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Aerial imaging to be used in search for more Long Island remains

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Searching for a serial killer
  • 8 sets of confirmed human remains have been found in Suffolk County
  • More remains and a skull were found Monday
  • Police have not confirmed that the newly found remains were of different people
  • Resident says it took police more than four months to question him as a potential witness

New York (CNN) -- Aircraft will soon shoot high-resolution photos of the Long Island, New York, beach area where the search for a missing woman has led to the remains of at least eight people.

Airplanes and helicopters will begin circling the barrier island beach later this week as federal, state and local search efforts continue, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer told reporters on Wednesday.

"The high-resolution technology should be able to provide a detailed representation of the area and will extend through Nassau County," Dormer said. "We're hoping the technology will help identify skeletal remains that may still be out there."

The aerial imagery will supplement police-dog search units, which expected to resume searching later this week. Meanwhile, diver teams are already scouring the waterways on the north side of the barrier island.

Eight different sets of confirmed human remains have been found in Suffolk County, Long Island, since December, in what police say could be the work of a serial killer or killers.

Additional remains -- including a human skull -- were uncovered Monday.

Police have not said whether the latest remains are from different people, or if they could have come from the eight victims.

Some of the remains found Monday in a Nassau County wildlife preserve were wrapped in a "black plastic product" similar to a plastic bag, a law enforcement source said Wednesday. The remains "appeared to be part of a lower extremity," the source said. Medical examiner investigators are trying to determine the age and sex of the remains and attempt to find out how long they were at the location before being discovered.

Federal agents first joined police in their investigation in December, after four bodies had been found.

That discovery on a quarter-mile stretch of Oak Beach indicates that "they were dumped there by the same person or persons," Dormer told reporters at the time. "It's too coincidental that there were four bodies in the same location."

They were all found stuffed in bushes along an isolated strip of waterfront property.

The grisly find occurred as police searched for 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert, who was last seen alive in May 2010 in the Gilgo Beach area.

Gilbert's sisters said Shannan was an escort who was visiting a client. They said she ran from the man's house and called 911, claiming that someone was trying to hurt her.

In a strange series of events, a local resident -- who lives a few miles from where the remains were found -- said a young woman who "looked like she was partying all night" came to his door at about 5 a.m. on May 1.

"She was screaming 'Help me, help me!' and said somebody was chasing her," said Gustav Coletti, who lives in the town of Oak Beach.

He described the woman as a "young, light-brown-haired person in her early 20s."

Coletti said he called 911 after opening his front door to the woman, prompting her to flee into the weeds along an embankment near his house.

Moments later, Coletti said an "Asian-looking man" man driving a dark-colored sport utility vehicle pulled up alongside his home, looking for the woman.

"Things got out of hand at a party and I'm just looking for her," Coletti quoted the man as saying.

When Coletti told the man that he had called police, the man said he "should not have done that" and drove toward where girl had fled, Coletti said.

But he says it took police more than four months to question him about the incident, potentially losing crucial evidence over that time frame. Coletti later told CNN that he believes the woman he saw that night was Gilbert.

CNN can not independently verify that claim.

Dormer said Wednesday that he has "no idea when the detective spoke to whomever you're talking about," referencing Coletti.

Police said they received a written statement from Coletti in June.

Gilbert's body has not been among the remains identified.

CNN's Allan Chernoff and Susan Candiotti contributed to this report