Shannan Gilbert's sister Sherre and the family attorney, John Ray, spoke on Tuesday about Suffolk police's claim that Shannan died from a “tragic accident.” Newsday TV’s Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Newsday/James Carbone; Suffolk County Police Department; Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The younger sister of Shannan Gilbert, the woman whose disappearance led to the discovery of 10 bodies in the vicinity of Gilgo Beach, on Tuesday rejected the Suffolk police theory that her sister's death was not a homicide and likely accidental.

Sherre Gilbert, speaking on a video call from her home in upstate Ellenville, said the police department "dropped the ball from the beginning" in her sister's case. Gilbert spoke out a few days after Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison released a 23-minute 911 call Shannan Gilbert made the last time she was seen alive on May 1, 2010, as well as 911 calls from two neighbors. In releasing the call, the department reiterated that Shannan Gilbert was likely not the victim of a homicide and that her death appeared accidental. 

"It doesn't matter if people think that she's a victim of the Long Island Serial Killer or not. Something happened to her that night," said Sherre Gilbert, 34. "She ran for her life. She was in fear. She called 911. She was coherent enough to stay on a phone call for over 20 minutes. She was coherent enough to knock on peoples' doors, so that leads me to believe, why would she then run into the marsh?"

Gilbert said she believes her sister may have been administered drugs by an unnamed third party, causing her death. Her body was found in December 2011 after police found other remains of victims believed to be the work of a serial killer.

Gilbert, along with Miller Place-based attorney John Ray, who represents Shannan Gilbert's estate, said the state Attorney General's Office should appoint a monitor to review the case. They also said Suffolk Police Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer, the commanding officer of the Homicide Section, should recuse himself.

A Suffolk Police Department spokesman said Tuesday: "Upon taking office, Commissioner Harrison created the Gilgo Beach Homicide Investigation Task Force which includes all of the associated law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, and the department remains open to working with any agency to help solve these cases. As the Commissioner has stated all along, if anyone has additional information to further this investigation, the department is asking them to come forward and the information will be investigated in its entirety."

The attorney general's office has said previously it has no authority to investigate the case. 

Shannan Gilbert's sister, Sherre Gilbert, speaks via Zoom during the...

Shannan Gilbert's sister, Sherre Gilbert, speaks via Zoom during the press conference Tuesday at the office of Miller Place attorney John Ray. Credit: Zoom/John Ray,attorney

The police department released the 911 audio after waging a yearslong legal battle against Ray, arguing the release of the 911 calls would adversely impact their active investigation. But the newly installed Harrison, seeking to inject new momentum in the unsolved cases, reversed course. 

Gilbert, who advertised her services as a sex worker on Craigslist, traveled with her driver, Michael Pak, from Manhattan to the Oak Beach Association community to meet a client, Joseph Brewer. Pak waited outside while Gilbert met with Brewer, police said.

Brewer later told police Gilbert started acting irrationally and called 911 from inside his home as he and Pak urged her to leave.

Gilbert told the 911 operator "there's somebody after me" and "these people are trying to kill me," before she fled on foot to the homes of two different neighbors, who also called 911.

Police have said Gilbert likely became disoriented in thick marshland, where her body was later found.

"Obviously, I don't believe it," said Sherre Gilbert. "But I just feel like they've never cared in the beginning … I just feel like it's a way to confirm what they've always said. Even before they found my sister's remains, [former Police Commissioner Richard] Dormer was already telling everybody that she potentially died of an accidental death, some drug-induced paranoia, ran into the marsh and died, even before she was found. So I just feel like this reaffirms what their initial theory was, and it's just, to me, disgusting, the whole thing."

Gilbert said she's chosen not to listen to the 911 calls, but said she received no prior warning from the police department that the call was being released publicly.

"They did not talk to me, they did not talk to John Ray, which I find again is disrespectful because if you're going to release a 911 call with my sister's last words on there, why would you not let the family hear that?" said Sherre Gilbert.

Latest videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months