Missing Woman's Jeans, Cell Phone, Found in Serial Killer Case

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer (Photo: Mary Murphy)

Suffolk County Police Commissioner, Richard Dormer, confirmed Wednesday that police searching Oak Beach marshes believe they've found the jeans, shoes, cell phone and pocketbook belonging to missing New Jersey prostitute, Shannan Gilbert. Now, Dormer said, they're looking for her body.

The 24-year old Gilbert was last seen alive in May 2010, screaming for help in the gated community known as the Oak Beach Association. When a formal search began last December near Ocean Parkway, police started finding the remains of murder victims: 8 women, 1 man, and a female toddler -- all thought now to be the work of one, serial killer. The man was dressed in women's clothing and five of the victims were identified as prostitutes.

Ironically, Shannan Gilbert's presumed death may be accidental drowning and not tied to the serial killer. The Commissioner said Wednesday, "If not for the search for Shannan Gilbert, we may not have found these other victims."

The Suffolk County Department of Environmental Conservation worked with special operations police to dredge the marsh in Oak Beach Wednesday.

Gustav Coletti, an Oak Beach resident who was one of the last people to see Gilbert alive, said at 6am Wednesday morning, "I heard rumbling coming through like a freight train.". He said the huge machine used in the marsh "was like a fork, picking stuff up."

In May 2010, about 5am one morning, Coletti said he was shaving in his house, when a screaming, disoriented Shannan Gilbert started banging on his door. "She was yelling, 'Help me! Help me!'" Coletti recalled to PIX 11. He called 911, as Gilbert stumbled down his stoop. A car was coming slowly up the street flashing its high beams. Coletti said of Gilbert, "She ran all the way down the road to the end where the water is."

Police now think Gilbert got stuck in the mucky marsh and eventually drowned. Long-time Captree resident, Gino Giorgini, said of the marsh, "It's bogs! You step in and you can sink! Sink way down! It's like quicksand."

Police apparently found a photo ID in Shannan Gilbert"s pocketbook. Her mother, who lives upstate, has been notified of the latest developments.

The Police Commissioner acknowledged Gilbert's belongings were found in an area that had been searched before, when the water was at higher tide. "It was like a lake," Dormer said Wednesday. The terrain in the area changed recently, after Hurricane Irene came through in August.

The Police Commissioner said his department will keep searching and hopes to find Shannan Gilbert's remains soon.