Shannan Gilbert kin hope for Christmas miracle
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ELLENVILLE -- As authorities searched 150 miles away for her daughter's remains, Shannan Gilbert's mother sought solace Friday in the simple act of hanging Christmas decorations on her upstate home.
Garland was wrapped around the fence, lights were hung from the porch and giant plastic candy canes were placed on the lawn.
And front and center was a sign dedicated to Shannan Gilbert. "All I Want For Christmas Is You," it read.
Mari Cox Gilbert acknowledged that her wish for her daughter to come home might be impossible to grant, but she said that didn't matter.
"Christmas is about dreams, dreaming, wishes coming true," she said.
A renewed search this week in a marshy area of Oak Beach, where Shannan Gilbert, 24, was last seen alive in May 2010, turned up several items that police said belonged to the woman -- a pocketbook with her identification, jeans, shoes and a cellphone.
Suffolk County police had Mari Gilbert verify some of the items on Wednesday night, she said. While she was able to verify that the purse and ID were her daughter's, she said she was not able to confirm the shoes were Shannan's and did not see the jeans or cellphone.
Mari Gilbert said she believed the items had been planted but said she approved of the police department's efforts to search the area again this week.
"I do not and I will not believe the theory that she accidentally drowned until they find her remains and do an autopsy," Mari Gilbert said.
The newly hung sign at the Gilbert home in Ellenville, a town of 4,000 at the eastern base of the Catskills, included a list of names and a map of the Gilgo Beach area.
Shannan Gilbert's name is at the top of the list; it is followed by those of Jessica Taylor, Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, Maureen Barnes and Amber Costello -- whose remains have been found along Ocean Parkway.
"They're my extended family now," Mari Gilbert said of the names on the list.
Shannan Gilbert's half-sister, Steve Smith, 19, helped to decorate the home Friday. Smith said the family will put up a stocking for Shannan Gilbert this Christmas just as it had last Christmas.
Smith said she believes that Shannan Gilbert is still alive and said that even if her half-sister's remains are eventually found, it would not serve as closure.
"There's never going to be closure unless I have her home," she said. "I'm just praying that Shannan comes home."