Shannan Gilbert's mother, Mari Gilbert, and sister, Stevie Gilbert, embrace...

Shannan Gilbert's mother, Mari Gilbert, and sister, Stevie Gilbert, embrace outside the Suffolk County medical examiner's office in Hauppauge. (May 1, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

How Shannan Gilbert died remains a mystery.

Two years to the day after the Jersey City woman disappeared, her death has been classified as "undetermined," police said Tuesday.

Gilbert's family learned the news in an afternoon meeting Tuesday with the Suffolk County medical examiner and three homicide detectives in Hauppauge.

"I'm more frustrated and angrier than ever," Gilbert's mother, Mari Gilbert, said after the meeting, which lasted about 21/2 hours.

The meeting occurred more than four months after Gilbert's skeletal remains were found in Oak Beach.

Homicide detectives will continue to investigate the death, said police and John Ray, a Miller Place attorney representing Mari Gilbert, of upstate Ellenville.

Gilbert, 24, disappeared May 1, 2010, in Oak Beach. Her remains were found Dec. 13, 2011, in a marshy, swampy area located behind the gated community she first disappeared from 19 months earlier.

Ray said last week that the family had heard nothing about the autopsy since December.

Tuesday, he said the family was surprised by some of the details they learned during their meeting with Suffolk Medical Examiner Yvonne Milewski, including that Gilbert's skeletal remains were intact except for tiny bones missing from her fingers and toes, and two key bones from her neck.

"Now that's significant," said Ray, adding that the missing bones from Gilbert's neck would have helped determine if she had been strangled.

"We are requesting from the medical examiner that they preserve the body and that she not be buried and instead further testing be done to the hair and to the bone marrow," Ray said.

Gilbert, who police and family said worked as a prostitute, traveled to Oak Beach to meet a client. She vanished after making a frantic 911 call.

When she was discovered, police were operating under the theory that she had drowned, police said.

The search for Gilbert in the months after her disappearance led to the grisly discovery of a dumping ground on Gilgo Beach and along Ocean Parkway. A total of 10 other bodies were found, including that of a toddler, an Asian man dressed 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. All five of those identified were young women who worked as prostitutes.

The first four skeletons, found in Gilgo Beach in December 2010, were those of Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of the Bronx; Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 24 of Norwich, Conn.; Megan Waterman, 22 of Maine; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27 of North Babylon.

Partial remains of a fifth woman, Jessica Taylor, 20, of New York City, were found in the spring of 2011 during subsequent searches along Ocean Parkway. Her torso was found in Manorville in 2003.

Police and Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota have said they don't believe Gilbert's death is tied to any of the other bodies.

Gilbert's remains were found on the anniversary of the discovery of three of the women.


Search for Gilbert


May 1, 2010. At 5:15 a.m., Shannan Gilbert runs out of Joseph Brewer's Oak Beach home after making a frantic 911 call. She is sighted by a neighbor about 15 minutes later and then disappears.

May 3. Police first launch an extensive hunt for Gilbert.

Dec. 11. During a search for Gilbert, a police officer and a trained dog find the first of what turned out to be the remains of four women who worked as prostitutes near Gilgo Beach. Eventually the remains of 10 people are found along Ocean Parkway.

December 2011. Then-Suffolk County police Commissioner Richard Dormer says he believes Gilbert accidentally drowned.

Dec. 13. Suffolk police say they have found what they believe to be the skeletal remains of Shannan Gilbert.

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