MILLER PLACE, N.Y. (AP) — A sex worker who disappeared near a remote stretch of Long Island beach highway that was later revealed to be a suspected serial killer's dumping ground for bodies might have been strangled, according to a new autopsy.
Shannan Gilbert vanished in May 2010 after fleeing the home of a client in Oak Beach, New York. The search for the missing woman led to the surprise discovery of 11 sets of human remains, including Gilbert's. No suspects have ever been arrested, or identified, in any of the killings. But investigators believe a possible serial killer — perhaps more than one — is responsible.
Although detectives have long maintained that Gilbert's death is unrelated to the killings of 10 others along Ocean Parkway in suburban New York, John Ray, an attorney for the Gilbert family, said Friday that an independent autopsy suggests the 24-year-old Jersey City, New Jersey, woman may have been strangled.
An autopsy by the Suffolk County medical examiner following the discovery of Gilbert's badly decomposed skeletal remains in a marsh in December 2011 ruled the cause of death undetermined.
Ray subsequently asked noted forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden to conduct an independent review.
Baden found that while "there is insufficient information to determine a definite cause of death," the autopsy findings "are consistent with homicidal strangulation." Baden's letter to Ray also said there is no evidence "that she died of natural disease, of a drug overdose or of drowning."
Ray said at a press conference with Gilbert's mother and sisters that he has requested the Suffolk County homicide squad re-activate the investigation into the woman's death.
Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said in a statement Friday that detectives are waiting to review Baden's findings. Sini announced in December that the department has brought in FBI investigators to assist local detectives with the probe.
A K-9 officer and his cadaver dog were on a training mission searching for Gilbert in December 2010 when they happened upon what would become by spring of the following year 10 sets of human remains — eight women, a man and a toddler. The remains were found strewn along several miles of thicket adjacent to Ocean Parkway, just east of Jones Beach.
The 10 other victims — including at least four other sex workers — were found at least three miles west of where officials found Gilbert's body. Some of the other remains were found more than 10 miles away from Gilbert's, and officials later linked some of those body parts to dismembered victims found more than 40 miles from Ocean Parkway since 1996.