FBI aircraft to be used in Gilgo case

Suffolk's police commissioner offers updates on the investigation at Gilgo Beach and what's planned for Thursday. Videojournalists: Jim Staubitser and Kevin P. Coughlin. (April 13, 2011)

Federal officials using high-tech imaging equipment will take to the air searching for more human remains in the Gilgo Beach serial killer investigation, Suffolk County police said yesterday.

The FBI's aerial operation over a South Shore barrier island to begin this week marks another expansion of a serial killer case and related searches that have found up to 10 human remains since December.

"We're hoping the technology will help identify skeletal remains that may still be out there," said Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer.

FBI and police officials declined to provide any details of the aerial imaging, which will involve an airplane and helicopter.

A spokesman for Digital Data Services Inc., a Colorado imaging firm, said high-resolution photographic equipment in use today can clearly depict an object of between 1 to 3 inches and can discern human remains.

The aerial search comes after officials on Monday found a skull and attached vertebrae and a bag of bones in Nassau County. The skull is likely a woman but appears too old to be Shannan Gilbert, the woman whose May disappearance prompted the searches, according to two sources with knowledge of the discovery.

Wednesday, Suffolk police divers completed the day's underwater search in a Great South Bay inlet, a short distance from where eight remains have been recovered off Ocean Parkway in Suffolk, followed by the discoveries this week in Nassau.

Five marine bureau officers took turns working in pairs in Hemlock Bay, wading through shallow water, at times scanning with metal detectors equipped with headphones. The 41/2 hour search did not reveal anything significant, police said. Divers are to return to the area Thursday.

Dormer said the department is waiting for information from the Suffolk medical examiner, including gender and ages, of the four latest remains found in the county.

A source with knowledge of the investigation told Newsday that among those four finds is a young child wrapped in a blanket. Another consisted of a human head in a plastic bag. A third shows signs of dismemberment. None were discovered with burlap. These differences, sources said, suggest that more than one person is responsible for the deaths.

It remains unclear if the Nassau remains are from the same person, or if there is any link to the latest Suffolk remains.

The initial first four recovered in December -- all young women who worked as prostitutes -- are believed to be the victims of a serial killer. All were dumped, wrapped in burlap and unburied, near the parkway in Gilgo Beach. Investigators believe all were strangled, the source said.

A Nassau medical examiner's report on the gender, age and race of the most recent finds is not expected for several days, police said this week.

Dormer asked for the public's help with any information to aid investigators, and their patience. "Please keep in mind this is not an episode of CSI," he said. "This is an intensive, long-term investigation."

State and Nassau police said another limited canvass will begin Thursday involving cadaver dogs and a helicopter.

During helicopter surveys Tuesday, police spotted objects in locations that could not be reached on foot, Nassau police spokesman Det. Lt. Kevin Smith said. Officials plan Thursday to cut their way to these spots for a close look, along with searching other areas, Smith said.

With Matthew Chayes, Anthony M. DeStefano and Tania Lopez

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