidence linked to Gilbert had been located, but Cameron refused to comment on that.
The remains of 10 people _ eight women, a man and a baby _ were found strewn mostly along the remote beach parkway, but some body parts from those victims also were found on eastern Long Island and nearly 50 miles away on Fire Island. Police have identified only five of the 10 victims. Those five were all women working as escorts. The oldest remains are linked to a case 15 years ago.
Police Commissioner Richard Dormer has pulled back on earlier theories that multiple killers might have left the bodies along the parkway, the first of which was a woman who went missing in 1996. Dormer said last week he believes that because nine of the 10 were involved in the sex trade, their killings are likely related. The tenth victim, a toddler girl, was linked by DNA to a woman believed to be her mother. The remains of the mother and child were found seven miles apart.
The man's remains haven't yet been identified, but police have previously said he was found wearing women's clothing, leading them to theorize that he was a male prostitute.
Police said Monday that the search wasn't limited to finding Gilbert and that officers were seeking evidence in the overall investigation.
The last of the 10 sets of remains were found in early April. Since then, a $25,000 reward has led to 1,200 tips in the case, but no suspects have been identified.