Authorities confirm that a body discovered this week was that of Shannan Gilbert
Police say the cause of her death has not yet been determined
Gilbert's May 2010 disappearance led to the discovery of other bodies on Long Island
A New York medical examiner’s office said Saturday that a body discovered this week along a remote stretch of Long Island beach was that of Shannan Gilbert, the missing New Jersey woman whose disappearance led investigators to 10 sets of human remains and the hunt for a possible serial killer.
Gilbert, 24, vanished in May 2010 after visiting a client. The Jersey City resident, police said, had advertised for prostitution services on websites such as Craigslist.
Her body was uncovered Tuesday in the wooded marshes of Suffolk County’s Oak Beach. The cause of her death has not yet been determined, police said in a statement.
“Our condolences to the Gilbert family and her friends,” said Police Commissioner Richard Dormer. “We hope this brings them closure and peace.”
Investigators cut through a fresh thicket of brush and bramble along Long Island’s southern shoreline earlier this week, expanding their investigation across a recently drained swampland on the barrier island before uncovering Gilbert’s remains.
They were found at 9:14 a.m. Tuesday by police divers and detectives riding atop amphibious vehicles, roughly a quarter-mile from where her purse was found a week before.
The purse was discovered near a cell phone, shoes and a pair of jeans, according to investigators.
After Gilbert vanished last year, the hunt for her led police seven months later to four bodies stuffed in bushes along a quarter-mile stretch of Ocean Parkway in Oak Beach.
All four were later identified as women and, like Gilbert, had advertised for prostitution services online.
The bodies were found in various stages of decomposition.
Additional remains were later uncovered in neighboring Gilgo Beach and in Nassau County, about 40 miles east of New York City.
Unlike other victims found scattered across the two counties, Gilbert is not thought to have been murdered by the suspected serial killer, police have said.
But on Thursday, top law enforcement officials publicly sparred over competing theories in the case.
Dormer has said a single person is likely responsible for the alleged murders.
“The theory is now that we’re dealing with one serial killer,” he told reporters in November, reiterating his position during a county legislative hearing on Thursday.
Moments later during the same hearing, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota took the stand and rejected Dormer’s statement.
“I very very much disagree with that theory,” said Spota. “I don’t know of anybody who, in the police department, who is actively conducting the investigation who shares that theory.
“Quite frankly, I don’t know why there was a unilateral change in theories.”
In May, Spota told reporters that a collection of human remains were not believed to be connected to the first four victims.
Dormer, who initially told reporters the bodies could be the work of a killer or multiple killers, later pointed to a similar dumping ground as one common aspect of the investigation that could support the notion of a single killer.
Authorities have sifted through more than 1,000 tips related to the case. But it’s unclear whether that has shed any light on an investigation that continues to garner national attention.
In June, police upped the ante in their search for a culprit.
The reward for information leading to an arrest – once topping out at $5,000 – was raised five-fold, making it the largest offered in Suffolk County history in an apparent bid to fill out a case that some fear has gone cold.