- The remains are found a quarter mile from belongings found last week, police say
- A medical examiner will determine if the remains are Shannan Gilbert's
- The search led to the discovery of other bodies, triggered a hunt for a possible serial killer
- Remains of others were found on Oak and Gilgo beaches and another location on Long Island
A year after police discovered four bodies dumped along a remote stretch of New York beach, authorities said Tuesday they believe they've found the body of a missing New Jersey woman whose disappearance triggered the search.
"If it is Shannan Gilbert, then her location is indicative of her trying to make it to the causeway," situated northeast of where the remains were ultimately found, said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer.
The suspected skeletal remains of Gilbert, 24, were uncovered in a remote marshland on Long Island's Oak Beach.
Her disappearance in May 2010 prompted a search that has since unearthed 10 sets of human remains strewn across two Long Island counties, leading to national headlines and a hunt for a possible serial killer.
A medical examiner is expected to determine whether the remains belong to the Jersey City, New Jersey, resident, whose death authorities have previously said is not likely attributed to the suspected killer.
Police cut through a thicket of brush and bramble this week, expanding their search across swampland before uncovering Gilbert's suspected remains.
"The terrain would have made it impossible for her to get to" Ocean Parkway, Dormer told reporters.
Homicide detectives spotted the bones at 9:14 a.m. Tuesday while riding atop "an amphibious machine" after having drained nearby areas last week in an effort to improve access and visibility.
The remains were discovered about a quarter mile away from Gilbert's pocketbook, which was found last week alongside a cell phone, shoes and a pair of jeans.
"It is certainly a sad day for the Gilbert family," Dormer added.
After Gilbert vanished last year, the search for her led police seven months later to four bodies found along a quarter-mile stretch of Oak Beach.
Additional remains were uncovered in subsequent months at neighboring Gilgo Beach and along beachfront property in Nassau County, about 40 miles east of New York City.
Like the four victims found last December, Gilbert had advertised prostitution services on websites such as Craigslist.
Gilbert's sisters have said the missing woman was an escort who was visiting a client. They said she ran from the man's house in a panic, saying someone was trying to hurt her.
A man who lives a few miles from where the first set of remains were found told CNN that a young woman who "looked like she was partying all night" came to his door around 5 a.m. on May 1, 2010.
"She was screaming, 'Help me, help me!' and said somebody was chasing her," said resident Gustav Coletti, who called police.
The woman then ran off, he said, just before a man drove up in a dark-colored sport utility vehicle and inquired of her whereabouts.
"This may be just a young lady (who) ran into the brush in hysterical state, fell down and expired for some reason," Dormer said Wednesday.
The police commissioner last week announced that the investigation into the other bodies now is concentrated on the possibility of a single serial killer -- a departure from his earlier statements in which he said the bodies could be the work of one or more killers.
It is unclear what prompted the change in focus toward one killer.