Shannan Gilbert's mother was not yet ready to accept that the human remains found at Oak Beach Tuesday are her daughter's -- or that her death, if confirmed, was an accident.
When police announced the discovery of the remains in the morning, Gilbert's mother, Mari Gilbert, traveled hurriedly from upstate Ellenville with a friend, Johanna Gonzalez of Kingston.
"On the way over here, she was still saying, 'it's not Shannan, it's not Shannan,' " Gonzalez said.
Speaking to reporters, Mari Gilbert said she wanted to hear authorities say unequivocally whose remains they recovered in a nearby marsh.
"I will wait until an autopsy is performed to know for sure what happened to her," Mari Gilbert said.
But she was still in disbelief about the police theory that her daughter, who worked as a prostitute, died accidentally after running from the house of a client into a marsh and then a dense thicket in the darkness.
"I will not believe it for the simple fact that Shannan was a strong woman," she said.
Lori Grove, Gilbert's aunt, said she, too, wasn't ready to accept that the remains were those of her niece.
Grove recalled how the remains found a year ago during searches for Gilbert turned out to belong to other women.
"I'm still just kind of holding off either which way until we are sure," she said.
Alex Diaz, 29, of Jersey City, Gilbert's boyfriend when she went missing, said he was shocked by news of the discovery, but "for the moment, I'm not sure of anything. I don't want to believe it."
With Víctor Manuel Ramos
and Jennifer Barrios