AMITYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — A New Jersey escort was buried during a graveside funeral Thursday, nearly five years after her disappearance led to the discovery of 10 victims of a suspected serial killer on Long Island.
Despite police pronouncements that the deaths of the 10 people — eight women, a man and a child — are unrelated to the Shannan Gilbert case, her mother and the family's attorney repeated their assertions after the funeral that she was the 11th victim in the unsolved mystery.
"Absolutely, there's no question in my mind: I do believe that it is all connected," Mari Gilbert told reporters just steps from where her daughter's service was held.
The remains of Shannan Gilbert, 24, of Jersey City, New Jersey, were located near a beach highway in December 2011, more than 18 months after she was last seen screaming while fleeing a customer's home in the isolated Oak Beach community on the south shore of Long Island.
Police said she ran into a nearly inaccessible marshland and likely drowned; the Suffolk County medical examiner has said the cause of death is undetermined.
The 10 victims were found at least three miles west of where officials found Gilbert in the marsh near the Great South Bay. Investigators believe a possible serial killer — perhaps more than one — is responsible for those bodies.
Police have not commented in recent years on any aspects of the investigation, saying they would issue a statement only when there were noteworthy developments. No suspects have been publicly identified.
Gilbert's body remained at the Suffolk County medical examiner's office for more than three years because the family was unable to pay for a funeral, attorney John Ray said. Area funeral directors donated their services, and the Amityville Cemetery donated a burial plot for the woman's interment.
A K-9 officer and his cadaver dog were on a training mission searching for Gilbert when they happened upon what would become 10 sets of human remains strewn along several miles of thicket adjacent to the Ocean Parkway. Police have said all the victims are somehow linked to the sex trade and that the toddler was the child of one of the sex workers.
The family's attorney said Thursday that an independent autopsy was recently performed by noted pathologist Dr. Michael Baden. Baden said Thursday his examination would take some time.
Ray said he was perplexed over why police have not contacted him to discuss the results of his own investigation into Gilbert's death. Police did not respond to requests for comment Thursday from The Associated Press.
"Honestly, I don't know why they're taking this tack," Ray said.