Frustrated family seeks Shannan Gilbert's remains

Left, Jennifer Pottinger, who was the foster mother

Left, Jennifer Pottinger, who was the foster mother of Shannan Gilbert in the early 2000's, holds a 2003 New Paltz High School graduation photo of Gilbert. Shown to the right, Shannan Gilbert's mother, Mari Gilbert, and sister, Stevie Gilbert, embrace outside the Suffolk County medical examiner's office in Hauppauge. (Credit: Craig Ruttle; James Carbone)

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The remains of the missing Jersey City woman whose disappearance sparked searches that led to a human dumping ground off Ocean Parkway -- and the belief that a serial killer is on the loose -- have not been returned to her family, her mother said.

On May 1, two years to the day after Shannan Gilbert, 24, disappeared in Oak Beach, her family and their attorney were told by a Suffolk County Medical Examiner official and homicide detectives that her autopsy was inconclusive.

When Gilbert's remains were found Dec. 13, 2011, in a marshy area behind the gated community she first disappeared from 19 months earlier, former Suffolk police Commissioner Richard Dormer and former Chief of Detectives Dominick Varrone said they believed she had drowned.

The autopsy frustrated Gilbert's mother, Mari, who said publicly that she wanted to have her daughter's remains examined by an independent forensic pathologist after they were released.

But before the body is released, she and her attorney, John Ray, asked the medical examiner's office to preserve Gilbert's body so that further testing could be conducted on the hair and bone marrow. They say those tests were not done. In addition, Ray said they requested testing of clothes and items found with Gilbert's remains to check for foreign substances.

Suffolk police would not comment on the delay in releasing Gilbert's remains to her family, saying it is the medical examiner's decision. Calls to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner's office were not returned.

So far, Ray said, he's put in three requests to the medical examiner asking for reports of the autopsy. He's also asked whether further tests were conducted as requested in May and the whereabouts of Gilbert's remains. He said neither he nor Gilbert's mother have heard anything. Mari Gilbert has also requested her daughter's death certificate, which she has yet to receive. "It's not even so much that this time has passed, because time will pass anyway," Ray said. "It's the utter disdain for the family."

The search for Gilbert in the months after her disappearance led to the discovery of remains of 10 other people in heavy brush off Ocean Parkway. They included that of a toddler, an Asian man in women's clothing and body parts belonging to remains found in Manorville in 2000 and 2003. Half of the remains found along Ocean Parkway during the searches have been identified.

Meanwhile, the Oak Beach house Gilbert was seen running from before she disappeared in 2010 is still on the market. Real estate records show the two-story wood-paneled beach house was listed last year for $439,000 in March but was reduced to $399,999 that September. It was re-listed last week for $375,000.

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