'Long Island Serial Killer,' in depth

Mari Gilbert, mother of missing woman Shannan Gilbert,

Mari Gilbert, mother of missing woman Shannan Gilbert, in the A & E program, "The Long Island Serial Killer," airing Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. (Credit: Nick Kiehl )

Verne Gay

Verne Gay Verne Gay

Gay is the television critic.

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THE DOCUMENTARY "Long Island Serial Killer"

WHEN | WHERE Monday night at 9 on A&E

Marking the anniversary of the discovery of human remains at Oak Beach, A&E and British production company Blast! Films have pieced together a portrait of one of the most shocking serial murder cases in Long Island history. Viewed partly from the perspective of the victims' families, it's searing and often difficult to watch, but also the most complete television account to date. Many of the details of the case have already appeared in this paper, but the power of the program lies in its scope and perspective -- of the lives lost and of a sex industry hidden from public view that aided and ultimately abetted a killer, or killers.

I spoke last week with Laura Fleury, one of the executive producers of the film, who's also A&E's vice president of alternative programming.

This story has been widely reported -- what did A&E hope to accomplish?

We didn't want to do a news report, but wanted to tell the story as fully and as personally as we could, especially the story of the victims. They were all sex workers but they were also someone's daughter, someone's sister, someone's mother. That was the angle -- we wanted to appreciate something you couldn't put aside, and separate yourself from.

Police now believe Shannan Gilbert -- whose May 2010 disappearance led to the discovery of the other victims -- is unconnected to the case. Did A&E find out why they believe this?

We only have access to the information we are given, and wisely the police haven't released everything. They chose to keep certain things to themselves and that's how they're going to catch this person.

You interview Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer, who effectively announces on your program that only one person is involved in the crime. The film doesn't fully explain why. Any theories?

I would say sitting from where I sit, I don't have enough information to make the conclusion that this is one person or many. But the other possibility is that he's making this announcement to maybe throw off the suspects who are out there, or maybe he has a very strong lead to persons of interest. Those are all in the area of possibility, and I have respect for him that he's not revealing that. You have to play a game there's strategy involved.

The possibility, of course, exists that the killer or killers will be watching this program tonight. Did you produce it with that thought in mind as well?

We've had a history of doing documentaries about unsolved cases that have helped lead to the solution of those cases by bringing up new leads. It's important these kinds of cases are in the public eye and our way of doing that is to tell the story as completely as possible [and] allow the audience to connect emotionally with it as well as to connect the dots. . . . Perhaps this could trigger a memory and inspire someone to come forward. I'm not an expert, but from what I've learned about them is that it seems the attention is something they want, but also their] fatal flaw. The potential benefit of leads emerging outweighs that the killer might be watching and might enjoy that.