Saturday, December 18, 2010

Missing NJ Woman Not Among Bodies Found on Beach

Dec. 17) -- A New Jersey prostitute whose disappearance prompted a search that led to the remains of four women is not among the bodies found dumped on a New York beach, authorities say.

"The Suffolk County Medical Examiner's Office has determined through analysis of forensic evidence that none of the human remains found in Gilgo Beach during the past week are that of Shannan Gilbert, 24, who was reported missing in May," Suffolk police said Thursday night.

Gilbert has been missing since May 1. It was during a weekend search for Gilbert that authorities stumbled upon the first set of human remains on Oak Beach on New York's Long Island. Three more bodies were found Monday in the same area.

K-9 unit police use a cadaver dog to search an area in Oak Beach, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010, on New York's Long Island.
Louis Lanzano, AP
Police use a cadaver dog to search a section of Oak Beach on New York's Long Island on Thursday. Authorities have been scouring the area since four bodies were discovered there this week.

Investigators fear the victims, all female, may have been slain by a serial killer.

From the onset of the case, Gilbert was considered a central figure in the probe. Authorities have not commented on the extent of which the revelation complicates the investigation, but they are now back to square one in regards to determining who each of the women is.

Authorities believe the bodies were dumped in the beach area over an 18-month period. Two of the victims were found wrapped in burlap sacks.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer told reporters Tuesday that he did not think it was a coincidence that the bodies ended up in the same area. He said investigators believe they were all placed there by the same person or people.

"We're looking at that, that we could have a serial killer," Dormer said.

Dormer spoke with reporters again Thursday evening, urging citizens to remain calm.

"I don't want anybody to think that we have a Jack the Ripper running around Suffolk County with blood dripping from a knife, which might be the impression that some people would get. It is not that type of situation," Dormer said.

Jack the Ripper is the name given to a still-unidentified serial killer who murdered at least five prostitutes in London in the 1880s.

On Wednesday evening, authorities searched an oceanfront home in an exclusive Oak Beach gated community that belongs to a local man named Joseph Brewer. Police were at the home seeking information about Gilbert, according to reports.

Brewer had previously told police he invited Gilbert to his home after meeting her on Craigslist. She became agitated during the visit and ran screaming for help to a neighboring home owned by Gustav Coletti. When Coletti said he was calling police, Gilbert fled and has not been seen since, the New York Post reported.

Officers were seen removing a white sport utility vehicle that appeared to have been parked in Brewer's driveway, according to news reports. Dormer has since confirmed that officials confiscated a vehicle, but he did not identify the owner.

"We brought the vehicle in and the vehicle is going to be processed," Dormer told reporters Thursday evening. "That is just a continuation of the investigation. It is appropriate that we do that and there are no suspects at this time. It is just that we want to cover all the areas of interest."

Brewer has denied involvement in Gilbert's disappearance and said today he is relieved that she has been ruled out as one of the women found on the beach.

"I said this from the beginning, that I was innocent, that I didn't do anything, and now it's come out," Brewer told the Post.

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives have notified Gilbert's family of the latest developments in the case, police said. The news was bittersweet.

"I'm confused. Where is she?" her mother, Mari Gilbert, told the Post. "I still miss her and I want her home, and she's still not here."

The women's remains are at the New York City Medical Examiner's Office, pending identification and a determination of cause of death.

Authorities have said they plan to compare the women's DNA to a swab taken from a family member of Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Maine. A missing prostitute, Waterman was known to advertise escort services on Craigslist. She was last seen in June after arranging to meet a client at a Long Island hotel, police said.

Speaking with The Associated Press this week, Waterman's mother, Lorraine Ela, said a detective has told her he was "leaning toward one of the four victims being Megan, but he's not 100 percent guaranteed."

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